iVillage?

Describing itself as a “web based media company dedicated to serving the needs of adult women through online communities and various content areas,” iVillage Inc. has undoubtedly lived up to its slogan as the daily destination for women. Currently owned by NBCUniversal, the viral community focuses on a wide range of female oriented topics including: Astrology, Babies, Beauty, Books, Computing, Diet & Fitness, Health, Home & Garden, Love & Relationships, Money & Finance, News & Issues, Parenting, Shopping, and Work. In addition to its flagship portal, iVillage also includes several additional business and brand extensions such as iVillageUK, Astrology.com, GardenWeb, NBC Digital Health Network, and BlogHer– a participatory online news and entertainment network for women. By joining iVillage.com, members gain access to certain features like email, instant messaging, and personal home pages. Because of the immense amount of traffic the site receives on a daily basis, it has become the digital world’s largest and most successful content-driven community for women. Along with co-founders Nancy Evans (Family Life) and Robert Levitan (YearLook Enterprises), iVillage was established in 1995 by early America Online veteran Candice Carpenter. A graduate of both Stanford and Harvard Universities, Carpenter was well known for being a visionary genius, and although she initially knew next to nothing about computers or the nascent Internet, the former Q2 president understood quite early on that virtual communities were the future of the Internet. As a digital native, Carpenter once admitted to Crain’s New York Business that she was, in fact, “technophobic.” However, she managed to immediately grasp all the possibilities inherent in online culture, and with a uniquely modern insight, she found a wealth of common-interest communities beneath the surface of AOL even prior to her creation of iVillage. The branded media firm that came from the three-person business team was based on slogans like “Internet for the rest of us” & “Humanize Cyberspace.” At its core, the company would consist of a variety of communities that were thought of as a sort of virtual village greens where many could gather– An “i” was added later on simply because it was the popular Internet prefix choice at the time. Currently, Jodi Kahn reigns as president of iVillage Networks with Angela Matsuik serving as Chief Content Executive. Though starting out as a group of general communities focused on women, iVillage swerved drastically into being a pure media orientation and e-commerce in the latter part of the nineties and early 2000s. Fortunately, NBCUniversal’s 2006 acquisition of the then-troubled company led them out of an almost bankruptcy, and the $600 million deal proved to be an important step forward for the website. Because television advertising was the preferred way to reach the mass of untapped mainstream users, the swap of services between the two companies was likely to draw even more women to all iVillage sites. The deal, as expected, brought in the masses, and as of today, the site has a 3-month Alexa traffic rank of 2,776– an average of 2.1 unique pages are viewed each day by visitors, with approximately 62% of visitors surfing from the United States– where it has attained a traffic rank of 896. Visitors are, of course, overwhelmingly women and compared to the rest of the internet population, the site seems to be a powerful magnet to high income, well-educated women– a market segment many advertisers consider very difficult to reach. Because the site draws in more women than any other web site, the company has, unsurprisingly, caught the interest of many advertisers. Thus, the lion’s share of iVillage’s revenues are derived from an eclectic mix of advertising, e-retailing, and sponsorships. Although vast and influential, the site, unfortunately, seems to pull in a rather undiverse minority audience, and in the end, the web community derives mostly of middle-aged and middle-class women browsing from the comforts of their homes. In comparison to emerging and more cutting-edge sites like principal competitors GlamMedia and Jezebel.com, most of the content on iVillage.com caters disproportionately and rather specifically towards Caucasian women already in the prime of their lives. Despite its lack of audience diversity, the site definitely blends a more-than-extensive amount of both expert opinions and special interest topics that would undoubtedly be attractive to the intended audience. iVillage.com offers a rare sort of cyber retreat for the female web surfer, and provides not only a variety of forums and online chats on topics of interest to parents, but also, articles and advice on today’s most pressing topics and issues. Along with numerous interactive surveys, quizzes, and polls, the site blends the community features of message boards and blogs in all of its content areas to provide women with a truly topically-diverse ‘one-stop shop’ where all of their problems can somehow be touched on. Furthermore, the highly informative site presents a simplistic, yet engaging design layout that proves to be rather easy-to-navigate. The site ultimately triumphs in providing all its visitors with a relaxing and hassle-free viral experience. Along with its mass media incorporation of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, iVillage.com also provides smooth access to its sister sites– Astrology.com, GardenWeb, Momtourage, Petside– as well as various other NBCUniversal subsidiaries such as Access Hollywood, Bravo, Oxygen, and USA Network. Against its stark white background, the boldly marked menu-bars take web-surfers very quickly to their intended destinations, and with a cornucopia of contests, coupons, entertaining videos, and free giveaways, the site adds a fun twist to its already innovative and expressive display. Several months ago, iVillage.com added to its already extensive blog catalog, a new editorial package known exclusively as CelebVillage—An iVillage Star Blog. The recent addition features a variety of self-penned stories and words of wisdom from many of today’s most well-known celebrities. From Felicity Huffman on ‘Family Dinner Bonding’ or Katherine Heigl on why ‘Marriage Isn’t Easy, But It’s Worth It’ to Alanis Morissette on not ‘Anticipating the Challenge of Postpartum’ and Denise Richards on ‘Positive Body Image,’ the highly anticipated series provides readers with further inspiration and support in all aspects of life, womanhood, and motherhood. Along with the original site content, these new personal stories and photographs are also integrated with daily hot topics. Members, in addition, have the ability to instantly join any conversation, and this increase in user engagement also facilitates a distinctly profound connection among peers. It can easily be said that iVillage.com is, without a doubt, the very first of its kind—a dynamic media company dedicated exclusively to connecting women at every stage of their lives. As stressed by Lauren Zalanick, president of the NBC division that oversees iVillage, the site (and NBCUniversal) have hopes to leverage “a community feel from the message boards, elevate the experience” and at the same time, making it even “more attractive to both potential members and advertisers.” Interestingly, with the aid of HUGE Inc., the entire website went through a complete remodeling and transformation after the NBC acquisition, and the new and improved iVillage continues to embody the personal experiences of women everywhere. The site carries a capability of serving original content in a vibrant modern aesthetic, and with its recent makeover, it caters endlessly to the busy iVillager’s life while still managing to elevate her sense of community. As stated, navigation of the site is fairly simple, and along with easy access to the separate yet linked-in special interest sites within the iVillage Network, the site continues to increase its traffic flow by emphasizing on this community-driven focus. Astoundingly, even after almost two decades, Carpenter’s original digital strategy seems to still be implemented in all aspects of the iVillage site. Despite numerous management shake-ups and an almost bankruptcy, it is rather intriguing to see that even the extraordinary creation of a former technophobe can carve itself, a rightful place as the world’s most active community for women— In this day and age, iVillage continues to shape the way women use the web, and it seems quite clear that the site (and Carpenter’s initial concepts) will maintain a truly passionate and very loyal audience base.

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