New ‘Indie’ Entertainment Site Strives To Create Niche
A SITE THAT COMBINES E-COMMERCE, social networking, and word-of-mouth lead-generation launched to the general public on Tuesday. currently sells music CDs and movie DVDs, and soon plans to offer video games, digital downloads and books.

But in addition to offering those products, Fanista also promotes what a number of leading social networks, including Facebook and MySpace, are now trying to achieve: A community of consumers who base their relationships on similar buying habits.

What makes Fanista unique is its focused growth strategy. Members are offered financial incentives for recruiting other members.

Through its “Common Interest Commerce” rewards program, Fanista members can earn up to 10% commission of their friends’ purchases, along with insider perks and a form of “social status” for establishing themselves as tastemakers and experts when they share their opinions with the community.

“It’s an intriguing combo, and it sounds like an interesting word-of-mouth play,” says Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Online Strategic Services.

You’ll see more of these models going forward, and some of them will inevitably be shrouded in controversy,” Blackshaw added. “The trust factor is definitely at stake here,” he says.

Fanista CEO Dan Adler, an entertainment industry veteran, believes the site will fill a niche.

“We’re like those great old indie record or video stores where you could talk to a real person with a depth of knowledge and an ability to share their passion in very personal terms,” Adler says. “We all crave someone to help us navigate an information-overloaded world.”

Adler’s efforts are being backed by Alticor, the owner of the multi-level-marketing company Amway, which has invested millions of dollars in the new site.

“It’s definitely the old Amway model,” says Gartner analyst Andrew Frank. “There’s bound to be a mixed reaction because many people want to have their relationships to be free of commercial interests.”

Adler previously served as head of Creative Artists Agency’s New Media division during the boom. He also served as vice president of creative development for Walt Disney Imagineering.

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