The Facts of Life123

No good deed goes uncopied.

Just days after Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) rolled out its community-driven Knol -- and several years after New York Times' (NYSE: NYT  ) About.com pioneered the guru-driven how-to site -- IAC (Nasdaq: IACI  ) is tiptoeing in with Life123.

Community-driven content sites like Squidoo and Knol -- where writers get a piece of the ad-revenue action for their reference articles -- have become popular Web 2.0 fixtures lately. Why contribute anonymously to the Wikipedia collective when you can get paid for your keyboard pecks? However, Life123 is more in the mold of About.com, where a vetted editorial staff is creating the articles and videos that offer resources in nearly a dozen lifestyle-based categories.

In a brilliant move, IAC is also populating its site with relevant content tied to its existing properties. A story on insulating an attic is presented by IAC's ServiceMagic contractor-referral service. An article on homeowner insurance is pitched by the new-media conglomerate's RealEstate.com arm. Even IAC's online shoe store -- Shoebuy.com -- gets in on the fun with articles on breaking in shoes and fashionable flats.

Even though Life123 will be offering visitors a chance to get paid to contribute by joining the Life123 writing community, the emphasis will likely remain on polished, thorough guides, where readers can select how deep they want to go into different subjects.

Thus, perhaps the best way to describe Life123 is as a combination of the guide-powered About.com and HSW International's (Nasdaq: HSWI  ) push to translate HowStuffWorks content in overseas markets.

Even in its alpha-testing state, Life123.com is a slick-looking site with promise. However, even the best websites die without traffic. That will be Life123's biggest challenge. The model is sound. Sending love back to other sites in the IAC portfolio is genius. If it is able to inject the community with a sense of gradual monetization, the viral ingredients will be there. The rub is that this is quickly becoming a crowded category, brimming with money-sniffing know-it-alls. Even great sites will have fallen by the wayside by the time consumers have picked the sites they will bookmark.

Niche content sites have already carved out their audiences. If you want wedding-planning information, you don't need to look further than The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT  ) . Looking for the best yields on CDs or the most attractive mortgage rates? Bankrate (Nasdaq: RATE  ) has become the industry standard. However, when it comes to catchall guides, there seem to be more sites than eyeballs to go around.

Note to self: Hit up all of these sites and write a guide on how to stand out in a crowd.

Related Foolishness:

Bankrate, The Knot, and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story, though he is a freelance contributor to IAC's CitySearch. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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