So Randy Milholland tipped me off recently to a proposed internet startup called “MyFridj” (which may take the cake for the single stupidest name in the long history of stupid internet startup names), which proposes to … well, let’s copy the pitch from their site (and get your buzzword bingo cards ready):
MyFridj takes the classic behavior of posting cartoons to refrigerators and cubicles, and creates a cutting-edge web and mobile mashup of fun and exciting features and applications that support social media.
Our user-generated comics and animations may be embedded in blogs, Facebook, and so on, in order that you may
- gain attention
- increase reader engagement and comments
- showoff your personality, sense of humor or politics
- make your friends laugh
And thatâ€™s just the beginning.
MyFridj is the first cartoon syndicate designed for identity media. Our business model is virtual goods, an emerging multi-billion dollar space. [emphasis original]
So at a time when the very idea of syndicating cartoons is in crisis, and every person that can’t draw but secretly dreams of being a cartoonist already has a webcomic on one of the free hosting services, the solution will be to … according to Dawn Douglass, the founder of MyFridj, from her About page:
Iâ€™m creating the worldâ€™s first cartoon syndicate for Social Media.
Isn’t the point of social networking that it has a gathering point instead of a gatekeeper? Because that’s what the word “syndicate” means, and that’s what’s being proposed here — a means to gather up cartoons (apparently mostly single-panel gag strips) from creators, and then sell ‘em to clients for display on the internet. Douglass’s contention is that cartooning in print is in trouble (I don’t think that anybody here would argue with that), and that there’s only one way to fix that situation: replicate online the same model that’s failing offline.
Lest you think I’m reading too much into her intent, check out the History page:
I decided to find a way beyond newspaper syndication to create a financially viable means for talented artists and writers to earn a decent living doing what they love, without the need for a day job. I had fed ideas to the syndicates for years, but they give new meaning to the word â€œintransigent.â€? I stubbornly â€“ maybe even arrogantly â€“ decided that if they werenâ€™t going to do anything to expand cartooning and save the art form, I would.
Now this is where the idea just gets wacky. If it were possible that cartoons on a virtual fridge that we call the internet were going to organically evolve to the point that would enable creators to make a living at it, wouldn’t that have happened already?
Yes. And a bunch of people over to the right are already doing it. They don’t need somebody determined to conquer the social network space to come in and declare themselves THE site for cartoons on the web, and give up 50% of their revenue for the privilege of association. I didn’t pull that number out of the air, by the way — it’s in the VC pitch slides (PDF here). Any chance the VCs that get pitched will do some due diligence and see that MyFridj is proposing to spend a lot of money to do what’s already being done?
That’s exactly what MyFridj is proposing: going back to the History page, there’s a list of advantages to MyFridj — it distributes comics to niches instead of masses, it’s creator-driven, without deadlines, open … all the things that webcomics as we know them already do, only without the imprimateur of Web 2.0. Because after all, social networks can be forced to succeed, right?
MyFridj is going to be very successful. Photos = Flickr. Videos = You Tube. Songs = iTunes. Cartoons will equal MyFridj.
None of the accidental expansion from “small group using something” to “more people getting in on it” to “eventual mass explosion” that the dominant social networks have engaged in here. The plan is for MyFridj to have revenues of US$92 million in year three (with an expected launch in early 2008), and I still can’t see what it provides for creators other that the cachet of being on MyFridj and the ability to give up half their revenue.
Or am I just missing something?