Dot-coms will be right back...after a commercial break, that is.
The guy behind classmates tv, a school reunion reality series, is no TV veteran--he's a dot-com survivor. Michael J. Smith, the CEO of Classmates.com, is part of a band of Web entrepreneurs who are leveraging their brands in old media. The half-hour-long syndicated show that Smith co-produces pulls stories from his site's 35 million members. Other websites popping up on TV: eBay and the Smoking Gun. Sean Mills, president of the satirical website The Onion, warns that "slapping your name and logo on every merchandise, media, and entertainment offer that comes along is a quick and certain way to kill the true value of what you have built." More often than not, Mills says, his New York company finds brand extensions to be "an exercise in restraint." Classmates' Smith agrees that "everything we do either promotes our positioning or detracts from it." Still, he's betting that Classmates.com, which now has $70 million in revenue, can support a few more spinoffs. The 200-person company, based in Renton, Wash., next plans to sell CDs of the hit songs of each graduating year.