Today, Peter Rojas and Ryan Block – the masterminds behind Engadget and Gizmodo – launched gdgt, “a place for you to engage with your devices and hang out with people who are as passionate about their gear as you are.”
gdgt appears to be a church for gadget geeks, so it’s no wonder why the site came to a halt due to traffic shortly after its launch this morning. As proven by the success of their previous personal technology news sites, the gadget audience is lively and loyal.
Rojas and Block are going back to the well with gdgt, and this time they’re connecting the dots between gadget news and reviews, community and social media. Unlike Engadget and Gizmodo, where readers are limited to commenting on news posts, gdgt lets readers create their own identities around the gadgets they own, have owned or would like to own. The profile qualities play perfectly to early adopters of gadgets who already consider themselves to be defined by their gadgets.
On Engadget and Gizmodo, enthusiastic users often write their own reviews and impressions as comments on product review posts. Often these additional reviews offer as much substance as the original reviews. On gdgt, everyone can be a Scrooge and visit their ghosts of personal technology past, present and future through a gadget search database and share reviews. This more glorified reviews section gives the amateur reviewers more legitimate voices and without the constraints and limitations of comment forms. gdgt populated some of the newest product pages with recent reviews from the Mossbergs and Pogues of the personal technology world, but it’s difficult to tell if this was just an early tactic to populate content for the site or if gdgt will also service product review aggregation. For those pressing conversations outside gadgets (if that’s possible), gdgt also hosts discussion boards.
In the spirit of social media, gdgt provides a plethora of widgets so that you can proudly display your gdgt profile anywhere you can embed html, with automated links for blog publishing sites like Blogger and Live Spaces (No widget for WordPress yet.) Of course, this is also a wise move by gdgt to provide symbiotic mechanisms for promotion.
To connect the community, Rojas and Block took a page from Twitter’s book. If you like a gdgt member’s review or personal list of gdgts, you can follow them. If they follow you, you’re friends. You can send your friends messages. All too familiar, right?
I can see how gdgt is set up for success, and so long as Rojas and Block steer the ship, success is likely. Manufacturers of gadgets lust after the attractive community of early adopters who will likely flock to gdgt. As the community grows and rates devices, those ratings will begin to impact sales. And thus advertising sales will likely climb. I immediately saw an attractive ad on the site to buy a Blackberry Storm as I looked at the iPhone 3Gs review.
gdgt’s biggest challenge is the same that Vista faced: Are the changes enough to make people want to upgrade? Gizmodo and Engadget are dominant blogs with loyal, energized fanbases. According to the 80-20 rule or 90-9-1 rule, or whatever other Internet audience rule you want to apply, not everyone wants to participate – most just want to read. Unless gdgt employs the constant news stream that Gizmodo and Endgadet supply, gdgt may be too passive a site to garner the same traffic as its older brothers. New gadgets don’t come out as frequently as gadget leaks, which drive the nearly constant news cycles that keep Engadget and Gizmodo readers engaged.
I don’t think gdgt intends to compete with Gizmodo or Engadget because it serves more as a reviews repository and community than a news stream. But if Rojas and Block intend to see the same success in gdgt, their big bet is growing the community and growing it big.