Formspring launches ‘Interests’ in move toward revenue

Formspring, the social Q&A site, has built up a big following in the two years since it launched. The website sees more than 30 million unique visitors each month, and now there are 27 million registered users who frequent Formspring to ask and answer questions with their friends, and a collection of celebrities who interact with fans on the site.
Even with all that traction, Formspring has taken its time when it comes to making money. The company has tasked its 30-person staff with developing new features and lining up celebrity users rather than on populating the site with advertisements. But now the company’s revenue strategy is starting to take shape with a new initiative called “Formspring Interests.”

All about Interests

Starting Tuesday, Formspring will start letting users add up to six interests to their profiles such as music, fashion and beauty, gaming, sports, and celebrity gossip. In addition, Formspring has inked partnerships with eight major media firms — MTV, (s via) Hearst, AOL Huffington Post, (s aol) and Funny or Die, to name a few — that will be able to create relevant questions for users who have expressed interest in a related topic.
No money is associated with the media partnerships yet, Formspring’s COO Ro Choy said in a recent interview. But the interest information will allow Formspring to eventually show users more specifically targeted ads once the company starts running advertisements. According to Choy, it’s been a deliberately slow road to monetization because of the hyper-competitive Internet landscape:

“We have a really clear shot at becoming a major player as a social media network, and to get there you have to be amazing, because you’re competing with some of the very best companies on the web. You can’t mishandle the user experience — we’ve been making sure the user is having fun, enjoying the experience, and having an authentic communication with friends.”

A big step toward real revenue

Formspring Interests, however, is the company’s first major step toward real revenue generation. Choy said:

“At the end of the day we are a business, and the future of the company and monetization is very much related to the Interests launch. In the future, brand advertisers will have more opportunities to make relevant ads. It could be a sponsored question situation, or it could be an ad on the side of the page.”

The Interests launch is also indicative of Formspring attracting a broader and more mature audience. The site’s main user base is young people between the ages of 13 and 24, and Interests is aimed at the higher end of that spectrum. The way Choy explained it, teenagers’ lives are centered around their friends, and Formspring addresses that by letting those users talk directly to each other. But when people are 17 and older, they start to identify more with outside interests. Addressing that demographic more strongly is a logical next step for Formspring, and it will be interesting to watch how users and companies take to the site’s evolution.