iVillage
63bb40e83d33d15f721064533681a4c4 400x400.png
Available in English
Owner NBCUniversal
(Comcast)
Created by Candice Carpenter, Nancy Evans, Robert Levitan, and Tina Sharkey
Website www.ivillage.com
Commercial Yes
Launched 1995; 22 years ago (1995)
Current status Defunct

iVillage, Inc. was a media company whose mission was to humanize cyberspace. It brought women on online, created a distinct community, brought blue chip advertisers online for the first time, created what is now called native advertising, used the power of the internet for social and political action, created early programming modules, made the virtual real and was an early ecommerce pioneer. The operation was not without controversy. A glance at the breadcrumb trail leading to articles would sometimes reveal the word "schmaltz" added by staff who were disdainful of the kind of articles directed at the site's core audience. Users who availed themselves of a free website service for small businesses discovered that keywords often led to competitors' ads showing on their home pages. Staff denied this for a long time before finally admitting they had lied.

iVillage is now owned by NBCUniversal. It was closed October 31, 2014, and now the iVillage domain redirects to Today's website.[1]

Contents

HistoryEdit

It all began with a name. In 1995, the company was established in New York City by Candice Carpenter (who became Candice Carpenter Olson in 2002 when she married Random House Chairman and CEO Peter Olson), along with co-founders Nancy Evans, and Robert Levitan They wanted a name that would act as a beacon of community and safety in the overwhelming landscape of the internet. After settling on Village, they added an "i" (this was before the iPhone came out in 2007) to signal that it was online. They also used a set of principals created by Robert M. Greenberg (CEO of R/GA Digital Studios) crafted around the letter "i" as a touchstone of influence:[2]

THE IMPORTANT OF THE LETTER "I"

Goal of New Media is to connect ideas with individuals.

This must be accomplished using the letter "i".

INDIVIDUALS -->

  • interesting (relevant)
  • intuitive (like telephone use)
  • immersive (suspension of disbelief, pull you in)
  • informative (personalized & well designed)
  • interactive (bi-directional, participatory)
  • integrated (multi-platform)

<-- IDEAS

When iVillage started, AOL was the primary gateway for the "normal" user. They convinced AOL to allow them to also create their sites on the web. Josh Bernoff, senior analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts stated "If AOL is funding something {iVillage} that's also available on the Web, that shows they realize people in the long term will want to get their information there [...] I haven't heard of any other [commercial services] who have worked so hard on this."[3]

Brought Women OnlineEdit

iVillage pioneered a revolution in humanizing cyberspace and bringing women online. In 1993, it was estimated that only 5 percent of the internet's users were women, but 5 years later the figure was nearly 50 percent.[4] They transitioned from tech for tech's sake to what tech could actually do. "'When we started iVillage, fun and games and surfing were key activities on the web,’ Nancy Evans, the editor in chief, explains in an open letter to her site’s visitors. ‘Today, using the Internet to help with real life has taken over the No. 1 spot. Not that we don’t like fun; but let’s face it, we women are practical.”[5] Evans was ahead of the curve, and Microsoft followed her lead, taking note of a market that was expected to grow from 45 million in 1999 to 65 million in 2002.[6]

In 1999, iVillage took out a full page add in the Wall Street Journal. It read "There's a Different Between Aggregating Web Sites and Building the Leading Brand." [7] In August of the same year, iVillage ranked #26 among all WWW properties; the #7 largest site in the News/Information/Entertainment category[8]

CommunityEdit

iVillage's first content site was "Parent Soup", a community channel on AOL. It hosted "450 scheduled chat sessions per week. 'We're the virtual 24-hour hotline and community center,’ says iVillage’s co-founder and president, Nancy Evans. And like many community centers, most of the success of Parent Soup is based on the close-knit relationships among its members. For Kathryn Simpson, a 33-year-old ‘stay at home’ parent in Port Orchard, Wash., the ability to chat ‘with someone who can talk in complete sentences,’ has been invaluable… Now, Simpson is training to become one of 520 ‘remote staffers’ – other ‘Soupers’ who volunteer to lead chat sessions and message boards.”[9] Soon other community channels followed:

"Click on iVillage's Relationships site, and you find links to Dating Dilemmas, Couples Clinic, How to Kiss Better, The Wedding Women, Ms. Demeanor and a chat session for the Ex-Wives Club. The site is called a ‘circle of help and support’ by its editor in chief Ms. Evans. ‘One iVillager tells how she reinvented herself after getting fired, and three of you, maybe a dozen, even a hundred get inspired,’ Ms. Evans writes in her open letter. ‘Another iVillager tells her story of getting over trying to be perfect – size 6, good hair days – and now she’s living, just living, happily. And we feel emboldened by her resolve.’"[10]

When compared to iVillage's main competitor at the time, Women.com, the numbers were astounding: iVillage had 1,344 boards compared to Women.com's 50; 2,800 posts per week on average on their pregnancy board compared to 20; and 322 weekly scheduled chats compared to 25.[11] "iVillage.com visitors spent 20.6 minutes per month, up 38% from July and 175% better than the nearest competitor."[12]

In 1996, Parent Soup was voted a 5-star website by Yahoo! Internet Life.[13] Even member testimonials were overwhelmingly positive:

"Let me begin by saying that iVillage has been my ‘inspiration’ to get off my hind-side and follow my dream of starting my own business. I’ve gotten tips and shortcuts to get myself going and putting my ideas to work. Mind you, I’m still in the ‘beginning’ of the whole process but iVillage is like an old friend giving me a nudge when I need it most."

