Extend Reader Reach: Magazine Sites Go Wiki

Magazine publishers have a new plan to draw bigger online audiences to their Web sites: Wiki-style reference pages. Among the most recent initiatives are a corporate org chart Wiki from Forbes.com, and an epicurean Wiki from American Express Publishing's Food & Wine magazine.

The Forbes.com Wiki has obvious appeal for businesspeople who need a guide to the often-convoluted hierarchies of corporate partners (or even their own companies). As with other Wikis, the org chart directory allows registered users to edit and revise an existing page in collaboration with other users.

The big draw for the pubs is engagement. By offering users the opportunity to work collaboratively on a matter of common interest to them and the magazine, the sites extend the magazine's brand and value to readers.

In addition to providing up-to-the-minute information on big corporate shakeups, the unlimited publishing space of the Wiki can clarify arcane relationships of interest to only a few individuals. In essence, it becomes a corporate reference book used by businesses themselves.

Food & Wine's Wiki, catering to the well-heeled gourmet, is essentially a giant restaurant guide covering the U.S., with space for every eatery from the most famous steakhouse to the smallest hole in the wall. With a subject of obvious interest to foodies--whose blog battles over restaurant reviews are the stuff of legend--the restaurant (and food store) Wiki is a good candidate for a high-engagement item.

The food mag's Editor in Chief Dana Cowin explains: "Big cities no longer have a monopoly on talented chefs and innovative food artisans. This new Wiki site combines our expertise with the discoveries of devoted local foodies to provide an in-depth guide to exciting food around the country, whether in Kansas City or San Francisco."

The social invitation to create knowledge offers a form of audience interaction that may even be more engaging than social networks, where people create profiles but don't necessarily interact.

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