In the summer of 2010 two friends and I started a website called The Best of St. Louis. The idea was to create a site based around user polls identifying the best things in St. Louis (i.e. best breakfast, best music venue, best brewery, etc.). The polls turned out to be a pretty big hit, and the site started generating considerable pageviews within a few weeks.
The real genius of the idea came from how the “competitors” in each weekly poll would respond. At the beginning of the week we’d call each of the 4-6 businesses in the poll and inform them of our existence and their opportunity in our poll. Once a winner was decided we’d visit the establishment and do a full write-up and review. This gave business owners a chance at free publicity, and thus incentive to encourage their customers to visit our site and vote. This drove up page views and also helped quickly build a dedicated user base.
The site had three Google AdSense ads in the sidebars and header, and in a little over a month it generated enough revenue that Google actually had to send us a check (not an easy feat). Unfortunately the dream couldn’t last, and shortly after the site really started to take off we received a cease and desist order from Village Voice Media for trademark infringement (“The Best Of St. Louis”).
We toyed with the idea of re-branding the site, but our primary writer and content generator was starting to get burned out, and the whole experience was becoming less of a fun activity and more like work. This was compounded the day after we received the cease and desist when the site was hacked. I’m ashamed to admit it, but in those days I was much less of a stickler about regular backups, and the corrupted WordPress database we were left with made the prospect of putting the site back together seem less and less worth it.
My role in the site was primarily the developer and administrator. I managed the hosting account and DNS info, customized a WordPress theme to fit our requirements, and wrote some PHP to dynamically close old polls and switch to new ones at a specified time every week. In addition to this, I took a secondary role as a writer and content contributor.
Of course the site no longer exists in any usable form, but I do have a comprehensive array of screenshots available upon request.