Stavros Rougas and Ebrahim Ashrafizadeh created a site a few years ago to help journalists find academic experts. Originally called Media Spot Me, the site is now Expertise Finder.
I spoke with Rougas, a former journalist, via email about why he helped create the site and what you’ll find there.
What are the roots of Expertise Finder?
I was a TV producer on a current affairs program called The Agenda with Steve Paikin, it’s on a public broadcaster called TVO located in Toronto. I was looking for experts with depth all the time, too often scrambling for deadline and ending up with less than ideal guests. I thought there must be a better way so I looked and looked and looked. But nothing beat the power of the Google sledgehammer.
I teamed up with an engineer in Waterloo (Ontario) with a similar passion for knowledge and together we created the tool I wished for as a journalist.
Unlocking knowledge in a Web-centric way was a growing passion of mine. While the Web is redefining how we communicate, it’s the combination of lowering costs to build online tools that was my eureka moment. I realized in 2010 that cloud computing was hitting prime time and driving costs down which would allow people like me to consider doing things that were previously impossible.
Tell us about Expertise Finder and how journalists can use it.
It’s a search engine for journalists to find experts. It takes seconds.
Journalists are generalists by nature and need to find people with specific expertise. You can start with even the most general search and then click on any area of expertise to see related knowledge. You can poke around and quickly discover people with specific knowledge, including things you didn’t know existed but make sense when you see them.
How is this different from or better than a Google search?
Google is wonderful, so we built Expertise Finder to be as simple as searching on Google. The difference is that our results are only people. Currently it’s limited to academics from accredited universities and four year colleges across North America.
This is free for journalists, but do universities pay to have faculty listed? What’s the benefit for them?
Listing experts is free for accredited universities and colleges. We make money by using our software to build custom experts directories for universities and colleges. It’s a cloud solution, with no IT they get a directory with our search technology and more. Here is a client’s directory we power as an example.
There is no way to buy a higher ranking or listing. There is no advertising. It’s based on relevancy of expertise. In the end of the day it’s a useful piece of a journalist’s toolbox.
Have you seen any unexpected results yet, either on the part of journalists or the experts?
Less is more.
Journalists keep telling us don’t add more, we like the clean design. This focus has allowed us to create something that is mobile first and by extension works on the desktop.
For experts this means we do a lot with limited data. The thinking initially from many of our experts and our university clients is that it requires a ton of information. With focus, a journalist’s insight and well-designed technology, we do a lot with very little. We do in three days what was talked about for three years.
We live in a Google universe, if it’s not easy to use and fast, it doesn’t matter how great it is or how money is spent, it will not be used a lot.