AboutUs - A Wiki Content Business Model

Bookmark and Share Friday, April 10, 2009

1.jpgAboutUs.org is a wiki-based directory of web sites. They dedicate a full wiki page to each domain on the Internet that hosts a web site. When I first heard that the company had reached $5 million in VC funding, I thought to myself, “what is the point, and how on earth do they make money?” My initial thoughts about the site were similar to the rather belligerentent post on Center Networks. But they claim the site gets 7 million unique visitors per month and the CEO says the company is profitable. AboutUs has some serious wiki-cred with wiki Grand Poo-Bah Ward Cunningham on the team and several big Wikipedians on staff. I figured it was at least worth investigation to see what the buzz was about.

Many of the “stub” pages on the site, which invite editing and expansion from visitors, were obviously generated by some combination of publicly accessible information and content from the site. Their original page for EditMe.com contained a copy and paste of a paragraph of text that used to be on my web site. Copyright infringement? Well, yeah. But it’s promoting my site. Ethically questionable, but effective.

The Revenue Model

Aside from the Google Adsense ads prominently displayed at the top of pages, AboutUs makes money by offering a fixed fee page editing and customization service called SpotlightUs Pages. For a one-time fee of $197, they assign an editor to your page that researches your site and company and writes some detailed content for your site’s AboutUs page. Frustrated that I’ve been unable to get an entry into Wikipedia for EditMe and interested to see what AboutUs was offering for this sum, I jumped in. They offer a money back satisfaction guarantee, so why not?

My SpotlightUs Page Experience

To me, the value in this exercise was 1) having somebody other than me write some copy about EditMe. I’m the marketing writer, by and large, so this was interesting to me. 2) Rather than research a bunch of other AboutUs pages to figure out what should go there and how best to organize it, I figured having an editor there set it up for me would save me that time.

Shortly after I paid the $197 fee for a spotlight page, I received an email from an AboutUs editor. He asked me to answer a questionnaire about my web site and company that he could use, in addition to what he could find on my site and on the Internet, to build my AboutUs page. We used Google Docs for this. The editor (his name is Sa’ad) was friendly and told me he’d get back to me when he was done with the initial draft of my page.

A couple of weeks later I got the email. Sa’ad did a good job of describing EditMe with a light promotional tone. He invited me to review the page and either make edits myself or submit change requests to him. I chose to register on the site and make the edits myself. I’ve never been a fan of MediaWiki’s usability (AboutUs runs a customized MediaWiki installation) but it was easy enough to get the hang of it. Non-technical or wiki-unaware visitors would probably not get far with it.

Part of what you get for your $197 is a feature on the AboutUs home page for one day. When I was happy with the page, I let Sa’ad know and he flipped the switch to remove the “in development” notice at the top and feature the page at AboutUs.org. Other benefits include a SpotlightUs badge on the site and removal of the ads at the top.

I’ve also noticed, via the revision history of my page, that Sa’ad has been watching the page and cleaning up bad edits (one from a spammer, and one confused user who started making edits about his site on my page). The site also provides the ability to watch your page and get emailed when it changes - an important brand monitoring tool.

Referred Traffic

Over the past week, my AboutUs page has reached 6th place in the list of sites that provide incoming traffic to EditMe.com according to Google Analytics. That’s fairly impressive, considering that most of the others in the top 10 are sites that I pay marketing dollars for every month - all more than the one-time AboutUs fee. If that keeps up, the incoming traffic from AboutUs could justify the expense in one month alone.


AboutUs has created a valuable tool for marketing your site. By creating a page on the Internet about your site with “stub” content, they’re creating their own demand as site owners will naturally want to clean it up and turn the page into something with a positive impact. Honestly, I’m not sure who are the 7 million visitors per month that use this site (would you use this site as a resource over, say, a search engine?) but the referrals to my site indicate that it is able to generate some real incoming traffic.

Still, it’s hard to get past the “why” questions. With all the content on EditMe.com, do I need a page at AboutUs to echo it? Is paying an editor there to write this copy any different than paying a copywriter to write content for EditMe.com? And of the traffic they’re sending my way, how much of it might have come straight to EditMe.com if the AboutUs.org page didn’t exist? These are difficult questions to answer, but I have to say that, overall, I think what they’ve created provides value. Dollar for dollar, it’s a good marketing spend - especially if the referral numbers stand the test of time.

Stay Connected with EditMe

Subscribe via Email

Your Email:

Delivered by FeedBurner