Josh Baker and Craig Lile know about influence.
Their locally based promotions business, MOKB Presents, brought 100 concerts to Indianapolis in a single year, and they wield enough clout in the indie-rock scene that national powerhouse Live Nation has partnered with them on some of its own shows.
So it’s fitting that their latest venture is a calendar website, Do317.com, which ranks arts and entertainment events according to the preferences of its users and designated “tastemakers.” Do317 launched just before Thanksgiving, and Baker and Lile hope to make it the go-to calendar for New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl-related events.
Baker said he and Lile, who also writes My Old Kentucky Blog, were reluctant to start another business at first but saw potential in the approaching Super Bowl, Feb. 5: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to one place and find out where the hot party was?”
If successful in generating Web traffic, Do317 would compete with local media like Nuvo and The Onion for advertising. The satirical newspaper will start distributing in the Indianapolis area Feb. 2, and it includes a localized arts-and-entertainment section called A.V. Club.
The site also will compete to some extent with the event listings in The Indianapolis Star’s Metromix, which ceased publishing in print early this year but continues online.
Do317 is one of seven similar sites that DoStuff Media in Austin, Texas, is rolling out in cities across the country. Chicago’s Do312 has been up for the past year and a half.
DoStuff developed the software that powers the sites and licenses it to local teams like Baker and Lile. The DoStuff software also operates the detailed calendar sites for music festivals such as Lollapalooza.
DoStuff Media co-founder Scott Owens declined to disclose revenue for the established sites, but he said the one in Austin is profitable, and Chicago is near break-even.
The sites tend to start out with advertising from concert venues, then attract advertising from national brands, Owens said. Beverages, cars and wireless services are top categories, he said. Massage Envy held the top spot at Do512 earlier this month.
Owens said he recruited the MOKB partners to launch the Indianapolis site because they know the concert venues, as well as people who regularly attend events.
“Everybody trying to do local online these days is trying to do it top-down, and I don’t think it works,” he said.
Owens and his partner created Do512 for the Austin market five years ago out of frustration with the way existing events calendars worked. (Originally, they were looking for a way to zero in on drink specials, but Owens, 40, says he works too hard now to drink much.)
Do512, which is in a market with about the same population as Indianapolis, attracts more than 100,000 unique visitors and generates 175,000 visits per month, Owens said.
That’s on par with what Nuvo, Indianapolis’ alternative news weekly, generates on its website, Nuvo.net.
In a market the size of Indianapolis, a website would need at least 75,000 unique monthly visitors to be taken seriously, said media buyer Rick Doyle, director of traditional, digital and social media at MZD Advertising.
Baker said his goal for Do317 is 50,000 registered users by the end of 2012. Those users can help push an event into the top rankings simply by clicking a button that says, “I like it.” Votes by tastemakers, who are chosen by Baker and Lile, carry extra weight.
While the user-generated rankings borrow from Facebook, the content borrows a feature from MySpace—a built-in song player that allows users to preview bands.
The tastemakers tend to be event promoters themselves, though they are required to choose more events than those in which they’re personally involved, Baker said. So far, the tastemakers he’s chosen run in local club-music circles. He’s looking for folks who know the performing and visual arts.
The fact that Baker himself is one of the tastemakers is obvious at this point. Six of the top 10 events listed at Do317 in the first week of December were sponsored by MOKB.
Doyle said the site’s registered users would be a selling point in attracting advertising only if they fell into a “very, very tight demographic profile.”
While competing for ad dollars, DoStuff wants other companies to use its software as a platform for their own calendars. Baker said he’s hoping to partner with other media and national brands to create calendars on their own websites.
He recently inked a deal to provide the calendar for music club Radio Radio’s website.
The DoStuff software pulls calendar information directly from the websites of music venues, bars and other places. That can save a lot of labor, Baker said, though he and Lile spend three hours a day helping to gather and clean up information.
Though Do317 is trying to become the dominant events calendar in the area, Baker said he doesn’t see it competing with other sources of information.
Do317 currently links to another calendar-social networking site, Indy Mojo.
Baker has reached out to Nuvo, though Publisher Kevin McKinney said he’s not yet familiar with Do317. The alternative weekly’s events calendar is responsible for about a quarter of all the traffic at Nuvo.net, which has close to 100,000 monthly visitors.
“It’s very important to our readers, and we put a lot of effort into it,” McKinney said. •