Brian Pipa of the massively popular blog Candy Addict set out to do something I’ve only dreamed of doing: he’s created an amazing online tool that people will not only love but that will also end up being very profitable. It’s called Teenormous.
Here’s a bold prediction: Teenormous will be be a household Internet name in less than a year and within a few years will be a staple in the top 1000 Alexa sites. I feel that confident about the quality of this project.
Here’s my interview with Brian.
Tell us a bit about the history behind Teenormous?
I’ve always loved t-shirts. Once my candy blog, Candy Addict, took off, I noticed that my top performing affiliate “ad” on Candy Addict was for candy t-shirts. It far surpassed every other affiliate month over month. That got me thinking… maybe I should create a t-shirt site.
I started poking around and found loads of t-shirt blogs, and I didn’t feel like stepping into a crowded niche. About the same time, my buddy Tom Davies was having some success with his GiftHat site. We started talking about communities and how we could create a t-shirt site/community. Eventually, the idea for Teenormous became clear.
That was about two years ago. During that time, Candy Addict took off, GiftHat was going strong, and Tom had his first child. We didn’t *really* get started coding til January of 2008 and even then, we both have real day jobs and families so it was hard to find time to code.
What was the biggest challenge in moving the project from concept to completion?
Completion? We are nowhere near done. 🙂 One of the biggest problems is deciding when you’re done, or done *enough*. Launching the site even though it’s not nearly feature complete is hard to do. We have a bajillion ideas and plans for the site but if we waited for all the ideas to be implemented, we’d never launch at all. We finally whittled down all of the features to a bare minimum so we could launch. We settled on Teenomrous as a kick-butt search engine to begin with. That will be the basis for all the great features to come.
The other challenge is just finding time to code. If Tom and I didn’t have “real” 9-5 jobs, we could have had this done in no time. Trying to squeeze coding time in between the job, the wife’s demands, the parties my 7-year old daughter must go to, etc. is rough.
How do you plan to monetize Teenormous?
We’ve come up with a number of ways to monetize the site. I can’t give away all of them, but the main one is traffic plus affiliates. We’re taking the retailmenot.com approach. I read an interview with them that said that only 40% of their links are affiliates but because they are the market leader, it doesn’t matter, they still make plenty of money.
We will index ALL great/cool t-shirts sites (not just affiliate sites) and a percentage of the sites will have affiliate programs that kick some money back to us for each sale. Even though all of the clicks won’t make money, we will be the goto site for t-shirt searching, so the volume of traffic will make up for not monetizing every click.
I love the large number of t-shirts that you have indexed and the quality of your search results. How much work was it developing the search algorithm?
We used an open source search/indexing engine but we (Tom) really tweaked the settings all to heck to work for us and it has worked flawlessly. The search is much better than either of us expected. The one thing we have over the competion is complex filtering of your results. Say you get 88 Nintendo t-shirts. After the initial search, you can filter that down to something like blue Nintendo t-shirts for guys that cost less than $20.
The searches come back in order of relevancy. The first page of results should be right on the money and the further you go in the results the less they are relevant (but they ARE still relevant). We have come up with a way to make the results even more accurate (incredibly accurate) and we’re working to get that out soon.
Can you give us a glimpse of some the upcoming features you’ve been alluding to in various places around the net?
We already have something coded to keep all tees in the system up-to-date. We’ll be rolling that out in the next week or so. That will keep all of our info current and fresh. Tagging and user accounts/logins are also on the way.
We will also soon have a portion of the site for “charitees”… t-shirts from non-profits like the American Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org/. We want to help match up giving people with charities with great t-shirts. We’re also tossing around some other ideas for ways to give.
We have a couple more things planned that are unique and innovative and should make a big splash when we release them.
In my completely honest opinion, Teenormous is clearly the best t-shirt search engine, on almost all accounts (functionality, search accuracy, filters, etc.). But you are going up against a new competitor who probably has a marketing advantage (in virtue of the owners’ name recognition). How do you plan to handle this enormous hurdle?
We did all the heavy lifting of making the searching rock solid since it will be the foundation for the rest of the features we’re planning. As Google has proven, if you can provide a clear advantage in search capabilities you can knock out even proven or well-known competitors, even with a simpler interface. Just ask Alta Vista – http://www.altavista.com/.
Do you have any tips for bloggers who might want to try their hand at an online project outside the world of blogging?
Take what you know or what you’ve learned through blogging and apply it. Solve a problem/need you have and chances are, it will be useful to others too.