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Economy brings an end JuicyCampus Web site

TAMPA — JuicyCampus.com, the notorious gossip Web site that tantalized, mortified and scandalized college campuses across the nation and in our own back yard, shut down Thursday.

Since its launch in the fall of 2007, JuicyCampus created forums for 500 schools, including the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, encouraging students to spill dirt about one another.

Common threads pondered such questions as, Who is gay? Who snorts coke? and Who has a sexually transmitted disease?

The site sparked fierce debates about freedom of speech on college campuses and was banned on a few. It survived accusations of libel, censorship attempts and investigations by state prosecutors.

The economy killed it.

"Unfortunately, even with great traffic and strong user loyalty, a business can't survive and grow without a steady stream of revenue to support it," wrote founder and chief executive Matt Ivester, a Duke grad, in an open letter.

Kevin Reilly, student government president at the University of Florida, summed up his feelings in two words Thursday: "Good riddance."

Concerned about suicide, stalking and sexual predators, Reilly wrote a letter last year to Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum, calling for an investigation.

Reilly said the students he spoke to Thursday were excited to see it go. So were student leaders at the University of South Florida.

Bob Brann, president of USF's Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, was faced with an all-out online war among the Greek community once JuicyCampus hit his school in the fall.

But interest in the site faded away, he said. "Just like any fad."

It was a wild ride for Ivester, who built a staff of 20, including a legal team, and contracted with a Beverly Hills public relations firm — just two years out of college.

According to JuicyCampus' blog, the staff "worked tirelessly the past few weeks to consider all possible options for keeping the site open."

On Monday, they made the decision.

"JuicyCampus' exponential growth outpaced our ability to muster the resources needed to survive this economic downturn," Ivester said.

A "Shutdown FAQ" on the blog emphasizes Ivester's argument that the site didn't shut down because of its content.

Ivester is moving on to consult with Los Angeles startups. JuicyCampus has no plans for a resurrection, the FAQ says, and poses a question:

Without JuicyCampus, where on earth will I get my fill of campus gossip?

The blog answers: It's back to basics word of mouth.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

>>Fast facts

On the Web

To read Matt Ivester's letter, visit juicycampus.blogspot.com.

Economy brings an end JuicyCampus Web site 02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 9:07pm]
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