I won’t get all weepy and sentimental, but my first web project — Reel-Time: The Internet Journal of Saltwater Fly Fishing, has been sold after 13 years of private operation by myself , my co-founder Thorne Sparkman, and editor/webmaster, Mark Cahill.
The site goes to Name Media, the Waltham, MA domain company founded by IDG’s former CEO, Kelly Conlin.
I was a founder-emeritus for the past five years, backing out of the partnership with Thorne as my interest in the site waned and my ability to fund it declined along with my interest. I came up with the concept and name in 1994 when Chris Locke (co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto) asked me to write a series of columns on the impact of the Internet on journalism for Internet-MCI, one of the first major portal plays. In that column I basically made a version of the Long Tail argument, saying the infinite scalability of the net would lead to the dominance of niches. The syllogism was that a website about fishing would not be as successful as one about fly fishing, which in turn would be less valuable than one about saltwater fly fishing, etc.
So, as a strawman, I discussed the theoretical business plan of a site called “Reel-Time” as a play on “Real Time” — another business plan I had kicked around with Mitch Kapor in 94 when we thought there would be an interesting place on the net for a 24 hour, real-time news site.
So, over sushi one night in NYC, my fishing buddy Thorne Sparkman (who worked in digital at Time Warner Electronic Publishing) and I agreed to launch an actual site called Reel-Time. We registered the domain, spent a week at my place on Cape Cod coding the first HTML, hacked an email archive tool into a crude discussion/community forum, and launched via word of mouth on the USENET fishing forums.
Was it a success?
Sure. Here’s what I got out of Reel-Time:
- I never got paid a dime. Seriously. 13 years. Not a penny. I suck as an entrepreneur.
- I met a ton of great people.
- I was given the challenge to launch Forbes.com on the basis of my experience launching Reel-Time.com
- Everything I know about dealing with online dickheads, flamers, lusers, and the tinfoil turban club I learned at Reel-Time
- The knowledge that if you want to ruin something fun, make a business out of.
Mark Cahill, the man who kept Reel-Time ticking, helped broker the sale with Name Media and will continue to drive the site. Me? I watch on, glad that something that started in my bedroom in 1995 will continue to live on past my inept management.
“When Reel-Time.com, the Internet Journal of Saltwater Fly Fishing was started in 1995 by Thorne Sparkman and David Churbuck, the internet was still in its infancy. Over the years, Reel-Time.com has grown to become the premier destination on the web for Saltwater Fly Fishermen, offering vibrant forums, up to the minute fishing reports, and informative articles.
“That success came at the expense of a lot of work and investment by Thorne. Indeed, over the years there were a great many people who put in a lot of hard work, from David and I spending many a sleepless morning in front of the computer cranking out Fishwire reports, to the Forum Moderators, whose selfless efforts are one of the prime reasons for our success.
“Iâ€™m pleased to announce that today begins yet another stage in the Reel-Time.com journey. The site has been acquired by NameMedia, Inc. of Waltham, MA, a major player in the emerging field of niche community media.
So, whatâ€™s it all mean to you”