Jimmy Wales: Why the recession won't kill digital media

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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.

 

Comments

Gregory Kohs
Gregory Kohs March 31, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Susan, we need to revisit the "standards of business reporting", such as not swallowing hook, line, and sinker the tall tales that profiteers may tell.

Jimmy Wales told you:

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.

CNET (today) tells me that Wikia Search is shutting down:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10207896-2.html

I told you on Page 1 of this column that you've been had. You replied with nods to the "standards of business reporting and the ethos of capitalism". Are you beginning to see the light? Are you able to see the light?

Gregory Kohs
Gregory Kohs March 28, 2009 at 11:12 AM

It occurs to me that some further reading might help people interested in this subject learn more about the "ethos of capitalism" that Kuchinskas mentions in the comment above. The piece appeared in The Guardian (and was editorially reviewed, so it is to be trusted):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/sep/25/wikipedia.internet

Gregory Kohs
Gregory Kohs March 27, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Or that we have higher standards than liars and frauds...

Susan Kuchinskas
Susan Kuchinskas March 27, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Hi, Gregory. First, neither Wales nor his PR handler said anything about his title to me, let alone demanded anything. I am aware that there is controversy about the founder designation and credit for Wikipedia. According to the standards of business reporting and the ethos of capitalism, the fact that Wales started and funded the project makes him the founder.

This article is about advertising, not about the origins of Wikipedia -- which has been beaten to death. I did credit Sanger as employee #1, and moved on.

Re things like Wikipedia taking the place of professionally authored content, as someone who makes their living as a journalist, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I too prefer information that is carefully prepared according to standards -- and I'd like to continue to get paid for such. Which may just be tough luck for me and you.

We can bemoan the supremacy of user-generated content, but that just makes us oooold. Or at least, old-fashioned.

Gregory Kohs
Gregory Kohs March 27, 2009 at 11:57 AM

It's kind of tough to read past words #2 and #3, "Wikipedia founder". Laughable. Did Jimbo demand that you label him as such? Did he ask that Dr. Larry Sanger's name (you know, the guy who brought the wiki software to the encyclopedia table, the guy who named "Wikipedia", and the guy who acted as its editor-in-chief for the formative period) be firmly tied to the label "employee"?

As millions of dollars and thousands of jobs are disappearing at encyclopedias and newspapers, and we lose our professionally-rendered culture of information, what has it been replaced with? Wikipedia? Wikia? How much have they added to the economy?

When journalists have their blinders on and their star-struck spectacles focused on their subjects, the readers are not served. Sorry to be a wet blanket, Ms. Kuchinskas, but...

You've been had.