Yesterday, Google officially launched Knol, its Wikipedia-like tool for crafting encyclopedic expert articles. As with Wikipedia, subject matter experts can write or contribute edits to a Knol page on a specific topic. Unlike the case with Wikipedia, however, the author(s) is identified, so readers know who contributed to the article and understand any biases the author(s) may bring to the topic. For example, a technology vendor may write a very different page on a specific topic than what a user would write. Politically, a Libertarian is likely to define a term such as "healthcare reform" very differently from a Green.
This makes Knol at least potentially much more democratic than Wikipedia, a significant problem with which has been the ability of a small cabal of self-appointed high priests to unilaterally delete content for any reason (or apply their "rules" differently for different contributors). Also unlike Wikipedia, Knol will permit multiple Knol pages on the same topic; that's going to be interesting. No word on how Google will choose to rank competing Knols for search engine placement, but presumably quality will matter in some way.
So, why is this exciting for B2B marketers? Think of how many subject matter experts hold valuable knowledge in their heads, but don't have the time to commit to a blog. Until now, the only alternative was to either write an article for publication (beneficial but challenging) or to write a guest post for an existing blog (often even more challenging). Now, the SME can write a Knol page—with full authorship credit for the writer and company—and publish it for the world, with no pressure to write on a regular basis. Like a blog post, the content is interactive, but the shelf life of the Knol is potentially much longer. There is also potential SEO value, though details remain to be determined.
Among the better posts written about Knol thus far are Web development on Google Knol from Bluemilkshake, Google Introduces Knol as Wikipedia Alternative from Clint Boulton's Google Watch, Google’s Knol product is now open from David Crotty at Bench Marks, and Google Knol Released. It’s Not Wikipedia. from The Radioactive Yak.
Contact Mike Bannan: firstname.lastname@example.org