Product Development and Internet Marketing

Evite just launched what it is calling "version 2.0" (wow, that's a long time between releases!) which includes an expanded public directory of local events. The idea being that you can use the site for your own events, and then can open those events up to the public. This is clearly influenced by Upcoming.org, the collaborative event calendar, but in the end, fails the consumer in the same ways.

The basic problem with the collaborative model for events is that it lacks comprehensiveness. Most events will simply never get listed unless there is huge take-up and participation by large groups of people in each metro area. Even with large user groups, the listings will never be as comprehensive as a local newspaper guide or an online edited system like Evite sister-site Citysearch. Which is a shame, because the usefulness of a well-designed event site would easily outstrip the paper equivalent.

There's no reason it has to be like this. Either site could attack the comprehensiveness problem with technology, or by partnering with event sponsors and venues.

What do I mean by technology? How about a spidering program for events -- like Nick Denton's failed Kinja experiment but for events instead of blogging? OK, it would be very difficult to do, but certainly possible. And a database-driven event site would be astronomically more useful than anything out there.

Don't want to build a spider? OK, then why not let sponsors and venues automatically feed you their events and listings using RSS, XML, or manual entry systems? But this approach goes against Evite's business model, of charging for listings (at least at Citysearch). Right now, the vast majority of listing on Evite are actually listed by Ticketmaster, another company owned by the same parent company. Upcoming, on the the other hand, has a no-self-promotion policy which ensures the site's lack of comprehensiveness.

And so far we're only talking about the failure of these sites in terms of comprehensiveness. In order to get the most of the array of choices you need filtering. Why is it that Netflix knows which movies I want to see, but neither Evite or Citysearch knows what events I'm interested in? Why do they still insist of measuring my event area in terms of a radius of X miles? Have they ever been to Manhattan -- a 5 mile radius puts me in Hackensack.

The local event space is ripe. Someone should pick it.

July 15, 2004 09:18 AM
Comments

The original idea behind Upcoming.org was that user-driven event listings would be more useful than comprehensive calendar listings, because they'd be moderated based on user interest (an event would only be listed if at least one user wanted to go).

In hindsight, it seems like it doesn't scale very well. I'm currently rethinking this, and will probably create an API to allow anyone to add events and venues. There will be problems with duplicates and spam, but those are the breaks.

Posted by: Andy Baio on July 15, 2004 11:52 AM

email me in a few days. i've been working on this for a few years. and it'll be out next week.

Posted by: peter caputa on July 15, 2004 11:58 AM

one possible solution (or at least piece of the solution) would be to define a simple standard for doing automatic event and calendar discovery, much like the RSS auto-discovery.

e.g.

For an event: <link rel="alternate" type="text/calendar" title="Event" href="http://example.org/myevent.ics" >

For a whole calendar: <link rel="alternate" type="text/calendar" title="Calendar" href="http://example.org/myevent.ics" >

(unfortunately iCalendar doesn't distinguish between one event, and a collection of events, so this is kind of sticking the info into the title field)

This would make it very easy to write a spider, and would also enable fun bookmarklets like 'Add this Upcoming.org event to my personal calendar'

Posted by: kellan on July 15, 2004 02:04 PM

Seems like the "plucking" has begun. Lots of folks are at work in this space.

It seems to me that the upcoming.org solution scales well it just doesn't bootstrap well. There are likely advantages to Andy's idea on filtering events - but you could apply the filter after you've acquired the data. Expecting someone to enter event data is a pretty high hurdle.

What do you folks make of this: http://www.esfstandard.org/

Peter, we should talk! Andy, did you get my mail?

Posted by: Josh Petersen on July 19, 2004 10:15 AM

Events should not, as Ari suggests, simply be filtered by geographic delimiters, but also psychographic delimiters. Frankly, this is why I generally only care to attend events that are listed by my Friendsters on their bulletin boards. Sad but true. (And anyway, I live in Bumblefuck, so I am assured that nothing is happening even within a five mile radius.)

Posted by: ANP on July 20, 2004 12:16 PM

Evite does not make money through "charging for events." We simply partnered w/ event aggregregators (several of which happened to be 'in the family' as you point out) in order to jump start the inventory of events. We plan to add RSS and XML feed options (in and out) so that this becomes a robust destination to easily find and post all events. We also allow users to post events (for free) via easy to use event hosting tools.
The business reason we are now in public events is to help expand our consumer brand and to bring user to Evite more frequently so that they will ultimately create more private events (our core). We have done a modest job of monetizing this traffic so we want to continue growing this core vertical. More than anything, we saw, like you point out, that events is an underserved space and we felt like our brand and user base would allow us to help fill that consumer void.... or pick the ripe fruit as you say...
Thanks for your thoughts. We will continue to listen to our consumers, blogs, and anyone who will offer advise, recommendations or critism in order to create the best user experience on the web.

Posted by: John Foley on July 22, 2004 03:50 PM

I realize this post is several months old, but I'm curious to know why you think Kinja failed? From my perspective, it's popularity has only grown since it went into beta.

Posted by: Brad Lauster on October 28, 2004 05:07 PM