Imagine owning a membership site where most of the content is provided at no cost to you by other people, plus you have at least three profit centers. This business model is fun, especially if you like eating at restaurants and want to extract your revenge when you get bad food or service.
At We8there.com, the publishers harnessed their frustration with poor service, coupled it with interesting dining and lodging experiences, and published their reviews online.
That was in 1999. Today, most of the restaurant and hotel reviews are contributed by other diners and travelers.
We8there.com features an editorial page penned by Stanley Roberts, its president and CEO, in addition to interesting travel, wine and anecdote articles by other contributing authors. But the bulk of the content comes from other travelers who want to celebrate, or berate, a restaurant, bed and breakfast, or hotel.
Access to the site is without charge. The owners make money from selling Google AdSense ads. A second profit center is logo-branded clothing and accessories.
The third profit center was launched recently. Previously, We8there.com did not accept advertisements from restaurants and lodging establishments, for fear of creating a conflict of interest.
According Roberts, the website has constantly entertained requests from the owners of establishments reviewed by their patrons about how they could advertise on the website. So We8there was recently redesigned to allow business owners to post advertisements amongst the many reviews.
One of the new features is an automatic notification function that notifies a business membership owner by e-mail if a We8there.com user reviews her business.
After conducting its own research, Roberts concluded that many restaurant and lodging establishment owners believe that it is important to receive feedback — both negative and positive — from their customers.
We8there.com‘s new feature behaves much like a “secret shopper” by allowing the business owner to receive feedback from its customers. The business owner has 100 percent control of his advertisements using a specially designed administration tool, which means an advertisement can be adjusted at any time, as needed. Additionally, the ad is not a standard banner or button type advertisement, but integrates into the site’s total look to give it a better symmetry with We8there.com’s exclusive design.
For restaurants and hotels that join the site’s premium listing service, annual advertisements are priced between $50 and $70. This low-cost pricing strategy is unusual for such a high-traffic website.
“Advertising should be effective, not expensive,” according to Roberts. “We8there.com is targeting the small ‘mom and pop’ companies that cannot afford typical high profile, expensive advertisements.”
We8there.com has added a feature that enables its users to use cellular telephones with Internet browser access to find all local restaurants or lodging establishments within a 10-mile radius of any given zip code.
What a great idea: a website full of content that your visitors contribute in return for nothing more than having their names appear next to a restaurant review, regardless whether they praise of excoriate the establishment. So most of the content is provided at virtually no cost!
Then you charge the subjects of your reviews a nominal fee to advertise on the site. Plus you sell Google AdSense ads — probably the biggest profit center.
And finally, you sell a line of We8There apparel. Somebody must want it?!
This site could be easily duplicated. You might even be able to charge a modest fee for membership access. You could certainly add to the value of the content by providing sample menus, recipes, driving directions, discussion forums, etc., some of which We8there.com is also doing.
I wish I had thought of this idea before Mr. Roberts had. But it’s not too late for some enterprising would-be competitor.
Details at We8there.com.