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September 04, 2007
The sale of TiVoCommunity.com
David Bott founded the digital community in 1999. Back then, it made sense to him to start a community around the digital video recorder since he'd already been running an online community for audio-video enthusiasts.
With TiVo Community now at 161,000 members, Bott sold the site last week to Capable Networks, a Chicago-based company that specializes in online communities, for an undisclosed amount.
We asked Bott to tell us about the sale and what it could mean for other citizen-created sites dedicated to brands.
Q: Capable Networks purchased the community you founded and have been running for several years. Why sell now?
A: A lot has happened in my life over the past year, one of which is health-related. Not that running TiVo Community was a lot of work, but when you consider the other communities I run plus my involvement in the audio-video industry, it adds up. TiVo Community will be better-served by Capable Networks, which has developed a business model on what was started with TiVo Community Forum. I cannot give it the attention it deserves. They can. It is a great fit, and I feel very well with the choice.
Q: What exactly does Capable get with this purchase?
A: Capable Networks received all the domains for TiVo Community, the community itself, the data, the archives, the interest in TiVo Community Store, and the license agreements from TiVo, Inc. Not to mention my thanks for its interest in working with the community along the same lines that I have set into place.
Q: Will you continue in your virtual mayoral duties and moderate the community?
A: I will be around, can't keep away. But I will act as a consultant to Capable Networks on the site itself and on other sites it operates under the same principles. The moderators that help out on the site will be staying on board.
Q: To some outsiders, it may seem a bit disconcerting that a community has been "purchased;" it's almost like saying the city of Austin was bought by a private-equity group. How have the members of TiVo Community reacted to the news?
A: Well, not quite the same really. But an interesting analogy. You need to think of it as a business regardless. If not, you will get very, very personally involved and that could be a very bad thing. Members of such sites have their own thoughts on how things need to be run. And that is fine, but they're not laying down the dollars to keep it running or putting in the time to run it. Unlike a citizen who needs to pay taxes and have a say via votes. The members can just come and go without regard to the site at any time without issue. But a forum operator can not. Bills need to be paid and thus you need to work on it as a business to fund it. If you mess up, it is all on you. Thus you do what you feel is right for the community. You have to have a passion for doing it for it to work.
As far as the community reaction, they seem fine but are of course wondering what changes may come done the road. But then again, they always wondered that. New owners does not necessarily mean major change. After all, it would not be of interest if it did not work well the way it was.
Q: Another party with great interest in the outcome would obviously be TiVo. What has its reaction been?
A: I, of course, checked with TiVo before the sale went too far into the talks. This is not something that happened overnight as we have been working on this for quite sometime. TiVo checked into Capable Networks and seemed to agree it would be good fit; Capable can bring more to the table for the members of the site than I currently have the time to do. I would not have moved with forward without their OK. We have a great relationship.
Q: How has the community changed since we first talked with you in early 2006?
A: Not that much. The site is very attractive to TiVo owners and continues to see over a million unique visitors a month. A store was added to purchase TiVo products and upgrades right from the community site. Other than that, things are moving right long.
Q: Does this sale mean there's a bright future for other citizen-created brand sites?
A: Yes, for sure. Other dedicated product sites could be of interest to companies like Capable. But I think it would come down to product type, membership size, and the number of unique visitors per month.
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