Amazon Askville: Real questions, Real Answers, Real book sales

ImageWhen Amazon sent us an email inviting to beta test their start-up site Askville, we were intrigued. The tag line on the Askville site is “Ask a question, get real answers from real people”.

Askville is not Yahoo Answers, or what was Google Answers. These are people asking every day questions “What accessories do I need for camping?”, “When people say Roger Wilco, what does the Wilco mean?” (it means Will comply!). It is a site you would go to if you had a random question to ask, and were willing to rely on the wisdom of the crowds. At this point, questions on Amazon’s Askville are getting around 5 answers each.

ImageTo ask a question, you need to login in with your Amazon account info. Then there is an additional level of verification where a code gets sent to your phone. You have to use the code to access the system.

Questions stay open for 7 days. Users who answer, advance to the higher levels, based upon their expertise. The best answer to every question gets a red ribbon. Those who answer get paid via Quest Coins, whose value is yet to be determined on a currency exchange. The site promises that ultimately it will be possible to exchange Quest coins on the website, for goodies.

For Amazon, Askville is not just a do-good site. At the end of each set of answers to the myriad of questions is, as you might guess, a list of recommended books to read, which, surprise surprise, can be found on Amazon!

The marketing play is very clever. This is similar to context sensitive Ad Sense ads from Google, except the product and the ads are both Amazon’s. And the content is all user generated.

Hats off to you Amazon! You found yet another way to remind us to read!


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Disney buys Club Penguin : Tweens rule

club penguin logoAfter months of speculation about Sony’s interest in the company, Disney swooped in and bought the kids social site Club Penguin, reportedly for $350 million, with an additional $350 million being kicked in for meeting targets through 2009. The site has 12 million users with 700,000 paid subscribers. The site has a subscription based model.

Almost unnoticed by the mainstream new media world, virtual world websites which cater to ‘Tweens (6-12 year olds) have been steadily growing in popularity. There is the wildly successful Webkins, which has 4 million active users. Webkinz sells a plush toy along with an online subscription. There is also the more sassy, and highly marketed Zwinky, which lets kids virtually shop for clothes, and accessorize.

club Penguins

One problem that these sites do not have, is coming up with a revenue model. Parents are not only willing to pay for subscriptions (most sites are free but require payment for “extras”), but they seem to prefer a paid model, where they know that their kids will not be exposed to random advertising.

Club Penguin has become very successful amongst the young crowd. It is the Second Life of kid town. You get on the site and waddle around amongst other penguins. You can chat with the other penguin avatars - though you are not allowed to enter numbers into the chat.


Here is a review of Club Penguin that we got from an 8 year old

I like to play the games on Club penguin. You can get an igloo for your penguin. And for 800 dollars you can buy a pet puffle for your penguin.

I like how you can chat with other kids. If your penguin is 30 days or older, you can take a moderator’s job, like a cop, and then you can report people if they are not doing things right.

You have to pay money to get clothes or other fancy items. In the free version, you can’t get some special kinds of pets.

Disney’s purchase of Club Penguin might very well start a gold rush for other kids social websites like Habbo and Star penguin

Technocrati Tags: Club Penguin, kids, Webkinz

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Mefeedia: What are you watching?

Mefeedia is a social video discovery site that asks the question, “What are you watching?”. It is a video aggregation and sharing web site that enjoys a dedicated following in the video blogging (vlogging) community.

Mefeedia is developing a leadership position in the up-and-coming area of independent video discovery. Mefeedia CEO Frank Sinton tells us that the website traffic is growing rapidly (it has gone past 1 million unique visits).

The area of videoblogs or vlogs - has seen a lot of attention lately, with CBS’s acquisition of startup Wallstrip, for a reported $5 million (Wallstrip was, and very likely still is, pre-revenue), Sony Pictures’ recent announcement of the Crackle service, and with the comedic Ask a Ninja shows which have a dedicated following.

mefeedia vedeoblog mica scalinSo who are the must watch vloggers? And what are they, themselves, watching? You can join Mefeedia to find out. Users roll their own “playlists” which feature line-ups of their favorite shows and clips. Within their social network, users can subscribe to each others feeds, make recommendations, and share their lists of favorite videos.

With a current database of 24,000 video feeds from 13,000+ websites and 300+ video sharing sites, Mefeedia covers a broad swath of independent videos that do not get covered by the big sites such as YouTube. The service aims to make it easy to find targeted content using metadata, metrics, and learned preferences.

Earlier, we wrote about Blinkx, a site that aggregates large quantities of video. Blinkx’ strength lies is its search engine, which catalogs video clips based upon sound recognition and video analysis. Blinkx is more about finding specific clips in a large library of videos aggregated from about 200 sources, than it is about sharing and discovering what others are watching.

One feature that we particularly like in Mefeedia, is the tracking of videos around events and topics, similar to how a lot of people use Flickr for photos. Witness the videos that have piled in from the iPhone launch, for example. Mefeedia also provides topic-based “guides” that give you a starting point for particular interests such as cooking videos and travel videos.

Mefeedia recently announced that ABC News will be using them to help discover stories - and more deals are on the way, according to Frank Sinton. Mefeedia has received awards for Best Vlog Directory at the Vloggies, and made it to Business Week’s “Best of the Web” in the video category.

Mefeedia is based in Burbank and is currently seeking funding.

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News corp. to buy Dow Jones - Wall Street Journal

News Corp. won a $5 billion bid to buy Dow Jones, making it the first time that control of the company will go outside the Bancroft family. WSJ (owned by Dow Jones) reports that the deal (discussed and in the news for over 3 months) was helped along by Dow Jones CEO would who stands to benefit greatly from the sale.

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