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Spinning the Web

Snowboard.

Snowboard.com community continues to grow in leaps and bounds

It took a special cable car to get all the servers, routers and other assorted computer equipment up to Rick Godwin’s new cliff-top home in Alpine Meadows, and a team of Telus workers to reattach his fiber optic connection to their Internet backbone.

Now, according to Godwin, he has "the biggest, fattest, fastest fiber connection in the Sea to Sky Corridor."

Speed was of the essence because an online snowboard community of more than 200,000 users strong has come to depend on Godwin and his brainchild, Snowboard.com.

This weekend you might notice the Snowboard.com banners on the sidelines of the Ripzone Snowboard Invitational competitions, which are part of the 2002 Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Godwin was given the space in exchange for banner ads on his Web site and festival-related press releases to users of Snowboard.com’s free e-mail service.

For Godwin, the banners represent the next stage in the evolution of Snowboard.com. While he has been several times more successful in bringing traffic to his site than other snowboarding Web sites, he has yet to earn the recognition of the snowboarding industry itself. With the industry in town, Godwin is hoping that the message will finally get through.

"I’ve been to the (SnowSports Industries America) trade show in Vegas and shook hands with all the directors and marketers for snowboard companies, and basically they can’t believe the site is as busy as it is," says Godwin.

They really can’t. According to Godwin it would cost at least $15,000 U.S. for a professional audit to verify Snowboard.com’s user numbers. It would cost $50,000 to get a copy of the Nielson ratings that supposedly rank Snowboard.com on the top of a number of reports. It’s money that he doesn’t have. At least not yet.

And without those numbers, snowboard companies have been reluctant to advertise on the Web site.

"For me, the ultimate proof is to go to the site and talk to any of our members," he says.

Snowboard.com went online a year ago last November, and at this time last April it already boasted more than 80,000 registered members. The community of users has swelled to more than 235,000 since, growing by 100,000 in the last four months.

At any given time there are between 2,000 and 3,000 users logged on to Snowboard.com, says Godwin. There are 16,000 visitors each day, or 500,000 a month, logging more than 6 million page views.

Every registered user can access more than 4,000 photos, 1,000 video clips and 70,000 pages of content. They upload and download between 800 and 900 Gigabytes of information every month.

Every user also gets their own personal Snowboard.com, Web-based e-mail address that can hold 2 Megabytes of information, the same amount of disk space given to Hotmail subscribers.

The Web site is expensive to run and administer, even with a $300,000 investment, but the site is making enough money through advertising to allow Godwin a few employees. The problem is that only a few of those advertisers are from the actual snowboard industry, which was kind of the whole point of the project.

Snowboard.com has carried ads from AT&T, Visa, Tony Hawk video games and various softdrink companies.

Whistler-Blackcomb has been very supportive of the site, and during the winter was a regular advertiser. Two small snowboard companies producing Oracle and XTC brands have also advertised, "and they were both happy with the response they got," says Godwin.

Most of the banner ads come from various ad networks who were eager to tap into the demographics of the Web site. The average age of registered members is 21.

"We get a lot of e-mails from Snowboard.com members that are frustrated by the fact that everybody but the snowboard industry is advertising on the site. They’re frustrated that snowboard companies don’t acknowledge the community," Godwin says.

For the record, so is he.

Snowboard.com has not just increased in size in the last year. Godwin has added an instant messaging component that allows users to talk to one another online, and to see which users in their "friends" group are currently logged onto the site.

The entire site use to be spread out, with different URLs for different departments, but now the entire site is under Snowboard.com.

It’s also faster and cleaner, with Godwin tightening the nuts and bolts of it until it ran like a well-oiled machine.

Users can post pictures, movies, stories, artwork and poetry to the site. They can connect with snowboarders at hundreds of resorts, arranging car pools and meeting riding partners so they can get the most out of their trips to the mountains.

There is a busy chat room, plus information on mountain resorts, travel, snowboard camps, tricks, catboarding and heliboarding. There are snowboard articles, classified ads, games, contests, polls, job listings, links to retailers and more.

There is also a new section that features interviews with pro riders.

While he’s received hundreds of offers for the domain name over the years, Godwin has turned them down. An avid snowboarder, from the beginning he had a good idea what kind of community he wanted to build, and what the site could offer to the public.

So far he’s surpassed all of his expectations in terms of membership, and he’s optimistic that the snowboarding industry will eventually find him.

"I’m going to continue to grow the site, making it better, and in the future I’d like to see the snowboard manufacturers acknowledge us. That’s probably the single biggest thing that I’d like to see happen. I’m sure a lot of my subscribers feel the same way."




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