Whiskey Media Quietly Growing, Innovating With Former CNET Team

Former CNET cofounder and CEO Shelby Bonnie founded Whiskey Media in 2007 as a platform to build media and entertainment content sites. The company, located in stunningly beautiful Sausalito, California (north of San Francisco) has no outside shareholders pestering them for a quick exit – the five cofounders, all former CNETers (Shelby Bonnie, Mike Tatum, Ethan Lance, Dave Snider and Andy McCurdy) have funded the company to date with less than $1.5 million. I recently had lunch with Bonnie to talk about how Whiskey Media is doing. It has quietly grown in the last year and a half, and the team is preparing to unveil a number of new sites this year.

We first covered the company in October 2007 with the launch of Political Base. It was, and is, notable because it’s built as a “structured wiki” – freely editable by anyone, but the data isn’t just one big unstructured blob like you see on Wikipedia and other wiki sites. Each section of a page is a separate silo, making it much easier to slice and dice data, and cross link around the site. Political Base was the primary inspiration for how we structured our own CrunchBase database of people, startups and venture funds.

PoliticalBase is a PHP application and separate from Whiskey Media’s newer sites, ComicVine (comics), GiantBomb (games) and AnimeVice (anime). Those three new sites are entertainment and media focused, and written in Python using the Django web framework. More sites are coming this year on that platform.

ComicVine originally launched in late 2006 as a PHP application, but was ported to the new platform last April and now sees over 10 million monthly pageviews. The newer sites, GiantBomb and AnimeVice, have 10 million and 800,000 monthly page views each. Most users are male, in the 13-30 demographic.

Not bad for a startup with a handful of employees that’s burned through very little capital. And like Wikipedia, the readers create most of the content – they’ve added a million pieces of content to the sites to date, says Bonnie.

The sites don’t look anything like Wikipedia, having a rich content experience more like Wetpaint, an unstructured wiki site that lets users create new wikis on any topic. Third parties can also access the content on various Whiskey Media sites via an open API.