Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo is getting a facelift: Starting tonight, the site will look different, work different, and operate under a different business model.
Mahalo 2.0, as Jason is calling it, will still be a collection of user-curated Web pages — about topics ranging from people and places to news events — anything you might find on Wikipedia, About.com, etc. But instead of paying “guides” up front to make pages, anyone with a Mahalo account will be able to make a page. And if you “claim” a page and vow to keep it up to date, Mahalo will split the ad revenue from that page with you 50/50. (Don’t get too excited! It’s just Google Ads.)
The idea is to get a lot more pages onto Mahalo — and indexed, searchable via Google — for cheaper. (New pages include text, links, graphics, maps, video, Twitter feeds, etc.)
At the beginning, Mahalo was spending around $100 to get a page made by a smart human. Then it got closer to $15. That’s helped Mahalo get 100,000 topic pages up in two years. But now Mahalo will be able to get pages made for free, and will only have to pay contributors if Mahalo itself gets paid — when the pages get traffic and ad revenue.
The change in business model also comes with major changes to Mahalo’s back-end. Instead of running off Wiki software, Mahalo will be running on its own custom content management system. The goal is to make it easier for contributors to create and modify pages via easy drag-and-drop controls instead of the wiki code they had to learn before. That should lower the barrier to entry for page-makers, and will also allow Mahalo to get more pages made, faster. (And, again, cheaper.)
Mahalo 2.0 will also tie into Mahalo Answers, the Q&A service that Mahalo rolled out last December. Since then, Mahalo has fielded 59,000 questions and 107,000 answers, serving up 3.9 million pageviews to 2.9 million unique visitors. (More broadly, Mahalo attracted 5.6 million unique visitors last month.) Not bad, and successful enough that Mahalo is talking with companies about white-labelling the Answers service. (For instance, JetBlue could host a travel-related Q&A site, where contributors won points toward flight credits, etc.)
Will Mahalo 2.0 work? One trend in Jason’s favour is the growing number of intelligent people — including many journalists — who are out of work, are good writers, and fairly competent with computers. The plan to only allow one person to “claim” a page at a time — unlike Wikipedia, where anyone can edit — could be good or bad, though. In theory, it gives one person an incentive to make the page as good as possible. But if that person is a dud, and makes lame/boring pages, it’s to Mahalo’s disadvantage. (There will be some policing, but mostly for failing to keep a page up to date or making significant writing/content errors.)
As for making money: While new members will only be able to start off “claiming” two pages at a time, that can add up over time. And while the average page makes about $20-50 per year, big hits can make thousands of dollars per year. So freelancers, secretaries, retirees, or bored people could potentially earn tens or hundreds of extra dollars a month by spending a few hours a week updating their pages.
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