January 17th, 2006

Squidoo: Can user generated content directed at marketing and making a profit from ad sales really ever be good content? I have been trying to follow some of the Web 2.0 startups and trying to fathom the principles of user generated content that these sites are hoping to build on. But after looking at some of the existing proponents of the model (such as Squidoo), I wonder if this is good for web publishing in general and the ad/search industry in particular.

I really could write a thesis on this but for starters I find myself quite dissociated with the content on Squidoo. The content looks remotely useful but also feels unnecessarily padded and somewhat redundant. Hundreds (maybe hundreds of thousands) of authors are vying for the elusive few dollars in shared advertising revenue and pumping out article after article on search engine stuffers such as Senseo Coffee makers. Squidoo reminds me of a legitimate version of Hot Nachos with a revenue sharing plan on a grader scale than Hot Nachos.

There is the argument that keyword stuffers and spammers are already using blogs to make money through advertising and this is just another such venture that benefits both the author and the company reaping the ad revenue, so this is more of the same old but with a new twist of lemon. However, I just have a bad feeling about this.

On the other side of the picture are the blogging networks. Those tend to create better content since the authors are hand picked and their performance has depended (so far) on the quality of their work, their personalities and unique perspectives.




  1. Shanti (5 comments.) says:

    I think some of the lenses might be useful to people who have zero knowledge on a topic and are looking for a very basic intro / pointers to other resources. Kinda like a “Wikipedia for Dummies” if you will. :)

    Re: the whole ‘user-generated content’ web 2.0 business meme, I really hope, dies an ugly death soon.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong w/ a ‘user-generated content’ play per se, it’s just too easy to see snickering entrepreneurs/VCs sitting back gnashing their knuckles together, chuckling at their naive users who are “generating” all this “content” for them, which they’ll then throw AdSense/Overture on. Ewww.

  2. j.c. (1 comments.) says:

    Yep, Squidoo has a discombobulated game plan (?lenses?) that feels a little slimy to the click. I don’t like it but I can’t really explain why.

  3. Greg Balanko-Dickson (2 comments.) says:

    I think Shanti makes an important point. Exploiting User Generated content by adding an AJAX layer the add advertising on top is a business model but not sustainable in my opinion because it relies solely on the community.

    The only way these social apps really succeed is when they add significant value to the community with tools and functionality not available elsewhere.

    An ad layer on user generated content is a legitimate business model but if you think that the people generating the content have really thought it through, think again. Most people do not read TOS and if they wanted to take their content with them, good luck. I am not aware of a web 2.0 service that has an export feature, except maybe

    In a relatively biting post Lens, Smens, Woohoo 23 Squidoo – Six Reasons Squidoo Blows and Squidoo? What’s all the Hulla Baloo? I detail my experience with Squidoo and why I think it is a sign of the 2.0 bubble.

    Pre 2000 people were falling over themselves building ‘stuff’ because they had money. Now people build ‘stuff’ because it is easier, cheaper, and faster – in both cases a lousy business model is still a lousy business model no matter how cheap or easy it is to build.

    But that is also what is great about entrepreneurship, you can do anything you can afford to do until you run out of money, time, or the attention of your market.

  4. Amy (1 comments.) says:

    Hey now. That Senseo Squidoo lense wasn’t created because it is a “search engine stuffer.” I made that because there are people out there who are actually interested in the topic and I happened to have already collected information they would find helpful.

    Same reason I made a lense for Chaplain Candidates… I doubt that one will be bringing in the big bucks. But it will save someone time when they’re looking for that info.

  5. Pythagor (1 comments.) says:

    I use these lenses sometimes and meet really useful links. I like such things in spite of spam (rarely). Still I prefer using the personal assistant Quintura Search, I like its interface and visual map – you got all tags you need in front. I wish they already launched online service as they promise.

  6. Catnabbit (2 comments.) says:

    After looking over Squidoo a couple weeks ago, it reminded me of a site (whose name escapes me at the moment) that I belonged to a few years ago, similar also to Epinions, where users generated content and advertisers paid the site and the sites paid the users. After a while, the model completely failed. While one site tanked, Epinions just completely revamped their scheme. Just like Squidoo there were hundreds of thousands of users vying for a few bucks. I think Epinions might still be around today, but I don’t know what they are paying their users now, if anything. If Squidoo’s plan sounds fishy, which it does to me, I’d wait 6 months or a year before starting to take it too seriously.

  7. Greg Balanko-Dickson (2 comments.) says:

    So was my post yesterday considered spam?

  8. Andy Wibbels (1 comments.) says:

    I think what I always wondered was how they were seeding the traffic to the site. If they just relied on search engine traffic and individual lensmasters promoting their individual lenses. I really want it to succeed because I’m a big Seth Godin fan – maybe this is just phase one of their world domination plans.

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