Tribe.net is in talks to besold to NBC (corrected from earlier version). The sale marks the official end of an era for a service that at one time, was determined to bring Friendster-like social networking to the local level via various city “tribes” run by newspapers, who wanted to piggy back a Craig’s List-like service on top of it.
Started by serial entrepreneur Mark Pincus (a longtime Krasilovsky Consulting client), Tribe won funding from The Washington Post Co., Knight Ridder and The Mayfield Fund. The newspaper companies probably gave less than $1 million each, and each hold 19 percent equity. Their input resulted in Tribe experimenting with new placement for CareerBuilder recruitment ads. Knight Ridder was among the owners of CareerBuilder.
Playing around on the site at the time, one could see KR and Post executives filling out profiles, and participating in a number of tribes… at least before they got bored. Knight Ridder Senior VP Hilary Schneider famously reported on her Bay Area knitting club and its power to drive users to specialized knitting shops at a Kelsey Group conference in San Jose a few years ago.
Ultimately, neither newspaper company ever managed to launch a local version of Tribe. The Post never really tried, and Knight Ridder, after an initial effort to integrate Tribe with classified systems in Philadelphia, simply gave up. In recent years, Pincus’ role has shrunk and new executives have turned the site into a social gaming site, but without strong results.
According to reporting by Paid Content, NBC is likely to use the platform to power its own, iVillage-oriented social network. NBC, of course, would be well positioned to establish its own local tribes – perhaps as a way to develop a classifieds business. That’s certainly a good growth area for television stations, but I wouldn’t count on it.