Time, space put Eventful at the intersection of, .. well, of everything

This week, at Mashup Camp at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, I had the opportunity to sit down with Eventful.com's API Developer Chris Radcliff.

This week, at Mashup Camp at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, I had the opportunity to sit down with Eventful.com's API Developer Chris Radcliff. The interview is available for download, streamed playback (using ZDNet's built-in MP3 player above), or if you're subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts, it will be downloaded to your system or MP3 player automatically (see How to Subscribe).

At first blush, it's hard to figure out how or why a site like Eventful can or would stay in business. Whether the event is yours or not, you can go in and list any event into the system.  Radcliff cites this as one of the very Web 2.0-esque attributes of the site -- that fact that anybody can freely read from it or write to it.  The end result, as of very recently according to Radcliff, is that site is now a respository for over 1,000,000 events including everything from the neigboorhood soccer game to a birthday party to a rock concert at Madison Square Garden. Early on, when I and Mashup Camp co-organizer settled on a time and space for Mashup Camp 2, we added it to the Eventful database. 

In fact, it's that position at intersection of time and space that is one of Eventful's chief selling propositions. When you think about the assumptions you can make about a visitor to a Web site, the assumptions you can make about someone based on their interest in an event could be an even better demographic than what Google can assume about people searching on specific terms or what Amazon can assume about people based on the books they buy (although, admittedly, with all the stuff beyond books that people buy on Amazon, you can imagine the pretty tight profile that Amazon must have of the users
that engage in a lot of commerce through the site).

According to Radcliff, if you know what users are interested in, where they're interested in it, and when they're interested in it "that's extremely valuable data."  The targeted advertising opportunities -- something that Eventful has yet to take advantage of -- are pretty clear. According to Radcliff, Eventful is investigating its next move now that it has amassed such tight demographic data. Radcliff hinted at some interesting possibilities saying "you can be the pizza place down the street after the game or you can be the after party that's going on shortly thereafter [some event]."

Radcliff thinks such advertising leads to a better experience for end-users too because of the relevance (as opposed to randomly placed or less-accurately targeted ads). The more I think about it, the more I realize how knowing what, where, and when is the key to what has long been a very tough nut to crack on the Internet -- local targeting. It's not just advertising to an event goer where there's a place to get some pizza after the game.  What about where to find pick up some binoculars before the game? Or, where to find a team t-shirt at a discount? Imagine if you're going to a concert for Bare Naked Ladies, a record store that's nearby to the concert venue to offer a special price on BNL CDs.

While Eventful contemplates the best way to leverage local targeting, it also has other revenue sources.  For example, all TicketMaster-based events are listed in Eventful.com's underlying events and venues database (the company was once better known as EVDB.com) and Eventful gets a kickback from any tickets purchases that happened as a result of clicking through the Eventful site (to get to the transaction). Another source of revenue -- although not a hugely significant one according to Radcliff, is Google's AdWords. AdWords delivers contextually relevant ads but "local" doesn't come to mind when you look at the typical set of ads that Google delivers into Web sites that use AdWords.

Two other "dimensions" of revenue according to Radcliff come from use of the APIs to its database. On one dimension, says Radcliff, are other sites that mash Eventful's APIs up into something different than what Eventful (also built on the APIs) has to offer. Mashups like podbop.org that was developed by the Gainesville-based Taylor McKnight and Daniel Westermann-Clark. Podbop allows users to not only discover upcoming musical performances in their neighborhood (the part driven by the Eventful APIs), it points users to any freely (and legally) downloadable MP3s of those artists so that users can
sample the music and decide which of the upcoming local performances would be the most rewarding to attend.  Podbop doesn't pay for usage of Eventful's APIs.  But according to Radcliff, another site that hits Eventful's database more than 100,000 time per day would.

The second of the two revenue generating dimensions related to Eventful's APIs has to do with "white label" sites. Whereas most sites that dip into Eventful's APIs will credit Eventful with some branding that says something like "Powered by Eventful.com," some sites prefer to make the Eventful data look as though it were their own. Sites that do this so-called white-labelling of Eventful's data must pay for the right.

The Eventful story is a powerful one. In and of it's own right, the Eventful.com Web site has so much potential to be a media play that the site alone could drive the company's success. But the brilliance in building an API-rich service first in such a way that enables developers like McKnight and Westermann-Clark to build different applications from what Eventful.com enables all sorts of channels (many of which haven't been thought of yet) for eventually driving users to Eventful.com where the cash register could start ringing more loudly with every page visit.

Who else is building those apps? Actually, Radcliff himnself. Here at Mashup Camp 2, Radcliff demonstrated an innovative mashup called Photiger that mashes Eventful and Yahoo's Flickr photosharing service. Today, if you're a Flickr user and you add photos to the Flickr database, it's a good idea to manually tag them with keywords that help you keep track of your pictures (and others find them).  Photiger looks in the Eventful database to see what events you've attended and cross-references them with the data and time stamps on the pictures in your Flickr account.  If it finds a match -- for example if it finds a bunch of pictures taken at the same time you were attending a concert by the Bare Naked Ladies -- then Photiger assumes the pictures are from the event and tags them appropriately.

Photiger didn't win the Best Mashup award at Mashup Camp (that honor went to WeatherBonk).  But Radcliff did score some votes for his innovation.