Mancx.com

Do you need answers to your business questions now, and are you willing to pay hundreds of dollars for them?

That’s the premise on which Mancx.com is hanging its success. The Swedish online Q&A company is planning to stand out from the crowd—whether that be Google searches or dedicated, free Q&A sites like Quora—by charging for answers to questions provided by trustable, legitimate experts. Mancx.com says its target audience is a niche one: primarily what it calls the “LinkedIn” crowd, actual professionals who need good answers to sophisticated industry questions. (For more detailed overviews, see this article in the Guardian or this one in GigaOM.)

While there may be some advantages, I’m skeptical for the following reasons:

Information is almost always free on the Internet. There are long-standing, time-tested and trusted ways to obtain free information online, whether it’s a discussion forum, a professional network, a social network or even Wikipedia.

People are inherently social animals. They want to talk and share information. If there’s one thing that’s proven consistently true about the Internet for two decades now, it’s that people with similar interests will gather together and share their knowledge for free.

What drives this? Not money. Maybe it’s the psychological principal of reciprocity. Maybe people like to feel important—frequent contributors on information-sharing sites are seen as something like tribal elders, dispensing wisdom from on high.

Mancx promises trust through a variety methods, including user rankings and withholding payment until a question asker is satisfied with his or her answer. Yet free information sites already provide this through systems such as reputation, in which users can add to the reputations of those contributors who prove to consistently provide good information, or delete reputation from those who aren’t reliable.

The organizers of Mancx.com claim they want to democratize the flow of information and provide transparency, but all they’re really doing is monetizing it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it just seems that this business model has long been proven not to work.

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