When will the social network bubble burst? Has it already been popped? I do not really know anybody who uses any social friending site other than Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or possibly Plaxo, on a frequent basis. That surely has not deterred CAA, MLB Advanced Media, and a company called Pequot Ventures to form a new youth sports social network. WePlay.com is geared towards athletes between the ages of 6-16, their parents, and their coaches.
WePlay.com’s mission: to enable and enhance the joy of sports for kids, families, coaches and fans both online and on the field. What the hell does that mean? Oh wait…read down a couple of paragraphs on the press release: young athletes can create profiles, blogs and fan clubs, play games, connect with friends and create a highlight reel. How innovative! Children are already doing all of this on MySpace.
Their business platform is to find revenue in advertisements on the WePlay.com site (how innovative…sarcasm). It seems like 5,000 new social networks sprout up every day with this same goal in mind. Create a social network for a niche group of people, don’t make them pay to be members, and make money off of advertisements. My guess is that most of the sites fizzle out after making pennies. Why do CAA, MLB Advanced Media and this Pequot group believe that WePlay.com will be any different?
For one, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Tony Parker are among its athlete founders. Will the endorsement of those athletes and whatever equity they have in the venture be enough to make it successful? It seems that their backing has allowed WePlay.com to generate a bunch of buzz thus far, even making a story on SportsAgentBlog.com! But what about longterm? When the hype dies in a week, will the site survive?
It definitely has strong financial backing behind it. The site has already been financed with $4.5 million dollars. Personally, I do not care how much money you have behind something, if the idea stinks and is not innovative, it is destined to fail (or at least not be profitable). Like my colleague Jason Peck over at Take a Peck, I took WePlay.com for a short test drive. I understand that it is only in Beta, but I was thoroughly unimpressed. I agree with Jason, it is early on in the game for WePlay.com and I should wait a little while before I get too critical. But from what I see as their mission and their original product, I think this is a wrong move by all parties involved in its success (however, there is no loss to the athletes that do not invest any money into it).