UPDATE (7/11/10): A new site, ArtByte, has started as a place for ex-QLers to go.
UPDATE (6/30/10): Alas, Quarterlife is dead.
A message went out recently to members, saying Ning is raising costs and the site is unsustainable:
A message to all members of quarterlife:
|With great sadness, we must report that the three-year quarterlife
experiment is coming to an end. Our current host, Ning,
is raising costs, and it will be impossible for us to keep the site
open. Our deepest thanks to all those who have been a part of this
wonderful community. Please take the next 2 weeks to exchange contact
information with your peers and collect your work from the site.
All the best,
ORIGINAL: You’re forgiven if you don’t remember Quarterlife. Best known as a web series of the same name, which had a very quick rise and even faster fall, Quarterlife was also a social networking site.
Quarterlife, much to my surprise, is still alive, sort of.
Finding articles about Quarterlife was a challenging task I had to undergo recently for some research; no one had written about the site for two years. Yet Quarterlife.com is still up and somewhat active. What gives?
Quarterlife debuted on MySpace — remember when MySpace was all excited about web series? — YouTube and its own site. Between those sites, according producer Marshall Herskovitz, the show had amassed around 350,000 viewers an episode. The social networking site was semi-popular, a product of Herskovitz and Zwick’s own imagination (they also self-funded the seven-figure series) initially intended to provide a base of support for the series. Quarterlife the SNS pitched itself to creative types — artists, photographers, filmmakers — who wanted a place to mingle with other like-minded individuals. This idea wasn’t entirely revolutionary. If you recall, the year before art-world kingmaker Charles Saatchi had been creating social networking sites on his gallery’s website. There was a social networking site for everyone. But at a time when Facebook wasn’t as robust as it is now and MySpace seemed too cluttered and open, a site like Quarterlife actually filled a niche.
Last summer I checked up on the site and noticed it was, self-evidently, in trouble. On its homepage, the following message was posted:
Starting today we are asking for a SMALL VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTION FEE or a DONATION of any amount you choose. This is the only way to keep quarterlife from going dark, and losing all the thousands of photos, artwork, music, and writing you’ve uploaded.
Apparently a number of people did sign up to help save the expensive-to-operate social network, which is owned by Quarterlife’s producers, but it wasn’t enough.
By October 2009, Quarterlife joined Ning, the network for social networks, and had a soft-launch restricted to a select group of members. By the end of last year it was open for anyone to join. The site is visibly ad-supported, the revenue from which goes to Ning. It still has a manager/moderator, who has been with the site since its late-2007 launch. According to Compete, traffic is way down, even from last year (perhaps news of its trouble and possible subscription plan scared off some users), but the site still gets a few thousand users.
Quarterlife is not the first social networking site to face troubles, of course. In the world of Facebook, offering a variety of multimedia services and a connection to virtually every important site on the web, it’s hard for a lot of sites to keep up. SNSs are still cropping up, even spending fortunes on Super Bowl ads, but I wouldn’t start one right now. Still, Quaterlife had a shot. So why did it fail?
This is a “duh” answer but an important one nonetheless: old media killed new media. Once Quarterlife failed on network TV, many users assumed the site was over, a fact acknowledged by the producers themselves.
All this underscores how, on the web, surviving independent of the mainstream media is a tough task, and if you go to the mainstream media, with its heightened visibility, and perform poorly, everyone assumes you’re finished. Despite inflated stories of television’s demise, television remains the most visible of all media. It sounds so 1960s, but it’s still very true.
As many online video sites and series forge relationships with the traditional media — from YouTube to FunnyOrDie to Web Therapy — it’s an important lesson to have learned.