LAS VEGAS -- There once was a time when it was popular to join fan clubs, giving members an opportunity to score a secret decoder ring, a prized autograph or a personalized newsletter.
Website designer Geoff Sanders of Las Vegas believes he and business partner Jonathan Nickle have hit on a concept that will not only revitalize fan clubs, but make them more popular than ever for both fans and the people who run the clubs.
Sanders and Nickle are co-founders of Fangible.com, a tech startup that plans by late summer to launch a free iPad app that will enable users to select a fan club they would like to join.
The idea represents a departure from popular social network website Facebook, where users are encouraged to "like" a celebrity, a brand or an organization and share that detail with friends.
"There's no monetary value to liking something on Facebook," Sanders said. "Facebook has more than 38 million active fan pages, but there's no way to monetize that."
Once the Fangible app launches, celebrities, brand-name companies, organizations and others could make money by signing up on the company's website to establish subscription-based clubs. Those who run the clubs could make money through monthly or annual subscriptions, though they would have the option to waive subscription fees.
Sanders, who works out of his Summerlin residence, said fans benefit because they could join a club in privacy without having to reveal to friends that they "like" a particular celebrity or brand.
"What we're trying to bring back are the classic mail order fan clubs that Facebook killed off," he said.
In addition to celebrities, brand names and organizations, Sanders said other Fangible categories will include authors, bands, bloggers, educational services and photographers. Anybody within reason will be allowed to establish a fan club as long as they're not breaking any laws, he said. Pornography is an example of material that won't be allowed but just about anything else will be accepted by Fangible.
"We're not going to mess with people's rights," Sanders said.
Geoff Sanders, co-founder of Fangible, discusses his start-up.
Fangible will allow access to the app for anyone 13 or older, though fan club organizers can require higher age limits to join based on the content they provide. The organizers are responsible for providing details on what fans will receive for their subscriptions and can also provide links to other websites.
Getting a percentage of subscription fees is one way Fangible intends to make money. Another way is to share revenue with fan club organizers from any advertisements that appear on Fangible's website. Fangible later this year also plans to launch a fee-based premium service for those interested in organizing large, elaborate fan clubs.
Sanders, a 27-year-old University of Texas dropout who moved to Las Vegas last year, is high on the future of the city as a place for startups such as his given the valley's experience in the entertainment industry and the way that industry embraces modern technology.
"There's a lot of room to grow here, and I'd like to be part of the framework that builds Las Vegas into a tech hub," he said.