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Gregory Kohs, publisher of MyWikiBiz.com, Philadelphia

| 03.04.2013 |

One of the more curious aspects of the Internet world is the wiki, a website that allows people to collaborate on the creation of content. Sadly, not everyone approaches this notion with a great deal of academic seriousness – Wikipedia, arguably the most influential wiki online, has become infamous for its wealth of historically inaccurate articles and copyright infringements, not to mention a surplus of imagery that places priority on the erotic rather than educational.

 

But Wikipedia is not the only wiki online. MyWikiBiz.com is a business-oriented site that has proven helpful for companies in their online promotional activity. The website’s publisher, Gregory Kohs, spoke with Business-Superstar on his venture into the wiki world.

 

Q: What was the inspiration for MyWikiBiz.com? And was this the first time that you created your own Net-based business?

 

Gregory Kohs: I was inspired to create MyWikiBiz as a paid-editing service focusing on Wikipedia in early 2006, when I noticed that less than half of Atlantic City's casino hotels had entries on Wikipedia. I thought that a paid service could simultaneously assist Wikipedia in becoming more complete and assist enterprises in extending factual information about their activities on the Web. The legitimacy of such a service was confirmed, in my mind, by the already existing "Reward Board" on Wikipedia, where buyers could offer money for the completion of specific articles.

 

The MyWikiBiz.com wiki directory of businesses, people, and concepts that we see today was actually an offshoot of the original paid editing concept. Such a directory utilizing semantic Web reference tags was actually the brainchild of Karl Nagel, who had created a wiki directory called Centiare. Nagel partnered with me to market Centiare. After many months of growing the directory (to over 25,000 pages), Nagel was disappointed with the growth trajectory, and he elected to shut down Centiare. Nonetheless, I felt that there was plenty worthwhile in the directory database, so Nagel agreed that I could port the content to MyWikiBiz.com and continue the project there, on my own. MyWikiBiz now hosts over 87,000 different pages.

 

I guess you could say I've been a bit of a serial developer of Internet-based businesses. My first one was founded in 1995, a Delaware-based S-corporation called Facts On Call, Inc. That business was essentially based on a premise of "pay me to complete your complicated information search". You have to consider that in 1995, most people were only vaguely familiar with how to use a search engine to its fullest capability – and recall that the search engines in those days were Lycos, AltaVista, and InfoSeek. Remember those? So, I had dozens of clients who were willing to pay $10, $20, or maybe $50, every time they wanted to get a more detailed summary of information about a curious topic.

 

Eventually, I found that the more lucrative business was in producing regular, periodical information that was custom tailored to a specific business. For example, I worked with a fledgling home service warranty business to produce a monthly newsletter targeted to regional real estate agents. Through this and other communications packages, I helped that company grow from eight employees to over 200 today.

 

Q: How long did it take to create MyWikiBiz.com, and when did it officially launch?

 

Gregory Kohs: MyWikiBiz.com formally relaunched as a wiki directory (based on the Centiare database) in January 2008. It took only a few days to get set up and running properly on the shared server. Of course, getting Centiare to the point where it had 25,000 pages took Karl Nagel and me probably 300 hours of work across 2007 – customizing Mediawiki code, maintaining the server, standardizing policies and guidelines for users, issuing press releases, creating public relations and promotional opportunities, and more.

 

Q: What have been some of the challenges in starting and maintaining MyWikiBiz.com? And conversely, what have been some of the high points of this endeavor?

 

Gregory Kohs: The biggest challenge in growing MyWikiBiz was essentially the trade-off between wanting to help small businesses and entrepreneurs with their self-promotion on our site, and not letting MyWikiBiz become a wasteland of spam links. In the end, we decided to sort of let MyWikiBiz grow "naturally," which means that we attracted some really excellent pages like these:

 

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Directory:Andrew_Lande

 

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Directory:Van_Doren_Oil

 

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Directory:Jon_Awbrey/Papers/Introduction_to_Inquiry_Driven_Systems

 

But we also attracted some very useless pages like these:

 

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Abercrombie_Fitch_Outlet_Stores_are_Full_of_Fashion

 

http://www.mywikibiz.com/5_Easy_Steps_on_How_to_Start_a_Wholesale_Distributorship_Business

 

Q: How have you been able to get this site to stand out amid the clutter of the Internet?

 

Gregory Kohs: Frankly, MyWikiBiz.com will never compete with the giant Wikipedia, and that was never the real intention or goal. We wanted to be an alternative resource for more directory-oriented content that Wikipedia typically rejects. In the end, it's been a rewarding project for me, because I have personally gotten to know many resourceful, creative, and influential people who found their way to MyWikiBiz.com after being mistreated on or disillusioned by Wikipedia.

 

MyWikiBiz really stood out on the Internet between 2008 and 2010, because the Resource Description Framework (RDF) of Semantic Mediawiki was being highly optimized in Google searches. So, for example, if you tagged a heating oil business listed on MyWikiBiz as being in "County:Hunterdon" and "State:New Jersey," that page would shoot to the top of Google searches for "Hunterdon County heating oil." The Google Panda initiative in early 2011, however, severely damaged MyWikiBiz's search engine results.

 

Q: What professional advice would you give to someone who is interested in creating a wiki-style business?

 

Gregory Kohs: If someone is starting a wiki as a business enterprise, my advice is to make your subject matter highly targeted, and don't rely on contextual ads for revenue. Internet advertising as an entrepreneurial revenue model is a modern day Amway or pyramid scheme. Many, many people spend countless hours trying to pick up a few pennies of ad revenue, when in reality, only a very few large corporations are able to make the model work effectively. I recommend that a wiki entrepreneur base their revenue model on the sale of "premium" or "full" content, or on the sale of specialized information services and reports derived from the content on their wiki.