Barnes & Noble Inc. took a significant step into the digital publishing sphere last month when it officially launched Quamut.com, a how-to Web site. The site offers free guides on more than 1,000 topics. Quamut publisher and managing director Dan Weiss acknowledged the competition—About.com is the leading how-to site on the Web, ranking 40th on Web traffic analyzer Alexa.com’s top U.S. Web sites, ahead of eHow, WikiHow and HowStuffWorks.com. But, Weiss said, “We’re hoping to catch up and replace [About] in as many categories as we can.” He also said Quamut offers publishers opportunities to revive backlist titles through licensing deals. The company has purchased content from Globe Pequot on fly fishing and from TFH Publications on pet care.
Most of Quamut’s content, however, is “homegrown,” Weiss said. Quamut’s editors came from Spark Notes and various how-to and DIY magazines, and work exclusively for Quamut. And, Weiss noted, About’s content is “almost entirely amateur-generated” and is not fact-checked or edited. Founded in 1996, About.com was acquired in March 2005 by the New York Times Company. It attracts 53 million visitors worldwide every month. The site has more than two million articles written by what it calls “real people.” Michael Daecher, senior v-p, content and guide operations, at About, said its writers are “journalists and professionals.” The company trusts its writers to post content before it is reviewed by About’s editorial staff. Health information is the exception; a medical review board examines content before it is published. But everything else is created on a “publish-first model,” said Daecher, with writers “fact-checking themselves.”
Weiss knows Quamut will only be able to compete with About if its pages begin appearing high on the results list when someone does a Google search. “The name of the game is getting rankings on Google.” Weiss hopes to boost those rankings by publishing high-quality content, marketing and building on B&N’s reputation as “a brand people trust.”
Christopher Reggio, book publisher at TFH, said Quamut initiated the licensing deal. TFH created some content exclusively for Quamut, while other material came from its existing titles. It has already supplied Quamut with 50 articles and is in the process of providing 50 more. Now that the site has officially launched, Reggio is hoping that links to other TFH books for sale at BN.com will result in book sales. Weiss expects Quamut to drive traffic to BN.com and to boost book sales.
Quamut guides are available free online, and users can download PDFs for $2.95 or purchase a laminated, approximately six-page guide for $5.95. The laminated guides are already for sale in more than 700 B&N stores.