Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Entry in Wikispace?

Not long ago Martha Stewart Omnimedia announced that it’s working on a Web 2.0 site to be called “Marthapedia.” It has created a lob of buzz, but it’s clearly not up yet. When you seach for Marthapedia at present you are redirected to the current site. I took a look at their Community page and, while has lots of interactive features, it doesn’t have real collaborative features.

According to MediaPost, the new “”Marthapedia" will essentially serve as an online handbook to provide user-friendly info on topics such as home and garden, family, food and others. The entries will initially be developed by Stewart's editors, but like Wikipedia, consumers will be able to link in and suggest their own recipes or gardening tips. However, unlike Wikipedia, where consumers can freely update the content, the editors will serve as gatekeepers, determining which consumer-generated info should be added.”

I’ve always been a great admirer of the Martha Stewart Omnimedia business model. It was designed from the ground up as a multimedia company. If you follow any of the publications, on or off line, you know that they really understand the use of various media and excel at cross promotion. On the web they are good at rich media, video and interactivity. The founder and her issues aside, it is a model par excellence of multichannel communications and marketing.

I’m adding my voice to the chorus of skeptics in the blogosphere on the “wiki” aspect, though. Neither marketer-developed content nor extensive monitoring of submissions is in the open source spirit. What are the expectations when consumers submit content? Is it that all content will be used? That content will be monitored for acceptability? That only selected content will be posted? You can see examples of all these practices all over the web. It's a matter of setting expectations--and then living up to them.

Maybe we’re just being purists, objecting to the use of “wiki” in something that sounds like a glorified message board. Maybe there is a real issue here that’s going to come back to bite the brand. All branded sites have to maintain some control over posted content. It will all depend on the execution.

But just don’t call it a wiki!

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