Social-networking site for opinion leaders to launch

Hotsoup.com, a social-networking site for opinion leaders, is scheduled to launch Thursday

A new social-networking Web site, aimed at "opinion leaders" in politics and other issues, will launch Thursday with a roster of members including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

Hotsoup.com aims to give an online voice to the millions of U.S. residents who keep up with the news and influence the opinions of their friends, family and coworkers. The founders of Hotsoup.com, including Internet entrepreneurs and Republican and Democratic consultants, hope the site will contain information that's "not filtered, not spun," said co-founder Ron Fournier, a former chief political reporter for the Associated Press.

The goal is to create smart, civil debate, said three of the site's co-founders during a preview Wednesday. "Americans are tired of yelling at their TV screens," said Allie Savarino, a Hotsoup co-founder who also helped start the Sisterwoman.com social-networking site. "They want a voice of their own, and they want someone to listen."

Hotsoup will include video- and text-based commentary from top political, entertainment and sports figures, and it will allow users to start their own discussions about issues important to them. Like other social-networking sites, Hotsoup also will allow users to create detailed profiles.

Hotsoup will also poll users for their opinions on issues and ask them how likely they are to tell friends about a particular debate they've participated in on the site.

The concept has drawn significant interest, even before the site's official launch. Since July, 22,000 people have preregistered for the site, Savarino said. Members include cyclist Lance Armstrong, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and politically active rock musician Jon Bon Jovi.

Hotsoup's founders said they hope the interaction between their opinion-leader members can influence public policy. "Our nation's public, business and religious leaders are realizing they need to listen and engage with this community," Savarino said.

Asked if they're concerned that the debate on Hotsoup will devolve into something less than civil, the co-founders said editor-in-chief Fournier will attempt to steer discussions that get off track, although they don't want to cut off debate.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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