Here are my notes, unedited and possibly misleading, blah blah blah, of the Reboot9 conference.
Dogster-Catster case study.
Home page of Dogster: web designers like Ted hate it (it’s a mess) but the dog people love it — they just click on the dogs.
People copy-paste and personalise their cat/dog pages.
Forums: not as good as the best forums out there, but made to reflect the interests of people using the site. 5000 forum postings a day. People can organise events. Groups. Looks kinda crappy but the users don’t care.
Catster videos, commenting. Endless features. 1500 new members a day. (Ted shows a bunch of numbers… dizzy. 60’000 diaries/blogs.)
Lessons learnt that Ted wants to share, after 4 years.
- pick partners wisely, you’ll be married for 2-10 years. Need to talk about stuff like having kids with your partners! Partnership failures sink young businesses. steph-note: eek! other points on slide but didn’t get them.
- bootstrapping is good, keeping expenses manageable means you live longer, less financial constraints means more control.
- customer service is everything, from day one. Answer every e-mail, IM, phone call, resolve every problem. Without happy customers your site is just a pile of fancy server code. It’s free market research!
- develop within your impact horizon — your product must have an impact on your community within this time frame. For Catster/Dogster: 1st year, 3-4 weeks; 2nd year: 6-8 weeks; 3rd year: 2-3 months; 4th year: 2-3 months, ideally 1 month. Can’t guess that much in advance. 10 one-month features instead of 2 six-month features. More chance of one being popular.
- how do you make your money? Sponsors and direct ad buys (really hard! integrated ad campaigns); ad networks, premium memberships, virtual gifts. Bring in advertisers by encouraging them to be part of the community. They write up their stuff (less marketing goop). If you have to revert to advertising, it kind of means people aren’t that interested in the community. Ted would like to get ads and sponsors off the site altogether.
Paying members: more to be “part of the club” rather than have more features.
Circle of trust: Dogster, Community, Advertisers. Picky with advertisers. Introduce the advertiser to the community.