iMedia: Do you have technology for aggregating users?
Wales: We don't have anything specifically about that. It turns out our users are pretty easily segmented on their interests. If you're not interested in "World of Warcraft," why did you just come read 17 pages about it?
iMedia: Any updates on WikiaSearch?
Wales: I have my team focused on the front end, working on the user experience, and making sure we have all the wiki-like tools people need to work on the site. We're just cranking away.
iMedia: What would be the critical mass of users to make it useful?
Wales: I don't normally think in those terms. I do whatever I think is the most fun, and hopefully people like it.
iMedia: In the attention economy, when authenticity is more important than great creative, do marketers need different skills?
Wales: Yes and no. If marketers are going to be involved in the social media part of marketing, obviously there's a new set of skills associated with it. But branding is still important, and broadcast still important, in the sense of massive outreach to very large numbers of consumers. You're not going to do that on a Twitter feed.
For people who are participating in Wikia, they're finding their passion and building it. For readers of the site, we know that for every person who's editing, there are a hundred more who are just reading. From an advertiser's perspective, they're looking to reach a very large set of viewers. So they'll view this as a broadcast-type platform.
iMedia: What some of the new technologies and opportunities for interactive marketers?
Wales: I don't see a lot a lot of new stuff going on in terms of technology. We're finally seeing the fruition of some ideas that have been out there for a long time. The ability to target on Facebook is pretty amazing, and it's getting better and better.
iMedia: What about MySpace or Twitter?
Wales: Maybe I'm not in the right demo for MySpace. It hurts my eyes. But I'm on Facebook every day. Twitter? I'm a little unsure, like everybody is, on what their business is. I'm something of a skeptic. I think it's appropriate for marketers to think about how they can use a tool like Twitter or a blog, but for many brands, it's useless. No one really wants to get an update from McDonalds, or a blog post from Snickers. For a super-complicated TV show like "Lost," it makes sense that they need to be engaged online. But a lot of brands just want to reach eyeballs.
iMedia: As the recession continues and possibly worsens, do you think search and user-generated content will stay strong as traditional media dies?
Wales: Definitely. This is where people are flocking, so advertisers will always want to go and reach the public. We see more and more time spent online is with user-generated content, so it clearly will be a huge part of the whole advertising and marketing landscape.
iMedia: Advertising on user-generated content is a lot cheaper.
Wales: I think it's priced fairly. Right now, it's a bit of a bargain to do brand-building online, simply because there are a lot of outlets for reaching tons of people in a very targeted way based on their interests. It's still cheap because the model and metrics have not matured.
iMedia: Do you have any last words for us?
Wales: Let's all cheer up; the recession will be over soon.
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Susan Kuchinskas is a freelance writer who has written for Adweek, Business 2.0, M-Business and internetnews.com.