A second chance for the dot-com economy?

The rebirth of Boo.com offers new hope to ailing Internet start-ups: Bankruptcy is now the smartest way to build your brand.

Published November 15, 2000 8:23PM (EST)

So Boo.com, the much-mocked, failed British clothing retail site, is back. But how the mighty have fallen -- the poster boy for unthinking dot-com excess has been reborn as a humble subsidiary of Fashionmall.com.

Ahead-of-the-curve public relations specialists should take note. Like other notorious new-economy blowouts such as DEN and BBQ.com, Boo become better known for flaming out than for anything the company ever did while alive.

In the 21st century, failure itself has become the bleeding-edge marketing strategy; bankruptcy is the ultimate branding event. But, in typical bumbling fashion, Boo missed out on the obvious opportunity presented by its high-profile 15 minutes in the cyber-sun. Boo should never have come back as a new version of its old stuff. In a world where brand recognition is all that counts, Boo should have completely remade itself -- perhaps as a Halloween products retailer, or a ghost portal.

But while it's too late for Boo, there's still time for other zombie dot-coms currently teetering on the brink of their own media holiday. Let's hope they learn from Boo's mistakes -- or from Salon's prognostications.

1. Amazon.com: Let's face it, the online retailing business is just too hard. After declaring bankruptcy, Amazon declares itself to be an "infrastructure company." Then the retailer sells off each segment of its superstore to a different competitor. After Amazon completely divests itself of itself, Jeff Bezos declares victory and retires.

2. Priceline.com: CEO Jay Walker parachutes out of the airline business -- and lands in Bogotá, Colombia, where he starts using his famous reverse-auction business model for drug retailing. "Price your own line" becomes the new motto. Spokes-dupe William Shatner is replaced by Vanilla Ice.

3. Napster: Shut down by well-funded music biz lawyers, Napster is reborn as a recipe-trading portal for grandparents, who also take canny advantage of its peer-to-peer network to share photos of their beloved offspring's offspring. GIFs only please.

4. eToys.com: Art conquers commerce. The retailer gives up on hawking Barbies and plastic assault rifles. Instead, the bankrupt purveyor of kiddie schlock is taken over by archrival etoy.com, the agitprop artists collective. Shares of the new corporation skyrocket.

5. Eve.com: The defunct cosmetics retailer returns with a more conventional business model: as a porn site themed around original sin. For an extra fee, you get your own private Garden of Eden.

6. TheStreet.com: Financial news? Who needs it, when you can have all the T&A of "Sex and the City" on your own TV show? Time for a joint merger with the sexy new TV show "The Street." Just the sale of the domain name alone for cross-merchandising promotional purposes should finally get the site into the black.

7. Wine.com: The purveyor of chardonnay and Bordeaux comes back as a new venture of the Betty Ford Clinic. With a core audience of winos, the site will seem like a perfect alcohol and drug treatment portal play, but will fail again because of lack of interest. No matter: Wine.com is a triple threat -- the third time around it will achieve success as a niche consumer-complaint site for the whiny and spelling-challenged.

8. Salon.com: After all the conditioner and gel jokes, the online literary zine/magazine/media company gives up on all topics but the obvious: hair.

What are your suggestions for the phoenixlike rebirth of beleaguered dot-coms? Send them to Salon and we'll publish some more.

By Salon Technology Staff

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