The founders of SpinSpotter.com, a now-defunct website that let users flag cases of “bias” and “spin” on the internet, are trying anew with an even broader mission: giving people an outlet to point out anything that they believe is controversial. SpinSpotter’s founders quietly shut down SpinSpotter.com in March only seven months after the site’s high-profile debut and have since replaced it with SparkWords.com, a site that invites people to post a provocative phrase and follow it with a question, in hopes of generating discussion. “Make sparks fly!” the site says. Topics are completely open-ended, although most of the current discussions on the site are political in nature.
CEO John Atcheson tells Seattle-area tech site TechFlash, which first reported the news, that the company switched strategies because “we found it hard to get people to mark spin with the quality level necessary, and (b) we saw a much bigger opportunity elsewhere for the technology we’d developed.” While the opportunity is certainly much bigger, it’s also unclear how SparkWords will compete with the myriad online discussions that already take place across the internet — both on independent discussion boards and on blogs and social-networking sites.
Still, the startup, which is backed by Epic Ventures and some angels, probably does not have much to lose. SpinSpotter’s traffic was tiny — it only had 7,000 unique visitors in March, down from 30,000 during the first month after its launch, according to data from Compete.com. The company also saw co-founder Todd Herman leave to join the Republican National Committee as its director of new media. Prior to establishing SpinSpotter, Herman had been a top MSN Video executive.