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Ideas for a database driven opinion oriented membership site

Discussion in 'Databases' started by Webturtle, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. #1
    I have this nagging idea that keeps coming back to me ... and since I'm a web designer/project management/information architect with relational db background but no current programming skills, I'm stuck with it in my dome, swirling around. So here is a hypothetical...

    Basically, without giving away the idea, I want to do something similar in nature to epinions.com but on a MUCH smaller scale. One niche, one single type of product but organized by category, sub cat and sub-sub cat. It would be both browsable and searchable. Under each cat/sub cat/sub sub cat, there might be up to 150 items, and the user would have the opportunity to drill down or search and enter an opinion (both with data fields and free form input) on that item.

    So, someone would come to it both having an opinion and wanting an opinion on other items. To incentivize opinion writing, I'd want them to get something in return on a sliding scale - ie, write 10+ opinions, get 10% discount on the membership fee going forward, write 20+ opinions, get access for 20% discount, etc. That's just one idea - this isn't a concrete business model yet.
    SEMrush
    The "value" of the db would be the opinions, ratings and reviews - access to which I'd want to sell via a membership system. The items in this case are things that are usually purchased sight unseen and I've been randomly asking people all summer if they'd pay (or consider paying) for reviews in advance of purchase, with VERY affirmative responses (interest in the data, of course they want it free but if its there and NOT free, they said they'd pay. Figures! :p )

    So I'd need membership management and online payment processing. I'd want members to be able to create profiles and and view/edit past opinions, and rate items they are familar with, with a star system as well. The ratings would cumulate in an average for that item.

    Anyway - I think you get the idea. Am I correct that a beast like this would be a custom job? Or are there components in existence that could be used? If its custom, are we talking a $10k job, a $50k job, or a $100k job - or more?

    I'm still thinking, pondering, wishing I had database skills so I could build the blasted thing myself - but its risky, when you only have verbal confirmation from target audience that "oh, yeah, I'd use that!" and nothing in the bank to drop on an idea. I've been working on a business plan in my spare time - having been self employed in marketing and small biz for 10 years, I have a lot of experience to throw at something like this but first I need to see 1) is it feasible and 2) would it ever become profitable or would i be paying off a bank loan for 5 years :)

    Thoughts and input would certainly be helpful. Bear in mind, I had to put a moratorium on myself starting any new businesses until the four I have are all in full bloom but I just can't hep myself asking... ;)
     
    Webturtle, Sep 21, 2005 IP
    SEMrush
  2. TheHoff

    TheHoff Peon

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    #2
    Check the last link in my site; something similar that I launched about 2 weeks ago. Obviously a different niche, but I couldn't get away with requiring membership to view the information. The marketing strategy of the site is instead through affiliate sales.
     
    TheHoff, Sep 21, 2005 IP
  3. Webturtle

    Webturtle Guest

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    #3
    Nice.

    I've thought about that too - whether I can do it with just affiliate programs. And it might be possible - though I'm not sure. To be honest, I think I can support it with a monthly membership fee in my case.

    How did you do this - was it developed and programmed yourself?
     
    Webturtle, Sep 21, 2005 IP
  4. TheHoff

    TheHoff Peon

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    #4
    Thanks. That is my work, design and code. I have also done another similar site a few years ago on an another topic.

    About the membership fee, is this a product people buy repeatedly.. something they would need continued reviews on? Also, for it to have a big enough market, is anyone doing this topic already? It must be a pretty valuable type of product to warrant a membership fee for the data; why is no one doing this for free already?
     
    TheHoff, Sep 21, 2005 IP
  5. Webturtle

    Webturtle Guest

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    #5
    I would say yes, they would use access to it continuously throughout the year - the item is one that is purchased, usually, multiple times per year by any one person or family. That is why they'd likely be willing to pay a reasonable membership fee. That and the fact that this kind of info doesn't exist anywhere. I know because I've wanted it many many times for myself and I would have gladly forked over $10-20 per month to have it. And I can google my head off - it doesn't exist.

