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March 31, 2008 4:17 PM

Wetpaint's Balco project surfaces on Mariners opening day

Posted by Brier Dudley

Wetpaint Chief Executive Ben Elowitz told me he'll have a big product announcement in a few months, but while we were talking at his office in Pioneer Square today, one of his potential customers was apparently talking to Michael Arrington.

TechCrunch reported that Wetpaint is showing potential customers a version of its wiki/community platform that can be embedded in their sites and hosted on their servers.

It sounds as if one of those partners blew their NDA and gave Arrington details and a screenshot of the product -- code-named "Balco" -- but Wetpaint probably won't mind since he was enthused and gave it a wet kiss.

It's funny, one of the things Ben and I discussed was how media companies in particular might like Wetpaint's turnkey community platform but would prefer to host it themselves. He has a good poker face, but I don't think he was being tricky -- he just wasn't ready to disclose the product.

What I'd like to know now is how Wetpaint will share ad revenue with sites that use Balco, assuming TechCrunch is accurate here. Under its current approach, Wetpaint hosts communities (marquee examples include sites for Fox and Showtime) and splits the revenue from its Google-powered ads.

Maybe that's why Wetpaint began testing an ad-free version of its service two weeks ago.

Other tidbits: Elowitz said Wetpaint is powering 800,000 wiki/community sites and adding 1,500 to 2,000 a day. It's also hiring six or seven more employees, adding to the 35 it has working above Salumi near King Street Station.

The company isn't profitable yet, but Elowitz said that's largely because the company is consciously trying to grow usage before revenue and making decisions like playing ads low on the page.

So far it hasn't seen any evidence of an advertising slowdown.

"No one's seeing it, but everyone's on guard for it,'' he said.

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