Today, the crew of Whiskey Media’s flagship publication – Giant Bomb – went over the internet airwaves to announce that the House That Shelby Bonnie Built was being ripped in half. They, along with Comic Vine, would be headed to CBS Interactive, home of Gamespot (where many of Giant Bomb’s founders originated) while Tested, Screened, and Anime Vice would be owned by Santa Monica-based BermanBraun. Should Whiskey’s fans be happy or mad at the transaction?
If you’re not familiar with the sites, each of Whiskey’s five sites is built on extensive community content. Users build and control a wiki for each individual subject, participate in their respective forums, and get points for completing site-based quests, like looking for specific articles or having X number of people view your profile. Giant Bomb, launched in 2008 after editor Jeff Gerstmann was fired, quickly gained traction, becoming Whiskey’s largest traffic-grosser, leaving their staff to emcee events like the Big Live Live Show Live web-a-thon.
Whiskey Media was founded in 2007 by entrepreneur Shelby Bonnie, who had previously founded CNET (which, coincidentally, owned Gamespot) and with VC funding, allowed for the creation of the early sites (Anime Vice, Comic Vine, Giant Bomb) and their elaborate backend. By 2010, feelings piqued that the sites weren’t quite able to pull off the content they really wanted to being such a small size. With the original Big Live Live Show Live, Whiskey Media introduced monthly (or per annum) memberships that allowed the fanbase to vote with their dollars and fund an ad-free experience with HD videos and premium content, much like IGN Insider and Gamespot Complete did earlier in the decade (and then subsequently retreated from).
While most of the sites’ content had been provided by the users and no shares had been handed out, the premise of a nascent web site supported by the community felt like ownership. Those who really bought into the Whiskey ride watched as these five sites grew and intertwined out of their much-displayed office. I started paying attention to Giant Bomb in 2009 and started my membership on day one (while I was unemployed, mind you!) and over time, I didn’t feel like I was just a Giant Bomb fan, I felt like I was a Whiskey fan. To watch content on any of the sites is to be viewing the same premise from different angles as editors regularly intertwined for content. Well, it’s apparent that Whiskey’s properties again felt a glass ceiling that the subscription model simply couldn’t assuage.
Now that the sites are breaking up, it’s bittersweet. Sure, each site may get the attention they finally deserve (like, perhaps, more co-workers for overworked Screened’s Matt Rorie), but the family is gone. You’re not going to see the crossover that Whiskey’s downtown office brought. You no longer have that feeling of ownership, even as the premium memberships shift to their new benefactors.
We wish the members of the Whiskey family all the best, even as it feels like Our Little Train That Could is going off to new parents.