Google could be heading down a slippery slope with Youtube and now knol. Their organic search results are meant to be unbiased and provide the most relevant results for any given query. In 2000 Google launched Google Adwords and we started seeing sponsored search results. That was ok, the ads were clearly marked and listed alongside the search results.
At some point here, they suddenly realized that they have this great money making scheme called Google Adsense, but they only ever take a cut out of each ad because as a search engine, they’re designed to send traffic away. The next logical step here, from a money making point of view, is to take a larger percentage, or take the entire ad revenue. They can only do that if they become a content publisher. At that point there’s a huge conflict of interest in serving relevant, unbiased results and a serving up your own site, which makes money.
Now with Google knol they want to extend publishing to textual content and run adsense. To ensure quality content and to keep the spammers at bay they will probably not offer a rev share either.
Since wikipedia has such a strong organic presence, that leaves 9 spots on page 1 for other reference material type sites. Enter Google knol and that reduces it to 8. Throw in Google’s diversification of search results and now for ecommerce queries, you may find that there’s only 1 spot left on page 1 for an informational article about a product.
So once knol builds critical mass, what could happen? Well obviously sites like about.com will loose rankings to knol. answers.com who already took a 28% traffic hit this year could face a double whammy by loosing rankings and having their keywords links in the results are replaced with knols.
What do you think might happen? Would you want to contribute an authoritative article to knol?