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The Question Business

Some librarian competitor intelligence:
U.S. Visits to Question and Answer Websites Increased 118 Percent Year-over-Year
Yahoo! Answers receives 74 percent of all U.S. visits

N”EW YORK – March 19, 2008 – The market share of U.S. visits to a custom category of Question and Answer websites has increased 118 percent for the week ending Mar. 15, 2008, compared to the same week in 2007, Hitwise reported today. Over the past two years, U.S. visits to this category have increased 889 percent comparing Feb. 2008 versus Feb. 2006.”
“The most visited website within the Questions and Answers category last week was Yahoo! Answers (, which received 74.05 percent of the market share of U.S. visits. was the second most visited website receiving 18.35 percent of visits, followed by, which received 4.42 percent of visits. WikiAnswers, launched in June 2007 has seen its U.S. visits increase 125 percent comparing the week ending Jun. 9, 2007 versus Mar. 15, 2008.”
More past the link.
We’re certainly in the question space. Are these free and fee services doing something we can do better?

Posted on: March 19, 2008, 1:10 pm Category: Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. As a Metafilter member I am a bit biased but I think the quality of answers offered there are far superior to that of Yahoo Answers.
    I think what drives Ask Metafilter is the sense of community that is there (approx. 30,000 actual active members). As a librarian I think we feel a disconnect with these type of Q&A sites. The people are not asking questions here instead of going to a library, they are are asking here because there are experts there. Metafilter has electrician and plumbers and doctors and lawyers, as well as librarians. I think this is what makes Ask Metafilter work so well. But like I said, I am biased.

  2. jenjen said

    A really large proportion of questions on Yahoo! Answers are requests for advice. What’s the best way to clean a fish tank, what should I say in my application to med school, should I get the firmware update for this camera. They’re looking for recommendations based on the personal experience of others. It’s true that libraries have resources on these topics, but we don’t generally let our reference staff base answers on personal knowledge – I remember being taught that if someone wanted to know how to spell “cat” I was supposed to get out the dictionary.
    Sad. Can you imagine if we didn’t let the other professionals in our lives give advice – doctors, lawyers, accountants, tax pros, etc.?

  3. I’m a librarian and I once asked a question from one of my patrons on Yahoo!Answers. It was an obscure quotation from a religious text. My patron had the gist of the quotation but not the exact phrase. A Yahoo!Answers user provided me with the details to find the actual text and pass the information along to my library patron. I always feel a little embarrassed about this one, as if I cheated in finding the answer. Although I did try to provide my patron with a value added service by locating a source for him to view the full text and copying the exact quote and it’s context for him. So I’m not entirely sure where this leaves libraries.