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JibJab CEO shares money-making philosophy

Even a "guerilla, low-cost" funny video site needs more than advertising to make money, he says. One solution? Selling more "expressive" media, like custom electronic greeting cards.


HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Who doesn't remember, even now, the satirical animation of George W. Bush and John Kerry, set to the tune of "This Land," that rocketed to Internet stardom during the 2004 presidential race?

The video may have drawn some 80 million views since then, but its masterminds at JibJab Media still faced a major challenge: how to make money off of their wildly popular offerings.

JibJab CEO Gregg Spiridellis JibJab

About six months into a new business venture, it appears CEO Gregg Spiridellis and his business partner and brother Evan may have landed on one solution: selling zany, video-based electronic greeting cards, which they call "Sendables."

The demand since the venture launched last October has been "unbelievable," Spiridellis said Thursday during a panel discussion at a technology policy conference here, although he didn't quantify exactly how much money the company has made so far.

Advertising, of course, also appears in abundance on the site. But it just wasn't enough to support "even our kind of guerilla low-cost production model," Spiridellis said.

Spiridellis suggested he's banking on a theory, inspired in part by American Greetings' $85 million e-card business, that there's a market for online forms of "expression" that carry a price tag. Consumers just aren't as eager to buy a "linear consumption experience," such as a song or TV show or movie, as they are in interacting with and shaping the media, he said.

Here's a screenshot from one of JibJabs 'Sendables' greeting cards, featuring some flabby hairy-chested male hula dancers.

Translation: JibJab offers users the chance, for 50 cents to $3, to send electronic greeting cards in which they can, say, plaster a loved one's face to the flabby body of a man doing a hilariously unsexy striptease. (OK, a little humor doesn't hurt, either.)

The firm is still giving away $5 credits as a promotion designed to get people to open their own wallets to buy the cards--of which about 20 percent of those giveaway recipients have become paying customers, Spiridellis said.

Now JibJab is scheming up other new ways to make money, such as allowing people to download customized videos starring themselves, at a fee, to keep as mementos and show to others. Simply viewing online, more ephemerally, would remain free.