CNET Networks’ Webshots property is taking a shot across the bow of Facebook with its new CollegeLive property, available only to college students, which launches today.
The site, restricted to users with an .edu address, will set up individual communities for each of 4,100 colleges and universities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Students can post photos of their exploits as they do on the general Webshots site. CollegeLive also offers social planning tools, a la Evite. The site aims to handle the whole event life cycle, helping students plan events, send out invitations and then post photos afterwards.
“We superserve lots of communities,” said Charlie Barrett, VP of sales and marketing at Webshots. “We identified one of the most vital, robust communities that we’ve seen actively grow over the past year or so.”
Competitors in the space include the established Facebook. But Webshots feels its content-screening policy will give it the edge when it comes to attracting advertisers. The company will monitor content posted by users and block items that wouldn’t be acceptable to advertisers, company officials said.
While CollegeLive offers both free and premium membership, CNET expects most of its users to use the free, ad-supported site. It will be coded to accept IAB-standard ad units, but will launch solely with localized text link placements. Advertisers can buy those text links via a self-service platform set up by CNET partner AdBrite. Units will be priced economically, the company said, so local businesses, institutions and even campus individuals can place ads. National advertisers will also be able to buy inventory across the network or to particular schools or regions.
“[Advertisers] can be everything from Honda to a college student promoting her party,” said Barrett, speaking about the flexibility of the text ads. “We selected AdBrite because they have price tools to tell us how they’re charging. When it sells out, AdBrite has tools to give us alerts to raise the price scale.”
CollegeLive will also have sponsorship opportunities, which it expects to attract larger marketers. Barrett said Webshots looks for “advertisers that bring value through promotions, value through entertainment and value with the message.”
Webshots expects sponsorships to come in the form of skins and graphics users can use to create pages where they are planning parties and posting pictures. The photo site is willing to create more unique venues for marketers like the promotion HBO ran on Webshots for its show Big Love.
The site already has promotions planned for its collegiate users. One of the first offerings will be from New Line Cinemas. “Webshots plans to bring special relevant promotions to its CollegeLive audience, like it did in February, with free advance screening tickets of Final Destination 3 in select cities,” said Webshots Director of Marketing Community Russ Novy.
At launch the site will be populated with photos submitted to Webshots from .edu email addresses.
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