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BusinessWeek Digital bets on user content

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Later this month, BusinessWeek.com will debut Business Exchange, a section of the site where users can create content on business topics of their choice.

“We’re giving users tools to create topics collaboratively using content from across the Web,” said Roger Neal, senior VP-general manager of BusinessWeek Digital.

“Business Exchange diverges from traditional media approaches because it’s more about creating access and utility for users than it is about creating content.”

Neal described Business Exchange as a “work-flow tool” that is based on the premise that having access to high-quality and relevant business information on demand is one key to success in business.

“If you develop products based on audience needs, you realize that business professionals need content, they need data and they need networking,” said Keith Fox, president of BusinessWeek. “Content is very important and core to what we do, but it’s still just one element. We’re thinking more broadly so that we can be at the center of those audience needs with networking, community and context that doesn’t have to come only from ourselves.”

The idea of organizing information according to topics is not new to media sites. At NYTimes.com, for example, a section of the site called Times Topics aggregates news, reference and other information—including photos and video files—on more than 14,000 topics from its vast archive of New York Times content.

Business Exchange, in contrast, allows businesspeople to aggregate content from across the Web and to organize it in ways that they find useful—as opposed to categories defined by editors—and BusinessWeek content does not have an edge over content from other sources.

Rather than starting with decades’ worth of editorial, as NYTimes.com did, Business Exchange was a blank slate until alpha testers invited by BusinessWeek started creating and aggregating content for it.

BusinessWeek staffers reached out to invite business bloggers and other thought leaders on an individual basis to build the content and weigh in on the functionality of Business Exchange. This group of users has grown to more than 500, who had created more than 300 topic pages by the end of August, Neal said.

Business Exchange will have an official public launch later this month, at a date to be announced, Fox said, adding that “some advertisers will be part of that launch in a significant way. We have several committed sponsors.”

Fox noted that Business Exchange will evolve as users interact with it, create and organize content, and build networks. “I see Business Exchange rolling out over the next 12 months,” he said.

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