As we enjoy our summer reading, I thought it would be good to have some fun this month in my topic for "the new next." By now, we know all the winners from Cannes and The Clios. So for this column, I would like to turn our attention to a not-so-well-known awards competition The Webbys. The Webbys are the Oscars of the Internet world and celebrate all that's great in the interactive field.
I wanted to feature one winner that was definitely an underdog. Just like a Jack Russell terrier, it had more bark and energy than its competition. The site in question, Dogster.com, is a must-see. Dogster.com won a Webby for best community Web site. Also at the Webbys, former Vice President Al Gore picked up a lifetime achievement award for spearheading legislative and political support that helped foster the growth of the Internet. (Apparently he clarified that he didn't actually invent the Web.)
Dogster's small but very powerful idea was to create a community much like MySpace.com. Instead of being created for humans, Dogster was created for man's best friend, giving dog owners and fanciers the opportunity to connect and share with one another. The site has dog blogs, dog mail, forums, instant messages, and offers opportunities to leave dog icons (little gifts) for pals. This virtual dog park has been an amazing success since its launch last year, and now makes millions of friend-to-friend/dog-to-dog connections, proving that community sites and community facilitators are a powerful force.
Living in New York City, I've always thought that people with dogs seemed to have more connections, especially on the street. What Dogster has created is the virtual equivalent. Top dogs can have in excess of several hundred chums. Just imagine a world where your dog might have more friends than you do!
Dogster's creator, Ted Rheingold, has said that the original idea was to "just have a place to brag about your dog" and never imagined that it would create a phenomenon that is reaching around the world. The site deserves its Webby, and it's a riot whether you have a dog or not.
Hot on the heels of its success, Ted and his company, One Match Fire, have launched Catster.com, which aspires to give the dogs a run for their money with content catering to felines.
Some bones to chew on: Anyone with a great idea can create a movement on the Web, and it's still possible today to build a business around that idea. Great ideas can come from fun places and tap into universal truths dogs truly are man's best friend, and this site surely delivers on that premise.
And finally, in a media world where we talk about customization, it's extraordinarily reassuring to know that the human condition yearns for community. And yet communities are being redefined everyday. It's not simply about demographics, it's about communities of interest and shared passion and how you tap into them.
Paul Woolmington is president-CEO, founder, and chief chef of The Media Kitchen. (email@example.com)