Jason Feffer, one of the original team members who launched MySpace four years ago, has started a new social networking site, Sodahead.com, a hybrid of MySpace and the Gallup Poll.

The site builds "communities" based on a gamut of questions ranging from "Can anyone explain why young people wear pants below their pants?" and "What is your favorite Harry Potter medium?" to "Do you support embryonic stem cell research?"

"It's a user-generated poll," said Michael Glazer, co-founder and Feffer's friend since kindergarten. "We eventually want to become the opinion site of the Internet."

The site looks like a regulated chat room with a list of questions about the news, community and religion. Users get their own page with a profile and history of how they've answered other questions. Answers are both multiple-choice and open-ended.

The month-old site is fledgling but shows promise. It has about 100,000 registered users, $4.3 million in venture funds from Mohr Davidow Ventures and 20 employees at its Encino office.

The business model behind the site is streamlined contextual advertising.

Advertising against a hodge-podge of text on MySpace, for example, like, "Hey dude, what's up?" can be difficult, and certainly not as effective as "What do you think about the latest Lexus SUV?"

The users on the site range in age from 13 to 80 years of age, and include teens, stay-at-home moms, business executives and nuns. The content is vetted extensively by the Sodahead.com, its backers say, especially when a 13-year-old girl chimes in on a question about premarital sex and an older man answers. Comments are deleted if they become inappropriate.

Sodahead.com developed from an idea that Feffer tossed to Glazer over the phone on the San Diego (405) Freeway when he was stuck in traffic. Glazer, a sounding board for Feffer's incessant ideas since childhood, actually liked this one enough to leave his investment banking job. "It's exciting because it's an opportunity to change the way people use the Internet," Feffer said. "People are not looking for answers on the Internet. They're preaching. This is a great place where you can learn and hear from people from all walks of life."

Within Reach

Ever wondered why your local dentist doesn't advertise on Google?

It's because algorithms are complicated. Small businesses don't have the time, knowledge or resources to find customers online.

Enter Woodland Hills-based ReachLocal Inc., digital advertising company. They find customers online for local plastic surgeons, lawyers or certified public accountants by taking their advertising budget ranging from $100 to $1,000 and helping them spend it online.

ReachLocal's algorithms then run automated contextual advertising campaigns on Google, Yahoo, MSN and Verizon Superpages.

"We realized though that these doctors, plastic surgeons and lawyers don't care about clicks. What they care about is phone calls," said Zorik Gordon, the company's chief executive.

ReachLocal has a patent-pending technology that allows it to track how many phone calls were made through its online advertisement. When a potential customer clicks on the advertisement link, ReachLocal's server replaces the advertiser's phone number with its own, which then routes the call back to the advertiser. This allows the company to track how many phone calls were generated from the advertising campaign.

Last week, ReachLocal got an additional $55 million in venture funding, led by Rho Ventures. This brings the 4-year-old company's backing up to $67.9 million.

Zorik said the company will expand aggressively and hopes to open an office in major cities across the nation.

The company has 300 employees, including 50 in LA, and has conducted 100,000 advertising campaigns so far.

Toolbar Giving

L.A.-based Give2Network believes that it has come up with a way to funnel a portion of Yahoo's billion dollar advertising revenue to schools and non-profit organizations.

It can do this by a free, downloadable toolbar powered by Yahoo that generates money for schools and non-profits whenever it is used for Internet searches or online shopping. The toolbar is available at www.Give2Network.com.

Give2Network estimates that each search or purchase can earn between a few cents and several dollars for a designated organization. About 500 users searching the Internet a couple of times a day and making minimal online purchases could add up to about $12,000 a year.

"It's about redirecting corporate dollars and giving people the power to redistribute the money the way they want to," said Candace Ng, co-founder of the company, in a news release.

Non-profit organizations and schools apply online at Give2Network.com to be eligible for the funds.

Staff reporter Booyeon Lee can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 230, or at blee@labusinessjournal.com .

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