Over the last year, I’ve been part of a team of people working on a top secret project at BusinessWeek. It’s called the Business Exchange and it’s the company’s biggest bet to date in the new media space. Today, the New York Times wrote a story about the site, which will launch in September. So I am free to talk about it now in public.
The idea is to create a sort of social network-cum aggregation site for the business world. The organizing principle of the site is topics–hundreds and probably thousands of them. Here’s how it works: Anyone can post a link to a story or blog post or video, whatever content you want from whatever source, and it will appear on the topic page. If the concept takes off, the site will really tap into the wisdom of the Web crowd, providing a powerful filter that will help people stay on top of their most important issues and discover new ideas and information.
All of the editorial employees of BusinessWeek have been asked to curate one topic so we can help cultivate the content and keep it fresh and relevant. I’ve been focusing on venture capital and social networking. But there are hundreds of others you can pick and choose from, including everything from biofuels to the Beijing Olympics. This is the Long Tail of Business content writ large.
I think the site has a lot of potential. But I’m really curious what other folks think about it. So please post your thoughts about the Business Exchange now and after it launches. As with most other Web projects, the Business Exchange is a work in progress.
Says Richard Perez-Pena:
“The core of Business Exchange is hundreds of topic pages, on subjects as broad as the housing market and as narrow as the Boeing 787. Plans call for the number of topic pages to grow quickly into the thousands. (The first one created, which may or may not be in the public version of Business Exchange, was “BlackBerry vs iPhone.”)
A few other magazines and newspapers have also become serious about building verticals, but they tend to jealously guard control of their online audiences and content. Not this one.
Each Business Exchange topic page links to articles and blog posts from myriad other sources, including BusinessWeek’s competitors, with the contents updated automatically by a Web crawler. Nearly all traditional news organizations offer only their own material, spurning the role of aggregator as an invitation to readers to leave their sites.
On Business Exchange, a user can post new material to a topic page, or even create a new page, choosing the subject and the title, and write a brief introductory description. This is hardly a revolutionary idea in the wiki era, but for a mainstream publication, it represents a significant loosening of control. (But not too loose — new topics require editorial approval, promised within 24 hours, and objectionable posts will be taken down.)”