Friendster Names Charlie Barrett VP-Sales

Friendster, the free online social networking community, on Monday named Charlie Barrett vice president-sales. Barrett joins Friendster after a two-year stint as senior vice president of sales for America Online's AOL Media Networks, where he coordinated advertising sales for the Western region based in San Francisco. Prior to his post at AOL, Barrett was executive director of sales for the Northwest region at Yahoo!

At Friendster, Barrett will manage all ad sales initiatives and build a sales organization. Friendster already has an advertising operations unit and relationships with interactive rep firms, but, "honestly, I'm sort of the first member of the ad sales team," Barrett noted in a phone interview with MediaDailyNews. "I don't intend to have an army of people out there selling, but we have a tremendous opportunity in a fledgling category." At AOL, Barrett had 25 people reporting to him. As for his replacement, AOL is evaluating its options both internally and externally, according to people familiar with the matter.

At Friendster, Barrett plans to cultivate relationships with entertainment companies--including Hollywood studios, auto, and consumer marketing companies--"that are looking to build buzz around their brands." He said he doesn't want Friendster to get pigeonholed as a social networking company. "We have a referral model ... It's a platform for exchange of information about oneself, one's passion, and trying to find others who are also putting out information about themselves and their passions," Barrett said, adding: "We are most likely going to be a media-driven platform for some time, and will work to develop premium service offerings as we determine what our members want."

Barrett said he'd like Friendster to be part of a significant product launch and major film releases. "I would love to see a consumer product show tangible successes using the word-of-mouth platform."

Friendster CEO Scott Sassa was a major factor in Barrett's move to the company: "Scott was absolutely the key risk-eradicator for me. His understanding of the consumer marketplace and his ear for pop cultural trends was very comforting. The VCs behind us didn't hurt either." Privately held Friendster is backed by Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital, Battery Ventures, and individual investors. Sassa, a former NBC Entertainment executive, joined the company in June.

Even so, Friendster has been hard-pressed of late to re-create the wave of buzz it rode last year when the online community enjoyed an exclusive cache among hipsters and the mediarati. Friendster has 9 million members.