Saturday, September 27, 2008

The business of a fun-based website, part 1

Early on, I decided that a “fun” website wasn’t going to be enough for me. It had to be a real business, a website that made money from being fun. I spent considerable time on this concept, looking at the ways that businesses made money, especially businesses that weren’t selling an obvious product. Part of my research helped me realize that this book casting activity was fun in and of itself, that there were a lot of people out there who had been doing this all along, and just never had a place to do it. This was born out by our members and the authors once the site became operational. We’ve seen hundreds of comments about the ways people have been doing this in family gatherings, with classmates and co-workers sharing a common interest, or through a book readers circle. Others have no one to share this with, but have been doing it on their own for many years. So, we weren’t really creating something completely new, but rather creating a place for a pre-existing group to finally get together and do it with their casting fellows.

From a business standpoint, this meant that we were primarily an entertainment company, and our business model would somehow have to “follow the fun”. The next problem was, how do you make money when the website itself is free to join and use? We discussed the “membership” concept, used very successfully at book sites like LibraryThing.com, but we felt that the cataloguing service they provided was worth their membership fee, whereas we weren’t really offering a particular service to storycasters, just a fun place and way to do it. We decided that the newer internet model would have to do: make it free, grow it big, and then charge for our eyeballs through advertising. Our storycasters are a unique mix of people who read books and like movies, so their viewpoint has value for the publishers, the studios, and for anyone hawking celebrity wares. I also knew that, if our storycasters were excited enough, we could sell site-related logo merchandise, like shirts and mugs. Off on the horizon was the distant possibility of getting bouight - our first choice would always be Amazon – but then I read the comments by Donna Bogatin about one of the sure-fire ways of getting into the TechCrunch Deadpool: “Don’t have a business model”. We would have to have a business model that could make money on it’s own, whether anyone ever bought the site or not.

So, that’s where it’s going. We’re “following the fun” by enabling all the fun aspects of this new hobby, making it simple-fast-easy to create and post a cast, and we’re going to follow it up with the community-connection aspect – these people want to connect with others who read the same stuff and see similar (or completely different) people in the roles. Books sales (we’re an Amazon affiliate) are almost non-existent, and that’s normal, considering that these people have already read the book. Book sales won’t take off until people can look up an actor they like, see what they’ve been cast in, and then want to read the books suggested. They'll also buy books that are similar to what they already enjoy, which means tagging books into genre categories. That’s going to become a reality before the end of the year, and then we’ll see a completely new aspect of the site start to kick in.

4 comments:

SolShine7 said...

Cool concept! The site needs to be more user friendly though making it easier to connect with other fans of the same books. If you could get it to run similar to MySpace it would be great! Keep pressing on, you're onto something good.

L. E. Harvey said...

Thank you so much for the great comment on my blog! :) Everyone at storycasting has been just plain phenomenal! You have GREAT people there! I am more than excited about this meet up idea! Keep all the great work up! You (and your site) rock!! :)

trailsofthepen said...

I can't recall how I stumbled into your site a couple years back but I think it was fantastic to find place for 'a movie in our mind.'

ivy's closet said...

I so love the idea. Thanks so much for the note.