So of course Neuman started a BBS: This Note's For You at (908)505-8420 in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Founded in 1991, the WildCat! system is simple, well focused and populated with over 2,000 registered users. Naturally, musical topics dominate the forums, but there are also forums for discussions of cars and motorcycles, computer hardware and software, pets, world issues, Star Trek, collectibles and hobbies. The common denominator: these are topics that people tend to be fanatical about, leading to spirited and prolific discussions.
Neuman takes a straightforward approach to creating an online market for music: just post your want-list in the "Music Wanted" forum and your for-sale list in the "Music for Sale" forum. Neuman says it takes users a lot less connect time to upload a message and give it a pertinent subject than it does to fill out database fields. He publishes a catalog of over 8,000 albums in a set of text files bundled with a freeware viewer program; just download SNOOP094.EXE to see what's currently available. Prices range from $4 to $30 per album plus postage.
Revenues come from subscriptions as well as record sales. TNFY provides limited access to all callers, facilitating the core music market message forums. Full access costs $20 per year and a six-month subscription sells for $12.
This Note's For You is a solid, classic specialty BBS. It's not trying to be the biggest file library, phone line hunt group or collection of unrelated message forums in the world. Its 2,000-plus fans share just two phone lines. It does not offer Internet anything. But TNFY has the most important ingredient of all going for its success - a sysop who's fanatical about his theme, attendant to his customers and "always hustling" to please them, as Neuman puts it. That's a more likely profit strategy than throwing up a 64-line megamall and then trying to build a business. If you get an online business "right" while it's still small, there's every likelihood that it will stay right as it grows.
Neuman has a "real job" selling cars at Richard's Auto City - and running their Autoboard BBS at (908)462-0013 (see our July 1995 issue). General manager Barry Lamb recently turned Neuman loose with a mandate to put Autoboard on the World Wide Web. Neuman says he hasn't a clue where to begin, but he's looking forward to the challenge.