Monday, July 28, 2008

Google Knol: If you are in the content business kiss your $%^ good-bye

One of the most significant developments that has happened in a long time occurred last week when I was off riding my bike: Knol is open to everyone:

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

What this does is disintermediate those who are in the publishing and aggregation business. Authors now have the power to self-publish in a location where if their content is good it WILL BE FOUND. I'm going to make the assumption that most authors write because they want to be read. Being read today means that you have to be found by search. This is what I had to say about Knol when it was first announced: Google Knol is not about sole authorship:

Basically, Knol is a content management system for the masses, with the added advantage of having the SEO baked-in. Google is effectively lowering the barriers to access in a significant way. The question those of you who are in the aggregation or publishing business need to be asking: Why would authors choose to publish through you as opposed to just doing it themselves with Knol? If you can't answer this question you are in deep trouble.

I'll stand by that statement. If you are an aggregator and your site authority is such that it can't do better than something published on Google Knol then your reason for existence pretty much just evaporated. The value you add disappeared. Authors don't need what you're peddling anymore.

If you are a content-centric Web site, meaning everyone that is not a social media or e-commerce site, you should be asking yourself one question today, What is our purpose? This will be an extremely difficult question for many to answer in a post Knol world.


john said...

I think timeliness is an advantage to an aggregating website. I go to wikipedia to read up about something I don't already know. I go to an aggregating site to see what's new about what I do already know.

Anonymous said...

Where is the author's reward in all of this? This from someone who just subscribed to O'Reilly's Safari book subscription service at the maximum level possible. You may be making the assumption that all content value is mediated by search visibility.

Personally, I wonder if this is not just a way for Google to enmesh people into its search algorithm, making knol ranking a component of search ranking.

Kevin Gamble said...


It's the same motivation that the overwhelming majority of musicians give away their music for free. It reduces obscurity and drives numbers for value-added opportunities: e.g. live performances, speaking engagements, etc. It's the same reason many people blog. There's little money in blogging-- but the after-market can be lucrative.

Want to buy a Hightouch t-shirt? :)


Anonymous said...

I can see the case for blogging but less so a knol. In blogging, you build your own brand. With knol's, I'm competing to get my article favor, and that's it.

Mind you, just an initial impression, so I don't want to be too adamant.

Are there really High Touch t-shirts?

Kevin Gamble said...

I think you can build brand with knols too. The reason you put them on Knol in the first place is so they are found. If you write knols on particular topics (let's say reference pieces for business development), and link them to each other, you in a sense create a presence for yourself within Knol. I think that could be a very powerful way to build brand.

T-shirts? Of couse not. :)

Anonymous said...

I had actually considered dropping a knol or two as an experiment for just the reasons you mentioned.

Disappointed to hear there are no t-shirts.

Kevin Gamble said...


This is an interesting link on Knol and branding. This makes sense to me.

Bud Gibson said...

Maybe the issue is not so much that people will not figure out how to use knol for branding but that they'll figure it out too well. Unleashing the affiliate marketing tidal wave:

Bud Gibson said...

Maybe the amended headline should read, "If you are in the affiliate marketing business, pray hard now". Content placement for ads has been a continuous sore spot for Google.