Several months ago I had the chance to see a beta version of a site that I was immediately pretty excited about. As with most private beta versions of sites, I wasn’t able to talk about it at the time to share my impressions, but I knew that it was a site I would be using frequently. Since that time, I stayed in touch with the group behind it and a few weeks ago I finalized an arrangement to become a featured user on the site. For any consistent readers of this blog, you know I don’t take any advertising or sponsor arrangements, so this is a rare thing for me, but I think the site is worth it and the arrangement is good (as you’ll see in this post) The site, as you probably guessed, is BusinessWeek’s new Business Exchange (BX). It is a combination of a social network and social bookmarking site where anyone can create a topic and the community helps to share relevant content around that topic.
It is a pretty simple idea, but offers an interesting cross between Digg and Delicious to provide a useful extension of the BusinessWeek format and content. Articles from the magazine are saved into topics alongside blog content and content from other sites. Just like Digg, the best content is voted higher or lower. So what does being a featured user mean? In full disclosure, I agreed to be an active participant on the site over the next six months, saving content and helping contribute articles to the site. My blog RSS feed is also being automatically integrated and you might have noticed that I now have their widget in my sidebar. Though I am not receiving any money from the arrangement, in return, they will be featuring my profile in a series of online ads they are running across BusinessWeek and other sites, and will also include me in one print ad in the magazine (along with other featured authors like John Battelle and John Jantsch) sometime in early 2009.
So aside from the advertising deal, why am I really excited about this site? Here are a few reasons:
- It doesn’t compete with something else. Right now, I am not an active user of Digg and use delicious but often find it overwhelming and reliant on a taxonomy that some people understand and some abuse intentionally or unintentionally. The way BX is set up, however allows it to feel both familiar and unique at the same time. It’s a smartly designed site that manages to carve its own utility in a very crowded space, while also leveraging the fact that it is part of the BusinessWeek brand in a way that is useful and not coincidental.
- It reaches a different audience. Let’s face it, when you Digg something or save it to del.icio.us, you are reaching a subset of the online population that chooses to visit those sites. BusinessWeek’s appeal is broader and BX promises to reach a different and wider group of business people, including many who I would consider potential clients for Ogilvy (my day job)
- It offers a simple experience that is all about the content. There are many other magazines or publications that have launched social networks around their print experience, and most of them have lots of duplication built in. You can publish your own blog, send people messages, and basically do everything you would want to do in a social network. The problem is, I already do all of that elsewhere. This has created a personal barrier of use for me on sites like Fast Company and Silicon India, to name just two. BX on the other hand, let’s you start by importing your profile from LinkedIn and then you just start saving content. It is simple and targeted.
- They are driving audience to it heavily. Not that this has anything to do with the usefulness of the site, but BusinessWeek is doing a lot to promote this new effort. It is all over the magazine, advertising heavily online, and lots of people will be talking about it. If there is anything I’ve learned in my career, its that it pays to associate yourself with rising stars.
Though I have committed to actively using the site for the next six months, I have found that it has been a great resource for me already as I conduct research to learn about various topics as well. There are a few things still missing on the site, like a more intuitive rating process that would help user contributed content appear ahead of automatically added content, or more metrics around pieces of content so I could see at a glance which pieces are generating the most conversation, but on the whole the site offers a unique and useful experience – and one that I highly recommend for you to check out.