When I wrote about Sydney-based social news start-up Streem earlier this week, the group was less than forthcoming about the real history behind its operations.
The old Scopical website
Last week Streem spokesperson Elgar Welch, representing his company as "Streem", told me the group had on 15 July this year launched its Streem.com.au site with support from a number of private investors, who had seen the writing on the wall when it came to traditional media.
What Welch neglected to mention was that it wasn't the first time his group had tried this sort of thing. It turns out Streem is at least the group's second attempt to generate an Australian news site using content that appears to be sourced primarily from wire services and reader contributions, with some from in-house staff and other sources.
The last time round, their site was called "Scopical". Internet references to the site, which looks virtually identical to Streem, abound, as it appears that Welch and his team had been publicising the site quite heavily when launched in mid-2007.
For example, Scopical had posted this extensive comment on the personal blog of Hugh Martin, a leading Australian thinker in the field of online news media. Martin is currently the general manager at APN Online and is the former editor of News.com.au.
The comment reveals Scopical was based on pretty much the same social news premise as Streem. However, when I spoke with Welch earlier this week he didn't mention anything about a previous site or the Scopical name.
You can get more information about Welch, including his full profile and some of Scopical's plans, here.
Today Welch told me Scopical had been doing very well, but had been shut down as his group decided to focus on a new site, Streem. He denied the two sites were very similar, saying they differed in technology and editorial line. Welch also said Scopical might come back at some point.
However, the fact that Streem (or is it Scopical?) didn't disclose anything about what appears to be previous attempts to create a social news site bodes badly for the start-up. Going to market with a similar premise twice in a very short period of time isn't exactly a way to instil confidence in people.
Welch might well be, as he says, launching different brands from the same company. But if that's the case, why didn't he disclose this earlier, and why is his company using extremely similar marketing materials for the Streem launch to those it used for the Scopical effort 12 months ago?
There is a lesson here for other Australian start-ups. If you want to get publicity about your efforts, you need to deal honestly with the media. Otherwise you could get burnt.