Business Week's Business Exchange

A Good Example of Crowd Sourcing and Social Networking

April 29, 2009

Business Week’s Business Exchange is a crowdsourcing adjunct to Business Week. Readers post links to interesting articles and blog posts they’ve found on other publishers’ sites or written themselves. Business Exchange uses three best practices in social media. It saves customers time. It amplifies their posts and comments by publishing them on multiple social media sites. It avoids cannibalizing competitors’ content by generating traffic to their sites, rather than away from their sites.


Introduction to Business Week’s Business Exchange

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Ron Casalotti, the Director of User Participation for Business Week’s Business Exchange. He introduced me to Business Week’s crowdsourcing initiative. Here’s Ron’s background and my quick take.

Injecting AOL Customer DNA into Business Week

Ron Casalotti’s understanding about how to encourage user-generated content comes naturally. He became addicted to AOL’s online communities in the 1990s. By day, he worked in the leasing business. At night, he would join live chat groups on topics he cared about. Soon, he found himself volunteering as a moderator for a number of AOL communities, including the really popular gaming chat groups.

After serving as a volunteer moderator in exchange for free AOL time, AOL made him an offer in 1997 to come on board full-time to run a number of their most popular communities. After over 10 years hosting and managing communities at AOL (weathering the Time Warner merger), Ron posted his resume on LinkedIn and was immediately tapped by Business Week to come and run customer-generated content at the new Business Exchange site they were planning. “Once I decided to leave AOL, I thought I’d be job hunting for a while, but I walked across the street, and settled into my new job in less than a week.”

Leveraging Business Users’ Existing Investments in Social Media

Here are the first things that impressed me about Business Week’s approach to crowdsourcing: The site not only doesn’t waste your time, it amplifies it. You double the returns you get from taking time to post or comment on Business Week’s site, because it is so well integrated into other popular social media sites. An investment in time on Business Exchange pays off on your other social media platforms. Business Week was one of the first media properties to really take advantage of social media integration to help customers strut their stuff.

Use Your LinkedIn Profile. Before talking with Ron, I took a look at the site. What immediately tickled me about the Business Exchange site is the way that users’ profiles are “automagically” generated from the profiles we already have on LinkedIn. What a relief, I thought! I don’t have to create yet another profile to participate in this dialog!1 When you register for Business Exchange, you can use your LinkedIn Profile, saving time so you don’t have to create yet another profile!

Tweet Your Responses. Equally useful (for those of us who are overwhelmed by all the demands on our time and our new found need to strut our stuff in public), when you post on Business Exchange, you can have those posts syndicated out to your Twitter feeds. This is a really clever way to convince time-pressed business people that it’s worth their time to read and comment on Business Exchange. And it’s a great way to spawn word of mouth PR.

Contribute Your Content or Content You Value

Here’s the crowd sourcing part: Registered users can contribute articles on a variety or topics, and/or suggest new topics. Your contributed articles wind up right next to the Business Week articles that have been selected and added to the Business Exchange collection. The other thing that’s quite amazing about Business Exchange is how easy it is to add articles to it. These may be articles you’ve written, or articles you’ve found in other publications that you think Business Exchange readers would enjoy. You simply hit the submit button, enter the URL, and it will grab the title and abstract from the originating site, create a link, and all you need to do is comment (if you want to) and hit enter. You might think that this would lead to the site being cluttered with self-promoting junk. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Business Exchange

Business Exchange

© 2009 Business Exchange

Illustration 1. Leverage! You can use your LinkedIn Profile, saving time so you don’t have to create yet another profile! And, when you post on Business Exchange you can have those posts syndicated out to your Twitter feeds.

Since you can only submit URLs, rather than blog directly on the site, all of the linked news items and blog posts seem to be of “publishable” quality. If it’s your own blog post, you publish first on your blog, and then submit it to Business Exchange. (It will post right away; you don’t have to wait for approval). If it’s a link to an interesting article or blog post from someone else, Business Exchange creates the links, includes the logo of the originating site and respects their copyright by simply linking to it on the original site.

What’s Missing: Threaded Discussions

Something I find odd about the current Beta version of Business Exchange is that it isn’t very easy to see others’ reactions to articles. Under each article’s abstract you can look at the “Actions” taken on that article, and see which users have saved or reacted to it and what their reactions were. But it’s hard to find. And, there’s no threaded discussion/blog commenting capability that lets you build on others’ reactions (yet). There’s no real discourse happening on the site. Just a lot of great content and interesting people.

DON’T CANNIBALIZE YOUR SOURCES. I asked Ron why BusinessExchange didn’t support and promote discussions around each submission. He explained that Business Week didn’t want to cannibalize other media properties by luring their customers to discuss their articles on the Business Exchange site in the way that Huffington Post does, for example. By keeping the substantive discussions on each media property’s site, Business Exchange is being a media team player. And, since posts to Business Exchange bring more traffic to the source article, the other media properties are happy for the additional exposure. It’s a win/win philosophy.


1) “Where’s Your Profile Online?” by Patricia B. Seybold, April 16, 2009.

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