    I've searched high and low and only found people providing similar free information on a very small scale - a handful of reviews here and there, not organized, searchable or cohesive in any way - sort of a crap shoot for finding information. Why? I've asked myself that too - I believe that it might be because it is an enormous undertaking. Maybe no one had the idea who also had the skills or solution to make it happen?

    Over the last couple months, I've literally been walking up to people and asking their opinion on the concept and they stop dead in their tracks and say "oh my god, I wish!" But like I said, some say "for free" and others say they'd pay.

    The niche audience is HUGE and devoted to the activity that this involves. I'd say that a fairly large number of people like winging it without anyone elses input, but just as many wish they didn't have to fly blind. The number of potential items to be reviewed is HUGE when you consider my categorization scheme we're talking 300-500,000 potentially, times however many reviews per...

    I'd probably have to make existing reviews open to members for an initial start up phase, in order to populate it with as many reviews as possible but I'd want that incentive to exist from the get-go. I'm also considering that perhaps I can't charge unless a review exists that they want. For example - say I drill down or search and the thing I want to read about isn't in there? I don't want to pay to find that out! So come to think of it, i'd have to make it so they can drill down, see if there is a review for it and make the choice to join in order to get the meat of it.

    Okay - time for bed - but you 've got me thinking some more on it and thats a good thing ... thank you
     
    Webturtle, Sep 21, 2005 IP
  6. TheHoff

    TheHoff Peon

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    #6
    Well, you've got me intrigued. I'm guessing it is a hobby of some sort. Quilling? Hmm, something everyone uses though... frozen dinners? Some sort of food item? What topic is so broad that it would have enough market to make this worthwhile but it isn't already covered by someone doing this for free or by a generic site like epinons? I know you shouldn't answer, I'm just airing my curiousity.

    I think the best example of these type of review sites is TripAdvisor. The information is invaluable and fairly easy to get at. The site is extremely well monetized and developed. However, even with their depth of existing data, they would have trouble going to a pay-per-view system because someone would take their idea and do it for the affiliate/ad revenue instead.. offering the data for free.

    I will tell you this... it is much harder to get people to write reviews than I thought. Even offering a $50 prize wasn't much incentive. I've had lots of lurkers and readers, but few writers. So yes, populating with content in a member's only environment would be a challenge. The previous site I did this for already had a huge and active user base so writing good reviews became a status symbol in the community. Starting from scratch is tough.
     
    TheHoff, Sep 21, 2005 IP
  7. Webturtle

    Webturtle Guest

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    #7
    Hi there,

    Sorry about piquing your curiosity :) I can't help it - since no one is doing it, I'm afraid to say more.

    You might be right about membership being out - certainly at first. I'm not convinced whether there IS a way to make money with a strictly affiliate site or ad revenue site, for what this could cost me to build. And there has to be a way to make money on this for it to be worth me investing even time in!

    I hear you about getting people to write reviews - and I think there might have to be a good system of rewards to even make this happen because the items I speak of are coveted so if someone finds a good one, its in their best interest to NOT tell. Kind of like not sharing your tip on a good restaurant for fear it will get too popular for YOU to get a seat. So i might have a challenge there, too

    I'd love to just build the doggone thing as an affiliate/ad revenue model for side income but since I can't personally do it, and would have to make money to recoup an investment, I have to look at other options. THATS why I am asking all these questions - if there is anyway for me to actually do this, learn something reasonable like how to manipulate or customize something canned that would help me create a relational db, I could maybe. I architect them and project manage them for a living - and I've got the design and marketing skills up the wazoo - I just don't have the actual execution skills, ya see?

    Anyway - my paying business has arisen with the dawn so I have to get to work. Good chattin' with you !
     
    Webturtle, Sep 22, 2005 IP