Highbrow social site Spire hits the scene

A combination of editorial content and member recommendations makes up the bulk of this new site, which could essentially be described as Yelp for millionaires.

The easiest way to describe Spire, a new community site that made its debut Monday, is as a more grown-up, cultured Yelp: the latter offers expert advice on the best dive bars in Brooklyn, whereas the former focuses on four-star restaurants and hotels across the river in Manhattan. Calling itself a "social resource," it's devoted to advice and recommendations on topics like luxury vacations and dining, high-end shopping, and spa getaways.

When you're signing up for Spire, you're asked to fill out a profile. The lowest option for the "age" field is "under 35," and for the "income" field it's "under $100K." That should fill you in on their target audience.

But unlike some of its luxury-lifestyle brethren (Asmallworld comes to mind) it's not invite-only and hence loses a bit of the prestige that some members (and advertisers) might crave. Yet Spire has launched with $9 million in venture funding, 60,000 beta users, and the acquisition of Suzanne's Files, a London-based editorial start-up that's perhaps best summed up as a DailyCandy for the jet set. The site clearly takes its "resource" role seriously.

Sites targeting high-income audiences have been talked up quite a bit because of a pretty simple fact: you can charge more for advertising. But Spire has other revenue plans as well: in September, it'll be launching an "Expert Connect" section for referring members to vacation rentals and other niche travel services, taking a commission in the process.

And early in 2009, Spire plans to launch its "Marketplace," a sort of high-end Craigslist, where you can find that sublet in London or yacht rental in St. Tropez without having to sift through all those "FREE COUCH! Only a few stains!" listings.


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