I have a friend who is starting a UGC / social network site in the health space and he asked me to send him an email with my lessons learned from Judy's Book. I'll post it here for you all to read and comment on.
Here's my advice...
1) Focus, focus, focus
Focus the network on a specific category. Health is way too broad. At Judy's Book, I wish we had just focused on restaurants. And for that matter, we should have started with Seattle restaurants. Restaurants as a category are the area where there is the intersection of consumer passion, review writing, and daily activity. Let me be even more explicit on these points
- consumer passion: people love to eat out. (period)
- review writing: people consume restaurant reviews whether that be from Zagats or from the local newspaper or from their co-workers or friends. In fact, recommendations from friends is often a higher trusted source than a Zagats.
- daily activity : this is critical. People eat out frequently and are often looking to try or willing to try new restaurants. Frequency of visits -- and the closer to a daily activity you can make your site the better off you'll be. Compare the restaurant activity to the activity of looking for a plumber or an architect. They're not even close in terms of frequency -- or monetization. Restaurants clearly are less monetizeable than plumbers and architects but they have the ability to gain consumer passion -- and for the kind of site I hoped Judy's Book would become, focusing on restaurants and consumer passion would have been the right decision in retrospect. Once we owned this market, we could have moved to other categories.
So -- in a nut shell, my first and strongest piece of advice is to focus, focus, focus. There is a reason that Amazon (big brand promise) started selling books and only books. It's the whole crossing the chasm thing....