Internet entrepreneur Evan Britton has built a profitable company, Resource Webs, by acquiring educational and niche sites built by people who were passionate about each subject; Resource Webs then sells the opportunity for targeted advertising. The traffic to two of Britton's sites caught his interest, and he began wondering how he could benefit from what he was observing.
One site with information about the moon (www.moonphases.info) receives a remarkable 50,000 visitors whenever there is a full moon. He noted that the traffic is great but it's more difficult to monetize this type of site that pulls people only so often. "Right now the best online products are those that are delivered directly into someone's inbox," says Britton.
Another of his sites also does well. Famous Birthdays (www.famousbirthdays.com) receives about 25,000 hits a day when people check it to see what famous people share their birth dates. Britton thought, "What if people had a resource for finding out what else happened on their birthdays?"
With these observations in addition to almost 20 years of experience with Internet companies (he started in the field right after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in the '90s), Britton started systematically evaluating the resources to which he had access and what he could create that would interest readers: "If 25,000 people a day liked learning who else was born on their birth date, it seemed to me that we could create a value-added product, delivered to their inbox, providing them with other news related to that specific date."
With that, the concept behind the Famous Daily was born.
Creating the Famous Daily
The new site was launched a little over two weeks ago (December 25, 2011) and already they have a mailing list of almost 2000 people.
"We're still working round-the-clock to create content," notes Britton. "We had easy access to the birthday information from our birthday site, and we owned several sites for the home schooling market, so it has been time-consuming but certainly possible to pull together great material."
"We've just added 'this day in business,'" says Britton. (Friday's event notes that in 1914 Charles Merrill opens up Charles Merrill & Co. on Wall Street, a few months later he would be joined by Edmund Lynch.) "January is complete so we're working hard to put together something for each day in February right now."
"We offer a lot for each day, and for each item mentioned, readers can click through for more information. I knew some people would prefer one category over another, so a very clean presentation was important. That way people can open the email and quickly read the part that most interests them."
Britton also remains committed to deliver by email rather than building a website with this information. "I want the Famous Daily in their In Box. It's a daily treat for them, and it's a better business model for us."
Creating Reader Interest on Their Unbirthdays
Only one day per year, of course, does an individual reader enjoy his or her birthday, and that's where the expanded content comes in, notes Britton.
Monday morning is a tough morning for most people, but you can open the Famous Daily and learn that it is some little-known holiday (Bird Day or Pancake Day or a particular country's religious holiday) or that the "Dear Abby" column first appeared in newspapers in 1956 and that the ubiquitous Toyota has only been in the United States since 1958, then you have something extra to think about.
One of Britton's younger staff people told him the email gives people a fresh outlook for the day -- and conversation starters.
Most news organizations are covering the fact that it is Kate Middleton's 30th birthday today but the Famous Daily also reminds us that Richard Nixon (1913) and Joan Baez (1941) were also born on January 9.
In the "In History" section, I particularly enjoyed a story from Friday: On January 6, 1838, Samuel Morse first demonstrated his invention, the telegraph. The site also takes you beyond a simple "factoid." If you click through to the full story about Morse, for example, you learn that Samuel Morse was actually a well-respected professional portrait painter. He sought to invent a faster means of communication because of a personal tragedy.
He was in Washington, D.C. to paint a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette when his wife became ill at their home in Connecticut. A horseman was dispatched to tell Morse to rush home, but by the time that Morse got the message, it was too late. She died before he could reach her.
"The Famous Daily makes each day special," says Britton. "Rather than post this information on a website, I think it's exciting for people to wake up each morning knowing that there will be some interesting piece of information just waiting for them to discover."
To sign up, visit famousdaily.com/subscribe.
And for additional little-known stories of American history, visit www.americacomesalive.com and choose to receive the mailings that interest you.