Wetpaint Rolls Out New Platform to ‘Reinvent Publishing,’ Wetpaint Entertainment

9/6/10

Wetpaint has long been considered one of the Northwest’s top young tech startups. The Seattle-based company, founded in 2005, has raised $40 million from venture capitalists, including one who backed Facebook. Wetpaint has been heralded by Jude O’Reilley (then at online-health startup Trusera, now at Amazon) as “stars in the consumer wiki space,” and a “power to the people.” But the star of wiki is now building on that success in a new and fascinating way, aiming to become a star of online entertainment media.

Wetpaint’s scalable Web-publishing content platform boasts over 1.3 million user-built sites, and gets 10 million unique pageviews a month. The hope is that user base will give Wetpaint a running start with its latest venture, Wetpaint Entertainment, today, in which it is diving into the entertainment media space face-first. The idea, co-founder and chief executive Ben Elowitz says, is to turn the traditional publishing industry on its ear.

“Publishing is going through a massive transformation right now, and it really needs to find a new model—the audience has become so fragmented, so we really need to find a model,” he says. “Our goal is to revolutionize media by cracking the code on a profitable, scalable model for the publishing industry.”

At first glance, Wetpaint Entertainment sounds like a glorified network of TV fan sites—in the same vein as the sites driven by another Seattle-based startup, BuddyTV and the thousands of independent blogs and entertainment news sites. In fact, the creation is something very different. Wetpaint Entertainment’s 15 ‘channel’ sites, each dedicated to a different popular TV show, are the product of the intersection of multimedia videos and images, active social networks, and a team of professional editorial staff. It’s sort of a cross between social wiki technology, a Web-analytics company, and a magazine.

“We started with the social wiki by Wetpaint platform, and as we did that we realized that there was a big opportunity around entertainment,” Elowitz says.

The result, he says, are topical sites chock full of content specifically tailored for the reader—or user, rather. It’s supposed to maximize the resources of the web, and integrating new technologies, to create a more efficient, comprehensive, and more interactive and content-rich site at a fraction of the cost of other mainstream media outlets, like People magazine or US Weekly.

Home_Wetpaint

Wetpaint homepage

“If we were People magazine trying to do this, it would take hundreds of people,” Elowitz says. “We are able to publish content at about a fifth of the cost, because we’re using technology to be more efficient.”

Much of the technology he’s referring to stems from Wetpaint’s original Web-based tool for creating wikis that were both easy to use, and powered with social networking tools. By developing a publishing platform heavily mired in technology, Elowitz says his team of 35-full time staff (the company laid off 15 employees in July 2009) has found a more interactive, faster, customizable, and more advertiser-primed way of publishing.

“One of the themes that we’re attacking in entertainment, is there’s this bridge between Hollywood and the real life, and we’re able to cross that bridge,” he says. “Traditionally, top publishers have had a really high consumer experience, but at a really high cost, and that cost isn’t sustainable.”

Wetpaint Entertianment is launching today with 15 sites centered around TV shows that are popular with young women: “The Vampire Diaries,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Castle,” “Hellcats,” “Nikita,” “Glee,” “Dancing With The Stars,” “Top Chef,” “Pretty Little Liar,” “Bachelorette,” “The Bachelor,” “Gossip Girl,” “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives of DC.” On each site there are as many as 200 updates daily on topics surrounding each fan base—show news, spoilers, gossip, fashion worn by the stars (an easy in for high-end advertisers, Elowitz notes), top 10 lists, music from the show, and pictures and video both aggregated from syndication partners—which he could not name—and created in-house.

“We have original video productions where we recap a week in TV, or take people off the street and re-enact scenes from episodes,” Elowitz says.” This is all really about completing that … Next Page »

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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  • http://www.jiansnet.com/ Seattle Chinese Info

    I looks to me a major departure from the original wiki based approach for wetpaint.com, which I think they finally get it that a wiki platform without social interaction or momentum, is just not going to cut it.

    Wikipedia pretty much stands out as THE ONE wiki platform, it is hard for other wiki based sites (especially on a mass-scale) to compete with wikipedia.

    While wetpaint is changing course, I am still not sure it is a good move for them or not. There are too many entertainment sites out there and it is not easy at all to get real traction.

    I think they’d better off focusing on some real biz rather than just poking around at content that doesn’t bring much traction.

    My 2 cents.

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