by Victoria Ludwin
The Sisters are Doing What?
These days you can't get online without running into one of the million women's Internet networks. They're bursting with content, but the articles are all about the same: mommie news, health and beauty, horoscopes, finance, careers, recipes and the ever-present Relationships. The content is doled out in quick blips and big pictures, usually low on depth and high on chat areas. They're comprehensive in topic but surface-skimming for the most part. Some might even question whether the meager content is even a little pandering. Considering all the information up on the Internet, why would women want a quick byte of information coupled with pretty gifs and a chat room?
It could be because that's exactly what women's print magazines have always offered up. The content online isn't necessarily pandering because it seems to be about par with the incredible spread of women's magazines offered in the print world. Hi gloss, low text is what people are expecting in women's magazines, and more importantly, it leaves lots of room for advertising. Across the board, from the seven sisters (Good Housekeeping' McCall's' Better Homes and Gardens, etc.) to the fashiony types (Vogue, Marie- Claire, Cosmo, et. al) are stuffed with ads in between articles. It's no surprise their online counterparts follow suit.
Now perhaps I'm being naive, but I'm somewhat safely assuming that the demographics may alter when changing media. The women's magazines, built to serve Middle America and its demographics: HHI in the forty thousands' some college education, most working some of the time. These women readers fall on the conservative side and usually have children. From these small bits of information, we can imagine what sort of content these women would want: mommie news, health and beauty, relationships, a little career, a little finance, recipes, hmmm, most of what these online women's magazines are offering as well.
This is hardly a demographic portrait of your average online woman. She happens to almost always have a college degree, a career or at least a full-time job, technologically savvy, making good money, an urbanite, and often sans kids. I can hardly imagine that this woman is looking for the same sort of content online that your Middle American mommies are looking for. We're looking at completely different lifestyles here. Different interests.
Women turn to the glossies when they need to kill time waiting
for a plane/salon appointment/the end of soccer practice. Flipping
through fashion ads or Jello coupons is diversion, reading up on
famous people's romances is escape. In these windows of time,
women are looking to be mentally distracted, they're not hoping to
delve into a valuable article on how to refinance their home.
It's true that women are taking to the Internet in force and largely the new adopters are your average American woman, whereas the demographic portrait I've painted of the online-already woman is largely of an early adopter. If the only content available specifically for women is what's been lifted from the glossies and re- arranged online' this means most of the women's content serves only one' albeit large' demographic section: the same audience reading the same content in print. Which means that most likely early adopters are not finding woman-focused sites that were created with them in mind. The women on the Internet who DON'T read women's magazines, who are looking for smart, witty, urban content, are thus left hanging.
The Internet has always served as the medium to broadcast any message to any audience' no matter how targeted. If you take a look at About.com you'll see communities for hobbies you've never even heard of. There's content bursting at the seams for these people. You would think that would mean there would be tons of sites for Internet-savvy urbanite women as well. But here's the difference. Falling into a demographic does not necessarily make you want to speak to others 'like you' nor does it necessarily indicate what sort of specific content you might be interested in reading on the Internet. It's very difficult for magazines' especially those online' to survive on lifestyle promotion as a source of content. People don't go to the Internet for lifestyle. They go for information. Information-based sites do extremely well online. Enthusiasts will never be alone on the Internet. But demographics alone as a draw for content is a little shaky.
With the exception of health and sexuality, information is not gender-based. I don't see why news on mutual funds should be any different for men than women. I don't see how the particulars of buying a home would be different for men than women. As a non-reader of women's print magazines, I'm not sure what an online women's magazine could offer me content-wise that I couldn't find somewhere else (I don't chat, either). I'm more concerned with the quality of the content than whether it's been written for my gender.
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