— January 5, 1999, in the user testimonial database

Brought Blue Chip Advertisers Online for the First TimeEdit

iVillage pioneered online advertising as well. They sold annual channel sponsorship for $375,000 and content area sponsorship for $150,000. They even worked with marketers to develop custom graphic and content.[14] In 1996, Procter & Gamble finally began advertising online. However, “instead of compensating online companies for each consumer who sees a P&G ad, P&G will pay only when the online customer ‘clicks’ from that ad to one of P&G’s own Web sites [...] Even Procter relented on its pricing demands when it signed on to advertise with iVillage’s Parent Soup, a site directed at parents, and it’s exploring the possibilities of developing new content with iVillage.”[15] The first four sponsors on iVillage, which launched officially in January of 1996, were Polaroid, Nissan, Toyota and MGM.[16] Nissan, as a sponsor of the American Youth Soccer Organization, added to the Parent Soup community by offering soccer tips to kids, parents and coaches and even started a campaign on self-esteem for children.[17]

In 2000, iVillage gave the following Roadshow Presentation, solidifying themselves as the first to bring in multiple blue chip advertisers online with their model--now called "native advertising" (see right):

 
List of Blue Chip Advertisers for iVillage

Created What Is Now Called Native AdvertisingEdit

Additionally, iVillage pioneered "Bridge Sites" by "working with advertisers to set up complete companion web sites closely linked to Parent Soup. Take the one Parent Soup has with ParentsClub.com, a site for kids’ cough syrup Triaminic. This site has scads of parenting info, including child safety tips, and because it offers more than just info on Triaminic, ‘people feel we’re more credible,’ says Barry Cohen, senior brand manager for the cough medicine. ‘Traffic to our site has been enormous,’ Cohen says. For Parent Soup, such sponsorships work so well that 80% of its advertisers come back.”[18] In fall of 1999, Ford debuted a prototype car based on what the women of iVillage said they wanted. It was called MyVillager.[19]

Used the Power of the Internet for Political and Social ActionEdit

"Between cable TV {Lifetime} and the Internet, programming directed toward women has been an election player as never before. The impact, at this point, is anybody’s guess, but women voters visiting Internet sites are getting enormous amounts of information on where candidates – from presidential to local – stand on issues. By visiting Web sites and posting questions, women also have had unprecedented access to presidential candidates in the primaries and the general election.

“One of the most visited Internet sites for women, iVillage.com, features a candidate match {an interactive tool} in which visitors can list their top issues and find out which candidates agree with their positions. The issues most often searched in October were health care, taxes, education, abortion, the environment, the Internet, Social Security and Medicare. Candidates also appeared on “town meetings” hosted by the site, which is visited more than 8 million times a month.

“’We’ve had questions from real women, not from the pundits,’ says iVillage co-founder Nancy Evans. ‘That is very significant. They ask questions straight on. The thing I heard time and time again is, ‘Just answer the question.’ John McCain…answers the questions. They give him high points for that and speaking straight.’

“Women asked questions framed in anecdotes from their own experiences. ‘Real people own these stories and can tell them in a way that doesn’t seem fake,’ Evans says, but typically when the candidates repeat these stories they start talking policy. Women ‘respond to simple solution rather than big policy initiatives,’ she says. ‘Over time, this has got to change the way candidates talk.’"[20]

In 2000, Nancy Evans interviewed the Presidential candidates.[21]

On September 11, iVillage became a "national crisis center" by adding 10 new message boards devoted to the tragedy where people could share and sympathize. They even put up a message board called "Promoting Tolerance" when anger appeared on previous message boards.[22]

Early E-Commerce PioneerEdit

iVillage was an early partner with Amazon, affecting sales by linking book titles to the Amazon website. For example, Laurie Burrows (author of "Make it Easy, Make it Quick") jumped in her sales ranking from 230,000 to 130,000 after being listed as Cook of the Month on iVillage's Food channel.[23]

In 2002, iVillage launched a six-week online course called "Awaken Your Sexual Self" for $34.95 and 3,4000 women signed up.[24]

Digital Content InnovationEdit

iVillage eventually used "timed programming--regular content or features that appear at specific times every day or week [...] The site [would] also place the shows in a library area for users to download after they 'air'".[25] By March 2000, iVillage had over 100 three to five minute video and audio packages available on their site (now referred to as "broadband").[26]

Beginning in April 1999, Solutions from iVillage women was made into a monthly column in Redbook magazine. The first column to appear was 21 tips on how to drink 8 glasses of water a day.[27]

In 1998, DDB Worldwide (Needham) created our TV campaign.

