Lolcats Cheezburger: A Missed Business Opportunity

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 7:45am by Site Administrator

If you haven’t stumbled across it yet, you may not know that the website ICanHasCheezburger is a sensation, pulling in about a half million pageviews per day. That’s from 100-200K visitors each day. And the site was not created by an entrepreneur, per se.

The site has fun pictures of mostly cats and kittens (aka “lolcats” or laugh out loud cats), with the odd occasional hamster, duck, puppy, rooster, bunny and so on. The pics have amusing photoshopped captions that anthropomorphize animals – which we humans love to do. Given the success of “animal” movies in the past few years, it’s not surprising that such a fun, nay hilarious, website that’s safe for the whole family – and where they can participate – is doing so well.

The site was started by software developer Eric Nakagawa in January 2007, and quit his job at the end of May, due to the success. In a Business Week article [via Blogstorm via Sphinn], it says that the site charges between $500-4000 per week for ads. There are currently eight ads, not counting the Google AdSense ad blocks. That means the site is earning at least 8 ads x $500/ad x 4 weeks/ month =~ $16K/mth. Possibly a lot more.

Business Week calls Nakagawa “an accidental entrepreneur,” as none of this success was planned. How could you possibly plan this?

Here’s the shame of it, depending on your perspective. Nakagawa has no affiliation with any pet food or pet products business. Imagine if your company were in the pet industry and you had come up with this idea. The site would have have been “viral” for you. You might not run all of the ad blocks (or any), but the web traffic would obviously fare very well for your website. You could monetize in other ways, including ebooks, videos about dog training, maybe even your product line.

It’s a missed business opportunity, for sure. However, now that this has been done, you can’t exactly copy it and hope that it’ll be accepted gracefully. Fans of ICanHasCheezburger would probably call you out, albeit very gently.

Still, there’s room enough for some other unique innovation. Fun sites almost always do well, if they can maintain the entertainment. Proof that entrepreneurial success does not always have to be planned. Does Letterman still have his “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment? Can you think of an innovative variation?

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