It’s time for another look at the womenfolk and what makes them tick, technologically speaking. We return to this topic often on The Guidewire, most recently when Ask.com decided to paint their search engine pink and call it targeted. Women are a lucrative yet elusive demographic and the entrants in this space always seem to launch with the same messaging: We’re different! Women are complicated! We get that! In the end, though, the sites all seem pretty much the same – horoscopes, fashion tips, and recipes packaged in a magazine-style format that continues to look dated in the face of current design trends.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Deborah Piscione, CEO and founder of BettyConfidential, a destination site targeted to women. I’d been contemplating my post about that site when the news broke yesterday of Yahoo’s foray into the space, Shine. (More on BettyConfidential momentarily.) Shine comes equipped with all the obligatory “We’re different!” messaging. According to their site, Shine wants “…to avoid all of the common categories that advertisers or marketers tend to put us in.” Great, I’m on board. But perhaps you could better achieve that by emblazoning your homepage with a headline other than, “Fancy lingerie you can actually afford.”
Shine… will cover parenting, sex and love, healthy living, food, career and money, entertainment, fashion, beauty, home life and astrology — pretty much everything we hate about women’s magazines.
This is really a key audience for Yahoo. We’ve been calling them ‘chief household officers’ internally.
This is the problem. You’re trying to recreate Good Housekeeping online. It will work for women who read Good Housekeeping. But it will not work for the rest of us. Most of the women I know don’t like women’s magazines. They’re fluffy, condescending, and poorly written . (Lip gloss reviews, anyone?) So the logical solution would be to build a site that strays as far from the magazine path as possible. Yahoo obviously doesn’t agree with this, as they’ve loaded Shine with content and advisors from Conde Nast and Hearts publications.
But let’s take a break from Yahoo’s forward thinking and look at BettyConfidential. This site is a little closer to the mark, recognizing that women navigate a variety of paths on a daily basis. BettyConfidential focuses on life stages – such as marriage, parenting, career and personal growth – and life threads, such as health and fitness and advocacy. I was overjoyed to see a prominent link to Election 2008 on the site; for some reason, women’s sites tend to forget we’ve been given the right to vote. Try and find a current-events link on Shine or iVillage. I dare you.
BettyConfidential has promise, if they can ignore conventional wisdom. It has a deep bench with its advisory board, which includes CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, former US ambassador Lisa Guillermin Gable and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women. I must disagree with another member of its board, though, who said that no matter who you are as a women, it’s all about relationships. That may very well be true in real-world, face-to-face communications but it’s not what I’m looking for in a Web site. I don’t complain about my husband to strangers, I don’t explore my female identity on message boards and I’m not particularly interested in reading about other people’s bad dates. What I would absolutely love to find is a site that targets women interested in life in general – politics, arts, sports, music and technology – and throws in some lively discussion to make things interesting. Heck, you can even give me a horoscope just for grins. But if I want to read about the latest swimsuits – well, I never will really. I’ll just go to J. Crew.com and order one.
It’s hard for me to put on an unbiased analyst hat for this issue, I admit. I take it personally and that’s bad business in analysis. But when you’re as immersed as I am in both technology and suburban mom-hood, it’s difficult to hear companies say they’ve got you figured out, only to find that they’re not even close. Someone will untie this Gordian knot someday and will make a billion dollars. BettyConfidential has the potential. Yahoo Shine does not.