After writing about the cautious progress of publishers adopting Web 2.0 tools and approaches, I came across the introduction of a “wiki” approach to directories recently launched in the U.K. called Brownbook. Officially launched this week, Brownbook describes itself as “a free and open wiki-type ‘local business directory’ Web site that lets consumers add and find local businesses, rate them and add reviews.”
According to founder Jerry Brown, “We built the Brownbook because we wanted an impartial service, one based on people’s experiences and preferences so others can share their confidence when making purchasing decisions.” According to the release, Brownbook claims to have 2.2 million businesses listed.
Operating as an open-source site, Brownbook takes advantage of community editors who can add or update listings and post comments/reviews about any business in the U.K. Businesses can claim their profile for GBP5 per year as well as add additional features such as bold or highlighted listings, expanded profile pages, photos and videos. Taking advantage of community editors and businesses that choose to participate and manage their content eliminates much of the costly database management expenses typically incurred by publishers. By leveraging a prepopulated database of 2.2 million business listings, a basic foundation has been put into place to encourage additional database growth. This is a fundamental Web 2.0 strategy that allows for the creation and extension of an up-to-date, content-rich database that is uniquely owned by the site.
A big part of the concept is to encourage comments, reviews and added content from both users and businesses. Users are also encouraged to become part of the Brownbook community by registering and creating a profile where they can create favorites, see a record of their review history and make instant changes. Business owners are updated each time a new review or comment is added, allowing them to review and respond to any favorable comments or thank people for positive reviews.
This is another Web 2.0 directory example that continues to emerge both in the U.S. and in the more developed online countries. These smaller entrepreneurial start-ups see their path to success starting with community building then migrating to a monetized advertising site, while this remains a major shift for directory companies that are locked into an advertiser-focused business model and struggle to make the shift to a more consumer-focused approach. These new “wiki-like” sites that rely on community editors and businesses to enhance their data are a real challenge to the incumbent publishers, and only time will tell if the major publisher portals will adopt any of these more open-source approaches to enhancing and enriching their deep local database of information.