For those of you who don’t know, LittleGossip.com was a website which my company Venevi created on November 8th, 2010.
The vision came from a number of different sources, however, the most influential was from a Facebook group which was set up when I was a lot younger and
still in school, called ‘GossipGirl Taunton’.
Already in business I was keen to watch the growth of the group, and while it was initially very successful it soon got out of hand.
The visionary behind the group didn’t have much to hold on too, Facebook got too many reported posts and soon the group was taken off air. It wasn’t until years later when I had the resources and the right people to make LittleGossip a success we decided to build and launch our own version – a version I believed would be better more innovative and more carefully managed.
Funnily enough the name LittleGossip came from my sister, who asked for a site as a present for her birthday because she wanted to make an income and also because she wanted a place to discuss what interested her; celebrity gossip.
It wasn’t until we started to build the site that I realized this was a perfect name for the idea we had years ago. I said she could hold equity in the business, but bearing in mind she was only 14 she didn’t and probably still doesn’t even know what that means, she would soon find out…
The beauty about LittleGossip from a business point of view was the fact it only cost us £2,000 to build and £0 to market. Knowing how quickly this could take off it meant the revenue and profit potential was cataclysmic.
The site was completed on the 7th of November with various measures to ensure there was a basic level of protection to people who were gossiped about. We used servers we already owned and decided to hide our domain name from public view as initially whilst it was growing we wanted LittleGossip to be in the spotlight rather than the company behind it.
Finally we were prepared to launch and we announced LittleGossip to the world on the 8th of November. For your interest, the first ever piece of gossip, which was the most important because it had to trigger a snowball effect and bring in more traffic via Facebook was;
“** ******* enjoyed having a piss on the golf green, until she was chucked out by a teacher, nice.”
I knew that person and it certainly wasn’t a malicious piece of gossip, it was funny, and yes, it was true.
As soon as it was written I got my colleagues to send the person who was gossiped about a private message on Facebook quoting what had been said and telling her/him to check it out. Before we could blink her/his status had updated and within 10 minutes we had about 20 new pieces of gossip submitted.
The gossip quickly multiplied and the traffic came in like a flash flood and I’m sure people who read this post and actually used LittleGossip will remember the site going down on various occasions. That was because the traffic we received in the first hour was so significant it crashed our servers. To be precise we had 33,000 unique visitors in one hour and because of this we had to buy new servers to host the site. To put our growth into perspective, if the film ‘The Social Network’ is true then we outgrew Facebook.
Luckily the site wasn’t down long enough to lose traction and the traffic continued to fly in. I can’t remember exactly how many visits we had after two days, but what I can say is it’s the most we have ever had and most likely will be the most we will ever have. A site like this has to be talked about, people want to be on the site but at the same time they don’t which is why they constantly check and tell people about it – it’s just the nature of this site.
A couple of days passed, and things were slowly slipping out of control, we had two people moderating content and safeguarding our users from abuse but the sheer volume was getting too much.
Although we received complaints the majority were unfounded and containing empty threats, regardless however we responded to everyone in a dignified manor but obviously kids and young adults were getting upset and wanted to express that, which I can understand, we did take note and ultimately we took these concerns into account when we decided to let go.
The Internet is all about the freedom of speech and if you make a site in the U.K. but it was built in Russia and the content is being hosted in U.S.A it’s almost impossible to prosecute.
On top of that, we were a platform, we weren’t personally dishing out abuse, a minority of our users were and we were trying to control it.
The press had a field day. They loved it, and the fact they covered it once every two days was phenomenal. As one of my advisors said;
“Every time the press cover a story on LittleGossip it’s like chucking petrol on a fire.”
He couldn’t be more right, press created more buzz around the product and got more people involved which meant the popularity just continued to sore.
LittleGossip became poisonous, I will admit that, but, certainly for a time it looked far worse than it was. I can say that because I am the precise demographic that the site was aimed at. I also know that different ‘cliques’ have different ‘banter’ and something that may look very hurtful to an outsider looking in, actually isn’t. Within that group of friends everyone knew it was a joke and laugh.
I am convinced we sold the site and cut our ties at the right time, and I respected the buyers because they tried very hard to get rid of schools and reported gossip, however, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I spoke to a group doing a documentary in Canada not long ago and I summed up the lesson learnt and the eye opener I got from LittleGossip. More specifically; how online and offline gossip can be likened to challenges you face in life;
“In my opinion and from what I have learnt gossip is really negative if it is anonymous. Anonymous gossip is dangerous and can hurt a lot of people, however, if it is transparent it would be and is positive. To put this into a real world situation, speaking behind someones back is hurtful, the person talked about always finds out and usually they will end up in tears or a fight. On the other hand, saying what you think to their face usually results in a positive outcome as you can sort the issue out.
I believe this can translate into real world situations and a message I can give to others and something I hope for myself is, if I ever have a problem, I don’t put my head in the sand, I don’t put it behind someone, I face up to it and take the bull by the horns.
Gossip has similar principles to the challenges we face in life and to deal with these effectively and to become successful you have to tackle it straight on, no hiding behind anything, no anonymity.”
This is why in the end, I held my hands up, took responsibility for my company, gave interviews, cut the ties with the site and moved on.
I think it’s a good notion to install into society – all things should, to a certain extent be transparent.
I don’t regret what we tried to achieve and what our ambitions were – if we didn’t push boundaries we wouldn’t be where we are today.
To those who were genuinely hurt by LittleGossip, I am apologising on behalf of my company it was never our intention to cause grief to any one person, and while for some of you I know a simple ‘Im sorry’ is not enough I hope that this explanation goes some way to help you understand the workings behind the site.
For those who know me it goes without saying, those who do not should know that the intentions behind littlegossip were not to promote bullying, malicious content and to host abuse, you must remember, this was a business, not a hobby and something with a bad reputation and an anti social community isn’t attractive to advertisers or potential buyers so there would be no point creating something that was aggressive and had no value.
I have just secured investment into my new social network, Kawiky.com, which will be much more social, positive and interesting. If you want to, you can follow the link and sign up to learn more about it.
In the meantime, I want to leave you with two quotes, one for anonymity, and one for transparency – discuss below which side you think is right;
Which side are you on?
“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself.” – Christopher Poole
“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” – Mark Zuckerberg
I will accept all your comments and thoughts below regardless of whether they are negative or positive.