Posts Tagged ‘Tim O’Reilly’

Bloggers React: In Defense of the Business Exchange

August 20, 2008

After the New York Times article came out announcing the immanent release of BusinessWeek’s Business Exchange Web site, the blogosphere lit up with various comments and criticisms of our project.

I want to address some of the criticisms that seemed unfair or too cynical. Tish Grier of the Constant Observer worries that this project is all a ploy to herd online readers into veal pens where they can be served hyper-targeted ads. “It does leave me feeling a bit like a goose being prepared for foie gras–like I’m going to be herded into the right stall so that I can then be force-fed the right kind of ads that will make me click,” writes Tish.

In a post on his blog, Web guru Tim O’Reilly says the Business Exchange may be part of a new trend linking to yourself on the Web that may be akin to a tax on the utility of the Web.

Says Tim: “When this trend spreads (and I say “when”, not “if”), this will be a tax on the utility of the web that must be counterbalanced by the utility of the intervening pages. If they are really good, with lots of useful, curated data that you wouldn’t easily find elsewhere, this may be an acceptable tax. In fact, they may even be beneficial, and a real way to increase the value of the site to its readers. If they are purely designed to capture additional clicks, they will be a degradation of the web’s fundamental currency, much like the black hat search engine pages that construct link farms out of search engine results.”

If I saw Tim and Tish I would tell them: The whole idea of the Business Exchange is to create lots of topic pages that are brimming over with curated content that you couldn’t find elsewhere–or don’t have the time to track down.

Case in point: The other day I was checking out the topic on social networking, skimming through the posted links to see what people were interested in. Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised to see a link to a Los Angeles Times profile of Reid Hoffman. It was a really good story and I felt better having read it. And I probably would have never stumbled across it had I not visited the Business Exchange.

To counter-balance the tendency to link only to yourself, Tim recommends two guidelines:

1. Ensure that no more than 50% of the links on any page are to yourself. (Even this number may be too high.)

2. Ensure that the pages you create at those destinations are truly more valuable to your readers than any other external link you might provide.

I think these are good ideas. My sense of things now is that way more than 50% of the links on the Business Exchange are connecting readers to non-BusinessWeek content. So I think we’re covered on that point. As to his second point, our hope and goal is to create topic pages that are more valuable than any single external link because the pages will provide one go-to place where you can quickly and easily tap into the best thinking on any one subject. If we do that–and we need your help to do it–the Business Exchange will be a big value-add to the Web community.

That’s my defense. And don’t forget: There’s the potential for an incredible network effect here. The more people that join and post, the more valuable the site will become. So I hope you check it out and help build the community.