The trouble with user-generated content is that some users have no business writing about some topics. A new reference site called Helium addresses the issue of quality through a peer review process to help the most useful content rise above the rest.
“We’re focusing on bringing order to chaos,” Mark Ranalli, president and CEO of Helium, told ClickZ. “People have come out of the woodwork to share what they know on user-generated sites. Some of these people know a lot and their knowledge can benefit others. Some should not be considered a knowledgeable source.”
Helium is trying to take the concept behind sites like About.com and expand that to include several authors. The concept is similar to Wikipedia’s open approach, but offers multiple points of view. Wikipedia editors typically remove any subjective posts.
To find the best content in each of 23 primary channels, Helium turns to its own authors. Anyone who submits an article in a given topic area is allowed to rate other articles in that topic area, as long as they are not their own. They are asked to read two articles, and decide if one is more or less useful than the other. This relative ranking process is the only way to assign values to each article, when the universe of articles is potentially unlimited, Ranalli said.
“In figure skating, you have to pity the skater who goes first, because there’s no way they’ll get a 10. If the judge gave the first one a ten and the second skater was better, they’d have no way to show that,” he said. “Scalar ranking like that is flawed, until you can see the whole data set.”
Articles that are rated highest by peers appear at the top of each category page. To reward authors who create quality content, Helium shares a portion of ad revenue with them based on the article’s rank. By rewarding authors of quality content, Helium hopes to reinforce the behavior of creating that content and in turn bring more users to the site.
Social networking and CGM site Gather.com gives cash or points towards gift cards or charity to people who post to its site. Similarly, video sharing site Revver offers a 50/50 ad revenue split to people who upload video to the site.
For advertisers, Helium’s ranking method provides a safe place to put their brands, in a highly targeted environment, Ranalli said. “We offer a vehicle for advertisers to speak to a relevant topic and share their brand message with people,” he said. “And Helium’s platform filters out the poor quality content, which advertisers are always concerned about having their brands seen next to.”
The site is showing Google AdSense ads at launch, but Helium is expecting to begin selling its own ads next year when traffic ramps up, Ranalli said. Helium will try to drive that traffic mainly through search marketing and contextual ad campaigns, as well as user word-of-mouth.
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