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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

You Gotta Love Jason Calacanis

Posted by direwolff on June 16, 2007

While I don’t always agree with Jason’s politics or his at times overbearing stage presence, I have a soft spot for him in that he seems to understand some subtleties of Web traffic and he exploits these diligently and directly. In his most recent post about Mahalo, he announces the launch of Mahalo Greenhouse where he is now paying people $10 to $15 per search result page created. In contrast with my previous comments about the service, what I like about this latest development is threefold.

First, the SEO value of these pages is significant and $10 to $15 feels like relatively cheap labor to me but more importantly is that he’s paying a one time fee for this content that will likely have a greater lifetime value. Note by contrast that About.com pays its guides a percentage of the revenue generated from their pages, which is an on-going fee.

Second, by opening up and allowing people to submit search result pages, he’s tapping into that Wikipedia juju. That’s a beautiful thing, since he’s also allowing them to donate that money to the Wikimedia Foundation. Now he gains some wonderful PR and shows that he’s trying to do the right thing here. One might argue that the right thing would have been to follow the About.com model here too and pay a percentage of the ad revenue he will generate on an on-going basis to the foundation, but hey, baby steps, what he’s proposing is a step in the right direction.

Third, something we learned at Tribe, which many others surely know, is that “content is king”. In other words, for an advertising driven site to be successful it has to have a lot of content to increase the chances that results leading to its site will be frequently displayed by the major search engines. This is a sublety that is often not deeply understood by watchers of these sites, but that you quickly realize when seeing the daily logs of exactly how much traffic is coming from the search engines and what impact additional content can have on this. At one point, while at Tribe I had wanted to start a “love the content provider” campaign so that all areas that enabled people to submit content into service, be it recommendations, blog posts, discussion tribes, etc., would be reviewed to make sure they were as effective and simple as possible. Also, to explore and find ways to enable people to more frequently add content to the site. Suffice it to say, part of Mahalo’s ability to start generating real traffic, and hence revenues from this, will hinge on how fast it can create as much content as possible. While they could hire people, opening it up in Wikipedia sort of way means that now you can use people more effectively to review submissions for acceptance than to create the original content.

It will be interesting to keep up with Mahalo and see if these raw ideas that hit right at the heart of online success workout as cleanly as they appear. For me, the simplicity of the model, less so its ingenuity, make this a fascinating case study.

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