Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I can has new Web experience

I find myself skimming more and more through my NetVibes these days. Not that I'm losing interest in 2.0, far from it, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot new happening. Maybe I just need to freshen up my blog mix. Nevertheless, TechCrunch delivered today with an interview with Ben Huh, who is now making a living out of a rollup of sites that steal 4chan memes.

You can tell who the journo is in this interview... hint, it's not the dude asking the questions and getting major details wrong. Anyway, there were a couple of key things that I took away from this interview, the main one being that it's that truly Internet-native publishers treat the Internet as a medium all of its own. You can have your Gawker-style blog networks that try too hard to be like the New Yorker. You can have your Hulus which walk the tightrope between Hollywood and Guangdong without ever impressing either the studios or the pirates. Ben seems to get that there is an opportunity to create and/or buy unique media properties which advance the medium... and by the by, engender the kind of "cultural phenomenon" he talks about.

I've had some experience with this myself with FanFooty, which has evolved into a completely different direction that where I thought it was going. These days FanFooty is less like a publication and more like performance art. The live-blogging aspect, combined with live user chat and an intricate series of news update techniques complete with iconic flashes of starbursts, hearts, stars, garbage bins, guns and tombstones, has led to my participation during games being a required part of the process. Where I thought initially that the business was going to run itself after the programming work was done, now I can't visualise FanFooty being successful without someone there at the helm stamping their emotional authority over the user experience.

That's one other aspect that I think Icanhascheezburger shares with FanFooty - the essential goodness of the community, which is a function of how the site has been constructed from the get go. Maybe I'm just turning into a maudlin old man, but I think it's sweet how, once the swearing trolls are banned, the genuine footy fans enjoy themselves so much in an environment where they know they're surrounded by like-minded friends. Much as cat lovers band together, sports fans can achieve a camaraderie and jocularity through online chat that makes the experience fun for not only the community, but also the founder. Many's the time I have found myself laughing along with things that the chat have said, and this is one of the most rewarding parts of running the site. It also warms the cockles of the heart when users thank you unexpectedly. :)

Successful dealings with users are far more pleasing to the soul, in my opinion, which is why I'm still puzzled as to why so many entrepreneurs still focus on business-to-business as their main strategy... sure, you might earn more money that way if the cards fall right, but isn't the main reason you became an entrepreneur was that you hated corporate soullessness and you didn't want to have to kiss the arses of men in suits? Communicating directly with the public should be both the most important and the most soul-nourishing part of a Web start-up.


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