If I hear about one more highly focused social networking site, I'm going to explode. Or failing that, write a blog post. Every day, Webware gets pitched on at least one, and sometimes several, new social nets designed for particular demographics: Barack Obama supporters, lesbians, you name it. The new metasocial network service Ning is leveraging this trend by making it possible for anyone to start a network, just as easily as anyone can now launch their own blog.
People with traditional publishing backgrounds are looking at this trend and thinking that social networks could become the new special-interest media properties. itLinkz, for example, is attempting to build a network of social networking sites based around communities that could use better representation online, and that have existing advertisers looking for their audiences.
This is the same logic that led the rise of special-interest magazines like Car and Driver, Running, and Popular Electronics in the 1950s.
In the case of itLinkz, the first site is NurseLinkup. It's aiming for an audience right in the company's sweet spot: Large, but not too large, and with a network of advertisers who'd love to reach them. And unlike Ning, itLinkz is not handing the keys to its networks over to the community entirely. The company has hired writers and editors to fill out its sites with content for the audience. It's like About.com plus social networking.
itLinkz is also putting effort into marketing its sites. It's not just going to throw them to the wild and hope for the best.
Next up from itLinkz: GolferLinkup. After that, COO Mike Ragan wouldn't tell me, but he was proud to say that the company has registered thousands of "linkup" domains.
The CEO of FindNearby (recently covered) has similar aspirations, and like itLinkz, his company has advisers from old-school publishing.
Will magazine publishers eventually become social network operators, or at least partner with the companies gunning for their readers? It makes some sense. And it would be good to see some business thinking applied to this movement, instead of the current reliance on Google advertising to support all these new networks.