Google Knol: The End of Editorial?

As many of you may know, OTN runs a full-fledged publishing operation: We recruit authors, acquire manuscripts for a fee, review them on a technical value level, and then edit/produce them for publication in HTML.

This morning, I read about a new Google offering called knol, now in Beta (what else?), that will allow authors to self-publish into a massive knowledge base. In essence, Google will offer a metadata-rich template that support comments, Q&A, wiki-style edits etc.; embedded ads will be an option. Obviously this knowledge base will be exposed to the world via Google search. Think of it like a blog that consists of a single piece of content.

This effort is a reflection of the complete and total breakdown of the traditional editorial model, in which the "editor" determines what you should read and the publisher determines how to promote it. Instead, the author is full control; dis-intermediation is complete.

Is our publishing operation about to join the dinosaurs in the "ashbin of history"? I'm starting to think that OTN needs to take a completely different form: as an aggregator, not a platform. The Googleverse is the only platform now.

Update: Several commenters have declared knol a Wikipedia competitor, but I don't know if that's true. Wikipedia is all about collaborative authoring, whereas knol appears to be all about personal authoring (and it's not clear that collaborative editing is even supported). Nevertheless, "innocent bystanders" are never immune to accidental injury.

Comments:

Interesting thoughts, but I'm not sure that this spells the immediate downfall of editing. Over time, maybe, but I think Knol needs to prove itself first, and attract a critical mass of people and articles before it will really threaten both Wikipedia's de-facto dominance and the mainstream editing/publishing model. Cheers, Stewart

Posted by Stewart Mader on December 13, 2007 at 08:01 PM PST #

Stewart, agreed. But the Old Model keeps getting chipped, chipped away, doesn't it?

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on December 13, 2007 at 08:06 PM PST #

I just keep remembering back to some article I read when I was just a kid hacking on the C64 about how the new cheap word processor programs were going to change the world and make everybody an author/publisher. But the fact is not everybody is an author and even people that do like to write and share knowledge need good editors/publishers or what they write has much less value because it hasn't been tuned for the specific audience. I just get kinda leery when every time google comes out with something that will be in perpetual beta it's a world changing event. Interesting for sure but changing the game, not so sure. I can't even remember the magazine the article was in but I just always think back to it everytime someone brings up the next big thing. Anyway my 2cents Carl

Posted by Carl Backstrom on December 13, 2007 at 09:26 PM PST #

I think it's as well to keep in mind what (I think) Google are trying to do here � which is to stave off the threat of Social Media and prevent such things from undermining their ad' revenues. While ever people are voting and reading content found on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit et al, they're not clicking on Google's Sponsored Links. So by going after Wikipedia as a means of breaking the back of and monetizing Social Media, Google are hoping to position themselves in the full flow of another revenue stream. Additionally, from the point of view of edited content, what's the point when Social Media introduces a kind of democracy whereby poor quality content gets buried? In a very real sense, Google would be skipping the editorial aspect and giving us the power to vote instead...

Posted by Wayne Smallman on December 19, 2007 at 06:11 PM PST #

I think it will be interesting to see what sort of people want to have articles here and put themselves up in competition for votes with other authors on the subject, in stark contrast to the collaborative nature of wikipedia. I prefer the collaborative approach and not to rely on a single source, maybe I'm an old hippy at heart.

Posted by David Haimes on December 29, 2007 at 05:05 AM PST #

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