Tribe.net is being sold to NBC. The sale marks the official end of an era for a service that at one time was determined to bring Friendster-like social networking to the local level via various city "tribes" run by newspapers, which wanted to piggyback a Craigslist-like service on top of it.
Started by serial entrepreneur Mark Pincus (whom I have occasionally worked for), Tribe won funding from The Washington Post Co., Knight Ridder and The Mayfield Fund. The newspapers probably gave less than $1 million each. Their input resulted in Tribe experimenting with new placement for CareerBuilder recruitment ads. Knight Ridder was among the owners of CareerBuilder.
Playing around on the site at the time, one could see KR and Post executives filling out profiles and participating in a number of tribes … at least before they got bored. Knight Ridder Senior VP Hilary Schneider famously reported on her Bay Area knitting club and its power to drive users to specialized knitting shops at a Kelsey Group conference in San Jose a few years ago.
Ultimately, neither newspaper company ever managed to launch a local version of Tribe. The Post never really tried, and Knight Ridder, after an initial effort to integrate Tribe with classified systems in Philadelphia, simply gave up. In recent years, Pincus' role has shrunk and new executives have turned the site into a social gaming site, but without strong results.
According to reporting by Paid Content, NBC is likely to use the platform to power its own, iVillage-oriented social network. NBC, of course, would be well-positioned to establish its own local tribes — perhaps as a way to develop a classified business. That’s certainly a good growth area for television stations. But I wouldn't count on it.
Paid Content also reports that the sale price may have been around $50 million. If it was anywhere near that price, KR (now McClatchy) and The Post may have actually turned a profit on their failed experiment.