[thelist] Insight on website ideas?

Brooking, John John.Brooking at sappi.com
Thu Nov 11 07:29:17 CST 2004

Hello, everyone,

  Today, I'd be very interested in hearing peoples' responses to some
non-technical thoughts I've been having about a certain kind of website.

  Over the past few years, I've thought of a number of interesting
concepts for websites, which I have never been able to spend any actual
time on due to the constraints of having to earn a living. Without going
into the details of them, they are what I've been calling, for lack of a
known term, "concept-driven" sites. By that, I mean that they are not
merely an online presence of an existing offline commercial or
non-profit organization, and they are not selling any discrete units of
anything. Rather, they are dedicated to some particular idea. In
promotion of that idea, they would feature a discussion forum as well as
a wealth of information about that topic, a way to allow participants to
meet up locally, and maybe some other promotional features such as
contests, games, or polls. In short, anything and everything about a
particular idea.

  The first thing I'm trying to do is put a name to this kind of site,
if one has already been coined. Blogs and discussion boards are similar
beasts, in that their primary "products" are ideas, and their primary
manifestation is online (as well as in the heads of the participants).
But as I said, the sites I'm thinking about will have more than just
discussion. There are also single-purpose sites such as Meetup.com,
which fit my description in that their primary "product" is not in
saleable units, and in that it is an online commodity only. But again,
my sites would have more than that. I'm sure that such sites exist, but
if they had a named category, such as "blog", "portal", "storefront",
etc., it would be easier to talk about them. Maybe it could be described
as kind of an on-line community?

  Secondly, it would be helpful if there were already a known "business
model" that could be followed in developing such a site for at least a
modicum of profit. My first thought was that such a site would be
not-for-profit, but in the real world, people (I, for one) need to earn
a living. I'm busy enough with pro-bono computer work and other
non-computer extracurricular activities, I don't need or want to
dedicate even more time to more websites as simply a labor of love,
however much I would like to see them exist. Maybe through a combination
of ads and donations, it would be nice if someday the combined income
could at least help me to make ends meet if I decided to "quit my lousy
job" (working for someone else). Or at least justify the time I spend on
them by contributing to the household income.

  In a sense, this kind of site seems like a good candidate to be
operated by some non-profit or think tank would, in relation to their
mission, instead of being privately operated. But I'm the one that had
the idea, and I don't happen to work for any of them. Should I try to
find a sponsor for the idea, and build it as a consultant to them? But
then they are the owners, and its fate is tied to theirs, or at least to
their management decisions. I guess I feel like it's my baby to the
point that I don't want to just build it and sell it off.

 I guess what I'm looking for is enough of a sense of how to categorize
this kind of site, and possible business models for it, to get started
confidently. Even better would be if there were some kind of "incubator"
organization for such sites, which can help them get started by
providing the infrastructure, business contacts, and maybe even some
capital to get started. The software is not a problem, there is
certainly enough good software for each of the individual components out
there already. But a good portion of these sites will also be good
old-fashioned non-technical research (for related resources), which just
takes time, which as we all know, is money. The software is almost the
least of it.

 So, if you want specific questions to answer, here are some. Does
anyone (a) have a name for the kind of site I'm talking about, and (b)
know where to go for resources, especially business resources, in
starting such a site? Or just feel free to respond to anything else I've

- John

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