Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

July 27, 2007

HBO's To Close launched in late 2006 and was a collaberative project of AOL and HBO. The site featured original streaming video content, plus material repurposed from HBO's various comedy properties. The site ran advertising placed by, and AOL subsidiary.

What went wrong? Well, without access to any inside information I'll offer the following:
  1.'s content was funny, but humor is a commodity on the Web. If you're looking for funny, this is the place. In fact, it's almost impossible to find anything that's not funny on the Web. The whole frickin' place is a funhouse. Why add to the surplus?

  2. JustInTime spent a lot of money hiring talent, including Amanda Congdon, Dane Cook, and others. Comedians demand to be paid up-front, in cash, and aren't going to settle for rev share agreements or "viral exposure" as payment. This meant that JustInTime had to spent thousands of dollars -- maybe six or even seven figures -- before it even launched.

  3. Was this site heavily promoted via offline channels? I don't own a television so I can't tell you. But only consistent promotion can drive eyeballs to the Web. I'd bet that there were many opportunities for promotion which weren't fully exploited.

  4. Standard-rate CPM or CPC advertising will never be able to earn enough to dig a site out of the hole dug by high talent upfront payments. had advertising pasted into every available spot on its pages, but whatever it made was less than what it needed to survive. This advertising doesn't appear to be targeted toward the content of the video. It looks like low CPM, RON junk to me, in fact a lot of slots appear to run house-ads for other HBO properties. This is no way to run an ad-supported Web site.

  5. The site never caught on with users. To its credit, it did allow users to embed and forward its video content, but it seems that few did. Its Blog format was the right choice, because it provided for frequent rotation of content, but it seems that nobody cared. According to Alexa, JustInTime's current traffic rank is 50,503. In comparison, the traffic rank for (the site you're reading) is 122,763. You can't run a niche web site and pay talent at the same time and expect it to survive for long without a lot of traffic.
I'd like to think that Old Media will wake up one of these days and finally launch something that will endure, grow, and genuinely take advantage of the full potential of the Internet. But the more I view their failed efforts, the less confident I am that this will ever happen., it seems, is just another nail in the many now embedded in its coffin.

Labels: , ,

Click Here to Return to the Ghost Sites Home Page