Two years ago, when social networking was all the rage, a lot of dedicated community websites for specific (and often very small) groups of people were launched by entrepreneurs trying to cash in on the hype by carving out a certain niche. The strategy proved successful for some, but for others … not so much. And now that the economic crisis is weighing down on the entire industry, with advertisers cutting their overall budgets and the online spend decreasing rapidly, the wheat is getting separated from the chaff faster than expected.
Update: on 26 March 2009, a private equity fund acquired Sneakerplay. More info here.
One niche social network shutting down is Sneakerplay, an online community targeted at people who love their sneakers so much they need their own special place on the net to talk about them and share pictures of their favorite shoes with each other. That was the idea. But guess what? People don’t love their sneakers enough to bond with other people over them on an ongoing basis. At least not enough people to build an actual business around it.
To be perfectly fair, the founders never expected all that much from it either, at least not for long. In the blog post announcing the demise of the service, the founders are quite open about the fact that they lost their focus along the way.
Over time, we’ve realized that we weren’t committing the same amount of energy as we did in the beginning. Our focus has been diverted by other projects that we’re currently working on. We think it’s not fair to you guys to not support Sneakerplay the way it’s meant to be supported. Sneakerplay really needs a new home. We believe in the right hands, Sneakerplay can flourish. It needs someone who can nurture it, build new features, and give it the right attention it needs.
Sneakerplay started on a shoestring budget ($1500) and never attracted any outside financing, so it was always more of a hobby project, although the 3 friends who started the social network did get a nice return on the money they put in (and then some) thanks to sponsorship and support from brands like Adidas, Nike, EA Sports and Microsoft. You can ask yourself what this might mean for other niche social networks: if turning Sneakerplay into something that made more money than it cost wasn’t even sufficient to keep these guys motivated, how many other niche social networks will be closing their doors soon?
As you can read on their blog, the founders are still trying to turn the shutdown into a sale, but that’s rather unlikely since the social network never got any real traction. They are, however, pitching the idea of a sale to MTV and Complex (who operates a competing network dubbed KicksOnFire) so maybe they’ll still be able to flip it.
For now, we’re putting Sneakerplay into the deadpool.
Update: per comment below, Sneakerplay says they’re not shutting down, but in fact they are. Keeping the website online and hoping for a buyer while not actively trying to grow and calling it in fact “a bitter sweet end for us” is effectively the same as discontinuing the social network. Looking at the graph below, it’s no surprise either.