For people who wake up after a late night of drinking at their favorite bar and are unable to recall exactly what happened, NiiTES.com can help.
The Web site specializes in documenting San Luis Obispo’s bustling nightlife. Those who frequent the local bar or club scene have probably already been approached by one of NiiTES.com’s “photo angels.”
These angels, usually attractive young ladies traveling in pairs, are actually employees who scour the bar scene looking for people having a good time. With permission, the angels take a photo of the bar patrons and post it on NiiTES.com the next day, completely free of charge.
The idea is that people visit NiiTES.com to see their pictures. This generates page views for the Web site, which in turn allows them to sell advertising to local businesses. The plan has worked surprisingly well, with NiiTES.com receiving more than 90,000 hits during its first month of operation, and that number is increasing each month.
“We’re blown away with how rapidly successful NiiTES.com has become,” said Dustin Ryen, CEO and one of four partners who own the site. “Last month, we had 120,000 hits, and we’re on track to beat that record.”
Inspired by similar Web sites in Sacramento, Ryen and his girlfriend, Cal Poly history senior Rachael Jones, brought the idea to San Luis Obispo.
“We thought it looked like a good business model for a small college town,” Ryen said. “There are always plenty of people out and about, and we thought it would be easy to get our foot into the market.”
Jones, who is also a co-owner, has been with NiiTES.com since its official launch last New Year’s Eve. When not tending to the business or attending classes, she can be found at the bars as a photo angel.
“At first it was hard because people thought we worked for ‘Girls Gone Wild’ or some Internet porn site, or that we would charge them $50 for their picture once it was taken,” recalls Jones. “But now people usually know who we are and what we do.”
Even so, photo angels are typically females who work in tandem, since experience has proven that both men and women respond better to having a female take their pictures.
“People don’t usually respond as well to the guys, even though they’re always polite,” Jones said. “When a guy asks if he can take your picture for a Web site, it can be kinda sketchy.”
Cal Poly art and design senior Noelle Luchino encountered a photo angel last St. Patrick’s Day at McCarthy’s Irish Pub.
“It’s definitely fun getting my picture taken by a total stranger with a big camera. It felt like I was in Hollywood,” Luchino said.
Aside from taking pictures of bar patrons, NiiTES.com promotes local arts and entertainment. This element is still expanding, and Ryen and his partners hope to incorporate a greek life and social-networking component into the Web site as well. The ultimate goal is to establish NiiTES.com Web sites in similar college towns throughout California, allowing for national advertising sales.
One important part of NiiTES.com’s business is promoting responsible drinking. The Web site provides free advertising to Cal Poly’s “Smart Students Smart Choices” program, with banner ads found next to every photograph. Also, it’s their strict policy not to photograph patrons who look like they’ve had one too many.
Most of the time, people love having their picture taken. Occasionally though, some decline the opportunity, especially when they’re drinking on the down-low.
“Sometimes we’ll ask guys to take their picture, and they’ll explain that their wife or girlfriend doesn’t know they’re out drinking,” Jones said, laughing. “But usually it’s a blast. People love to get their picture taken, and we meet all kinds of new faces.”