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Home Features Top of the Week The Rise & Fall of the Soap Opera Capital of the World

The Rise & Fall of the Soap Opera Capital of the World

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The Inside the Bubble StoryDear Suds Buds,If you’re a frequent visitor to SoapCity, you know that the site has recently scaled way back in its offerings. As of March 31, SoapCity no longer covers AMC, GH, OLTL, B&B, or Passions.  The only shows they are now covering, are those for which they maintain “official” sites, namely Days of our Lives, Young and the Restless, As the World Turns and Guiding Light.  The download service, one they backed heavily in finances and promotion, was cancelled as of the same date. As I understand it, even the message board community will be scaled down, so that the only boards available will be for the soaps the site is continuing to cover.So, what happened to SoapCity?   Why this major scale back?   It’s not the first time SoapCity reanalyzed its business model and revamped its direction.  But now, the site is almost as barebones as it was way back in the late1990’s when it began.  Why has Sony, the studio that owns the site, cut off the bucks, laid off staff, and trimmed all the fat?  Is this a telling sign that soap fans just aren’t as enamored with their soaps to religiously frequent a site, or have the costs associated with a major web presence covering soaps not make sense any more for media giant like Sony?Let’s take a step back to about 1997 or 1998.   Sony had established websites for two soaps -- Days of our Lives, a soap they distributed, and Young and the Restless, a soap they partially own. The sites took off like gangbusters. TPTB at Sony decided they were on to something and wanted to create a web destination for all soaps.  I even interviewed for a job there.  I had just completed a gig as a content provider for America OnLine, promoting a Sony sitcom called Mad About You, starring Helen Hunt and Paul Rieser.  I also had experience promoting soap opera talent online, and have a Marketing MBA.  But the salary they offered was just too low. If I was going to do anything with soap operas, it was going to be my own business. So, I thanked them for the offer, but passed on the job.  Yet, I have always been interested in the development of SoapCity and its various permutations. Soon after my passing on a job there, they did staff up and ramp up their soap opera destination site.  They now covered all ten soaps.  It wasn’t long before they were approached by Soap Opera Digest (or did they approach SOD? Either way, the result is the same) to join forces. Digest had all the content, dating back 25 years, but a lackluster web presence. SOD was first affiliated with AOL.  After that contract expired, they created their own internet site which was online a year or two, then removed.  SoapCity was the cool new media place for soap fans.  There had to be a way for the two giants to work together.  Jason Bonderoff, once Managing Editor of Digest and at the time of the SOD/SoapCity possible partnership, Digest's Online Editor, was directly involved in the negotiations with SoapCity, which took over a year.  Then, just as the deal was ready to close, Primedia, the publishing company that owns Digest, got cold feet and pulled out.  Bonderoff was crushed.  After all that hard work, for it to just fizzle due to management whim was hard to take.  But Sony liked Bonderoff. And why wouldn’t they? He’s a soap opera mavin and a really great guy.  He assigned me my very first soap opera story. It never got published in Digest, but I was paid in full. He’s more than AOK in my book.  So, when the SOD/SoapCity deal fell through, Sony enticed Bonderoff to come to work for SoapCity. He would be the Editor-in-Chief.  He took the job, hired writer/producers, covered events, did exclusive interviews, culled from his long list of soap contacts to provide great content for the site. Sony then hired a GM for SoapCity, a woman whose name escapes me at the moment, but Bonderoff reported to her.  They went whole hog with an e-store, and I remember a press release where the GM was quoted as saying that the site was making most of its money from the e-store, not the advertising.  At one point, I ran into Bonderoff at a Super Soap Weekend in Disneyland here in CA.  I pitched him the idea of perhaps my freelancing for him as it would be a great way to cross promote Soapdom and SoapCity.  He was interested and we agreed to discuss it further.  He was working out of NY and coming to LA several times a month. We planned to meet for lunch during one of his LA trips.  Unfortunately, that lunch never materialized.  Shortly after our initial discussion, Sony decided that they were going to revamp the SoapCity site – again!  They were going to scale down on the editorial to really push the Download product.  It wasn’t long before Bonderoff was given his walking papers. I remember feeling really bad for him. Here, he left his long career at Digest behind to head things up at SoapCity, and boom, his tenure at SoapCity is cut short.  But he wasn’t the only one.  A number of producers, associate producers and marketing people were likewise let go during that purge.Meantime, SoapCity kept to its plan. They closed the e-store and the download product was the new great thing. They went overboard promoting it.  Many people signed up for it and loved it, but I guess, not enough people to make it financially feasible for them to sustain it. They seriously considered a subscription for editorial content, but didn’t think fans would pay.  After Sony invested mega bucks in developing applications to deliver the downloads, and in promoting it, the service just wasn’t paying off for them. It became too costly to maintain, and with the onset of TiVo, and the VCR being in most homes, having a download of that day’s episode really didn’t make much business sense anymore.  Now SoapCity is back to where it began. Streamlined to cover only a few soaps. And even the future of this latest SoapCity permutation is in question. Will SoapCity totally go the way of the dodo bird? Only time will tell.  The lesson here is that even a site that is backed by a huge company like Sony Studios has to make money to stay afloat.  If soap fans continue to demand top notch content for free, the future of all reputable sites remains uncertain. A site like Soapdom.com, which is a woman owned small business, doesn’t have the deep pockets of a major corporation behind it.  What will the future hold for us?  I believe that our members will come through with their all access subscriptions and by visiting the advertisers who help sponsor us, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.

Share Your Thoughts:

How have soaps impacted your life?  Do you have a fond memory to share about growing up with soaps?  Tell me on the Criticize the Critic Message Board.

Til the top of next week,

Linda Marshall-Smith
CEO, Soapdom, Inc.

What do YOU think?  Share your thoughts in the "Criticize the Critic" forum  on the Soapdom.com Message Boards


Share Your Thoughts:

How have soaps impacted your life?  Do you have a fond memory to share about growing up with soaps?  Tell me on the Criticize the Critic Message Board.

Til the top of next week,

Linda Marshall-Smith
CEO, Soapdom, Inc.

What do YOU think?  Share your thoughts in the "Criticize the Critic" forum  on the Soapdom.com Message Boards

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