But now it looks like the honeymoon’s over. The WSJ has discovered that there are other social networking sites out there—and many of them are inherently useful! Today they profile four niche social networking sites.
Perhaps most impressive among these is Sermo.com, a social networking site “for physicians, by physicians” (which you can tell is true, because if someone other than a “physician” had created the network, it would have been for “doctors”). The WSJ story starts off with an anecdote about a
doctor physician who turned to Sermo when presented with a puzzling case—and was helped to an accurate (and obscure) diagnosis.
Not only was the site built by insiders, but it was built with a revenue plan in place:
Revenue comes from advertising or charging outside businesses access to data and member discussions. For example, Sermo Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., generally charges $100,000 to $150,000 a year to nonmedical businesses like hedge funds, which use it to research such things as how doctors feel about new drugs. They can monitor online discussions, with the doctors’ names omitted, or see a tally of topics being discussed on the site — like a new medical device or a controversial cancer treatment — to determine what’s rising or falling in popularity.
Members are informed of this policy when they register, which is free. Other models for the sites profiled include paid registration (for a finance-centered social site from Reuters due out later this year) and tiered registration, with free and premium registration levels available. The premium registration level at INmobile.org, serving wireless industry employees, enables members “to list promotions and ads in a special ‘marketplace’ section.”
With revenue plans in place before launch, perhaps the new generation of niche social media sites proves that Web 2.0 is growing up. (And perhaps mainstream media coverage will, too.)