Opposing Views is on a mission to tick you off

New debate site launching today tackles the most contentious of issues.

Opposing Views is a new site for debate that's launching today. The content on it is great reading. And as CEO Russell Fine said, "I get a lot of people angry. Which is mission accomplished."

I love that.

The site poses questions to people known for representing strong positions on them. The questions are precisely those you don't generally ask at cocktail parties, such as "Is there a God?" and "Should the death penalty be banned?" Plenty of sites address issues like these, but Opposing Views, as a site, takes no position. Rather, it's a platform for debate. Opposing Views' value add is the structure it provides, and the team's skill in recruiting spokespeople on opposite sides of the issues.

Opposing Views landed spokespeople from both presidential campgaigns to debate the candidates' economic plans.

Maintaining balance in the product will be difficult. In the pre-launch site I looked at, the quality of the debate was variable, from middling to excellent. Mostly, people taking opposing positions were fairly matched, meaning some debates were more engaging than others. On the question of which presidential candidate would be better for the American economy, Opposing Views landed a coup: official representation from officers in both the McCain and Obama campaigns. Contributors like that attract other quality writers. Meanwhile, the staff at Opposing Views vets the qualifications of all contributors, and bans comments that don't follow basic rules of decorum and debate.

The main content on Opposing Views is highly structured. Debaters can address a question by making short headline statements to support their position, which they can then expand on at length, with HTML video embeds and hyperlinks if they wish. Opponents can create a rebuttal to a particular argument in addition to posting their own list of statements supporting their position. Multiple experts can support one position and the site segregates their answers.

The sites's users can comment on arguments and vote them up or down.

Is this argument, the American Coal Council has a rebuttal to the Rainforst Action Network's position on building more coal power plants.

Currently, most of the debates on Opposing Views are "stance" issues, to use Fine's terminology. They're arguments around areas of interest. Eventually Fine hopes to have more "transactional" debates that veer towards advice. In particular, he's looking at medical topics, and he says he has a way to keep the content general enough to be interesting to readers while also providing a level of personal service that, as it appears to me, veers a bit close to the Yahoo Answers model.

My advice: Try the site. It might open your eyes on issues you care about. It might make your blood boil to see how people in opposition to your views represent themselves. But we could all use more exposure to ideas that are counter to our own.

Where's the money?
Opposing Views is not a nonprofit issues site like ProCon.org. Fine is in this game to make a buck, and believes that advertising and selling opinion research generated on his site will work as primary revenue models. Supporting those are the potentials to act as a speakers' bureau (where better to find a speaker on a topic than on a site about debate?), and as a white-label platform he can license to sites like local newspapers.

The key to the main revenue streams is search engine optimization, and in this regard, the more experts he gets on the site the more traffic he'll get, since, as he says, "All these experts, they'll bring their crowds with them."

See also: Helium, BigThink, Fora.

 

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