Shelby Bonnie is back in the online media business.
Bonnie, a co-founder of CNET who resigned as that site's chief executive officer two years ago when its stock options accounting procedures came under scrutiny, has launched Whiskey Media. The Sausalito, Calif.-based company is an umbrella for a collection of vertical content Web sites that now includes politics, video gaming and cartoons. (Read ClickZ's extended interview with Shelby Bonnie)
Political Base was the first Whisky Media site. Launched last fall, it has produced a trove of information on the people, power and money behind American politics, but seems to have served more as a technology proving ground than a locus for the two recently launched sites at Whiskey Media's core. ComicVine, a structured wiki on comic characters, creators and concepts that was founded by another CNET alumnus, was given a fresh start in June. GiantBomb, which takes a similar approach to the minutia of video gaming, debuted last Monday. Both of the latter two target males ages 13 to 30.
Response to the two newest sites has been strong. According to Bonnie, GiantBomb had 2.6 million page views in its first four days, with 13 pages seen per visit and 14.5 minutes spent per visit on average. There were also 52,000 wiki submissions and 100,000 message posts. "We have been very pleased in terms of the initial visits," he said.
The sites will begin accepting advertising in September, but Bonnie says the focus then as now will be on enhancing the user experience. "If you have users and have a good relationship with your users you have something to offer advertisers," he said.
An Internet veteran and the former chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Bonnie says Whiskey Media will test a range of advertising approaches. "We will try new models," he says, "and a bunch will fail. But whatever we try will have to be done in terms of honoring the relationship that a site can have with its users."
Relationships are key to the corporate structure of Whiskey Media as well. All but one of its seven-member team are former staffers at CNET, having left both before and after Bonnie's departure. The non-alumnus is Jacob Kaplan-Moss, who is one of the lead developers of the Python Web framework Django, which is now being used at the Whiskey Media sites. There are also four staffers on GiantBomb, two at Political Base and one at ComicVine.
Bonnie says he intends to maintain slight staffing at Whiskey Media, which draws its name from a former Bonnie family business in Kentucky. "There's magic that you get in a small organization," he says. "The ability to do a lot with not a lot of money happens in small teams."
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