Drinking the Kool-Aid, er Whiskey

Shelby Bonnie may have left online media company CNET on less-than-ideal terms, but he apparently still believes strongly in its business model.

According to a source, Whiskey Media, Bonnie’s new Sausalito-based company, will be trotting out a number of CNET-esque vertical content sites, mostly focused on dudes aged 18 to 30. The company’s first “destination” was PoliticalBase.com, an online political forum where, Wikipedia-like, users modify content and contribute material. More recently, Whiskey took the wraps off ComicVine, a “social encyclopedia” for comic book nerds to which, like Politcalbase.com, anyone can contribute or edit content.

The sites are for true junkies. Politicalbase lets users create comparison charts and correlate data among seemingly endless other things. Meanwhile, type “Batman” into ComicVine’s search engine and up pop more data fields, which you can use research pretty much everything about the alter-ego of billionaire Bruce Wayne, from his bat gear to every last cartoon and piece of literature that explores his sexual orientation.) On deck are an anime site and a video game site.

Whiskey Media, formed by Bonnie and four other former CNETers — Mike Tatum, Andy McCurdy, Dave, Snider, and Ethan Lance — are building their growing company atop an open-source platform called Django, a programming tool that lets you build robust Web sites on the cheap — like, $400K cheap. (Django, named after the renown jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, was developed at World Online, the Web department of the Lawrence Journal-World, a small newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas.)

Whether it takes off remains to be seen. There’s no shortage of online properties catering to young guys, from collegehumor.com to Giant Realm. Still, it’s nice to see Bonnie back at it, after a hell ride at CNET, which he led for six years before resigning in 2006, after a special committee blamed him part for backdating stock options from 1996 through 2003.

Even Cnet founder Halsey Minor calls what happened to Bonnie — who Minor calls “the most honest guy I know” — unfair. In a recent meeting I had with Minor for a magazine piece, he said that “I never saw any of that [compensation] stuff, though some of it did happen while I was CEO. It was all between the CEO and the comp committee. I think the mistake was they switched the way I did compensation and the board passed it to Shelby after I left. So his name was on the documents.

But I’ve gotta tell you, if during that time, someone had said, ‘let’s set it at this date so an employee gets more,’ I would have said yes, because I didn’t know. Who did? My god, we were all competing for employees.”