In two of my previous postings, I wrote about my attempts to create viral videos:
http://www.impulsecorp.com/viral-videos-the-story-of-pimp-my-sleigh and http://www.impulsecorp.com/viral-videos-part-2. Mainly, I tried making holiday music videos such as Pimp My Sleigh, and although they were popular, I never made any money from them.
So, unlike with holiday videos, it is interesting that one of my holiday websites has finally taken off. I created SantaBot.com in December of 2005 to have a site where kids could chat live with Santa Claus. The first year was an experiment, because I had no idea how kids would react to it or what kind of questions they would ask. Each day, I would review the log files of the conversations, and see what answers “Santa” gave that needed to be changed or improved. By the time Christmas was over, I had edited SantaBot enough so many of the kids thought they really were talking with Santa, and not just a computer.
By New Years, traffic to the site had died down, and so I left the site alone and in 2006 it did fine with no adjustments needed. But, in December 2007, Microsoft came out with its own Santa Bot, but had to soon shut it down because parents complained it talked dirty to kids. At first this was a problem for me also, because it made parents take a closer look at my Santa Bot and they then complained about some of the things it said. But, my version only said bad things if the user first said something bad (it basically would just repeat the bad thing back to the user). This did not worry me too much, but I did change a few responses to try to make it more child friendly. So, disaster was avoided and I moved on.
Then, in 2008, a funny thing happened. It seems that after the whole Microsoft debacle, the general public realized they could get G-rated chat bots to talk dirty, so people made a game out of it. They would post their illicit SantaBot.com chat logs to various forums for others to see and to try to top. Most people still use my site the right way, but all the links to it caused my “Christmas” site to become a site people now use all year round.
Another good thing about Santa Bot is that ad rates are much higher in December, which is when it gets the most traffic. I make 2-3 times as much per visitor during the holiday season because advertisers are much more eager to advertise.
After the success of Santa Bot, a few years ago I created God Chat and added it to my site at Dumb.com, and that has also been a big success. In the future I may create some other chat bots, such as a TurkeyBot for Thanksgiving and a BunnyBot for Easter. I doubt those will be big hits, but it is not very hard for me create them now that I have the basic bot programming done.
I also created chatterbots for my AdoptMe.com site, where users can chat live with the virtual pets they adopt. They don’t just chat with some random pet, they chat with their own pet, which knows the owner’s name, its own name, the last time it was fed, the last time it was walked, how old it is, and other personalized info. Many of the kids think they are talking to real pets, or a real person pretending to be their pet.
The lesson to be learned from all of this, if there is any, is that as a webmaster you never know which sites will take off and which won’t. I have created many great and innovative sites that never get any traffic, even though I was sure they would be a hit. Many Internet entrepreneurs spend years focusing on 1 big site (like Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook), but I have taken a different approach in creating hundreds of smaller sites, and hoping a few will do well. To me, each new site I create is like a lottery ticket, so the more tickets I have, the more likely I will hit it big.