What: Scribd is a reading and publishing platform that encourages users to upload written work, which is then shared and accessed in a social media-like fashion. Anybody can upload written work, including authors, journalists, and communications pros.
The San Francisco-based company launched in 2007 and was cofounded by Trip Adler, who attended Harvard while Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg was there.
How: Sharing and recommendations are vital ingredients for the success of social media sites. So far, millions of documents and billions of words have been uploaded.
To overcome the bookstore-like dread of discovering what users may want, the Scribd platform has integrated with Facebook, an opt-out link that enables Scribd to recommend based on Facebook information. It also allows users to see what their friends are reading or recommending on the site.
"The intent is that you are immediately oriented," says Michelle Laird, senior director of communications at Scribd.
Why: With the Internet vastly revolutionizing publishing and communications, Scribd is yet another self-publishing tool and marketplace for written work. It acts as a medium that makes written communications dynamic and open. It's also a way for brands and individuals to draw people to their message based on social media algorithms.
Laird notes that PR pros are using Scribd to publish communications materials, while journalists are following, using the site for research and news-source discovery.
Who: When former HP CEO Mark Hurd accepted a job at Oracle, HP broke its own story by publishing legal filings against Hurd on Scribd. Only then did the press pick it up.
"This is a way for written documents to go viral on the Web," says Laird. It's what she calls the "document-viral loop" for communications.
Increasingly, PR firms such as Edelman and Weber Shandwick are using Scribd to publish. Laird says it gets roughly 65 million unique visits a month.
"It's publish or perish," says Steve Rubel, Edelman SVP and director of insights. "Corporations that publish will be more visible than anyone else."