About the FoundersEdit

Before founding iVillage, Nancy Evans and Candice Carpenter were both longtime media industry executives. Evans founded and published Family Life, a magazine developed to assist new parents with raising their children while Carpenter was President of Q2 (TV Show), a television retailing channel.[28] The actual outline for Parent Soup was written on a paper napkin.[29]

InvestorsEdit

By 1998, iVillage raised over 67 million dollars of financing from VCs and strategic partners.[30] NBC bought a stake in November that same year.[31]

AwardsEdit

  • People's Choice Award: Best Community, 1999 and 2002
  • Webby Award: Best Community, 2000 and 2002
  • Good Award (Advertising Women of New York): iVillage 30-second television commercial, 1998
  • Gracie Award (Alliance for Women in Media): 2000 (Inaugural Winner) and 2001

Television showEdit

iVillage Live was a TV show and webcast produced by NBC Universal. NBC commissioned a set at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.[32] In September 2007, production was moved to Chicago Illinois, and the show was retitled In the Loop with iVillage. The five original hosts were replaced by comedian Kim Coles; The Apprentice (US Season 1) winner Bill Rancic and The Apprentice (US Season 1) contestant Ereka Vetrini.[citation needed] After one final season, the show was officially canceled.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ http://digiday.com/publishers/ivillage/
  2. ^ Greenberg, Robert M. "The Content and Media Company of the Future"
  3. ^ Hodges, Jane. "AOL Backs iVillage People". Advertising Age. September 25, 1995.
  4. ^ Tierney, John. "Women Ease Into Mastery of Cyberspace". The New York Times. December 17th, 1998.
  5. ^ Tierney, John. "Women Ease Into Mastery of Cyberspace", The New York Times. December 17th, 1998.
  6. ^ Flynn, Laura J. "Microsoft Is Starting Web Site Aimed at Big Audience: Women". The New York Times. February 8, 1999.
  7. ^ Wall Street Journal. July 29, 1999.
  8. ^ Media Metrix in Internal Memo. August 1999.
  9. ^ Eng, Paul N. "A Coffee Klatch for Moms and Dads". Business Week. May 5, 1997.
  10. ^ Tierney, John. "Women Ease Into Mastery Of Cyberspace". The New York Times. December 17, 1998.
  11. ^ iVillage Internal Memo. July 6, 1999.
  12. ^ iVillage Internal Memo. September 21, 1999.
  13. ^ Full-Page Ad. Media Week. December 9, 1996,
  14. ^ Hodges, Jane. "AOL Backs iVillage People". Advertising Age. September 25, 1995.
  15. ^ Schiller, Zachary. "For More about Tide, Click Here: P&G is online, but the Web isn't crazy about the terms". Business Week. June 3, 1996.
  16. ^ Kuchinskas, Susan. "It's a Woman's Web". Adweek. September 7, 2998.
  17. ^ Hyams, Tor. "iVillage: A great place to visit!". Flatiron News. Holiday Issue 1996.
  18. ^ Multiple reporters and bureau reports. Cover Story: "Special Report: Internet Communities: Forget surfers. A new class of Netizen is settling right in". Business Week. May 5, 1997.
  19. ^ Internal Memo. September 30, 1999.
  20. ^ Mann, Judy. "New Media Pique Women's Political Interest". The Washington Post. November 3, 2000.
  21. ^ "Election Report: Fighting for the Family". Ladies Home Journal. November 2000.
  22. ^ Evans, Nancy. "Relying on the Web". NY Matrix. Fall 2001.
  23. ^ Burrows, Laurie. Internal email.
  24. ^ Rose, Devin. “The Other Side of Internet Sex: Beyond unsolicited porn, many women are finding answers to legitimate questions on the Web”. Chicago Tribune. March 20, 2002.
  25. ^ Hodges, Jane. "AOL Backs iVillage People". Advertising Age. September 25, 1995.
  26. ^ 2000 Roadshow Presentation. Internal document.
  27. ^ Editor's Letter. Redbook. April 1999.
  28. ^ Hyams, Tor. “iVillage: A Great Place to Visit! Flatiron Web queens Nancy Evans and Candice Carpenter are in a neighborhood all their own”. Flatiron News. Holiday Issue 1996.
  29. ^ Hyams, Tor. “iVillage: A Great Place to Visit! Flatiron Web queens Nancy Evans and Candice Carpenter are in a neighborhood all their own”. Flatiron News. Holiday Issue 1996.
  30. ^ Silicon Alley Reporter. December 1998.
  31. ^ Flynn, Laura J. "Microsoft Is Starting Web Site Aimed at Big Audience: Women”. The New York Times. February 8, 1999.
  32. ^ iVillage Live > The Making of iVillage Live > iVillage Live: The Show

External linksEdit