Women vertical segments: Part 1 The Portals

The December figures from ComScore have been published pretty recently. One of the most sought after category across the Internet BtoC content publishers is the woman audience, which has gained +50% over the course of the last 15 months, from 72m UVs in October 2008 to 102m UVs in December 2008. In the meantime, the total audience on the internet only went from 182m to 191m UVs .

In the gigantic and much too broad ComScore “Women” category, you’ll find Men’s Vogue along with microscopic niche blogs aggregated by Glam, large portals, or gaming sites along with makeover tools and women’s health related sites. ComScore, answering to the repetitive complaints from the publishers about the category has recently decided to break it down into several smaller categories such as Fashion and Beauty, Women’s Services, Food, etc.

In this mess, everyone tries to exist and agitates its flags towards the ad agencies and the advertisers. Some of them are selling “vertical” networks with “targeted” audiences, while other are pushing their scale or relying on their offline assets to drive the growth of their properties.

Let’s take a look at the different actors and strategies:

Part 1 – The Portals

It’s obviously easy living for them (at least vs. the other actors) since they benefit largelly from their owners’ homepage promotion.

All of them are using the same strategy content-wise: aggregation of partners content against linkbacks and creation of original content through a small editorial team.

  • AOL Living:  managed by Stephanie Dolgins, the portal’s women segment has been very active throughout the year and launched several vertically focused sites. You’ll find PopEaters for celebrity content, Stylelist for fashion and beauty, Lemondrop for “edgy” / teen oriented content etc. The segment grew from 11.9m UVs in October 2007 to 20.6m UVs in December 2008. On these vertically oriented sites, you’ll find very little branding of the existing AOL brand except for AOL Health, Food and Home.

 

  • Yahoo! launched Yahoo! Shine early 2008. Headed by Brandon Holley, Shine is an horizontal site catering most of women needs through a format very close to the blog. The content aggregation is tentatively a little more edgy than the bulk of AOL sites (which is also supported through the inclusion of less “established” partners and small blogs). The site, through heavy promotion on the Yahoo! homepage, grew from 6.6m UVs in April 2008 at its launch to 13.3m UVs in December 2008.

 

  • MSN Lifestyle is also trying to grab the same market, mostly using the same strategies with a mix of aggregated content, mostly from established partners, and very little original content (probably the portal investing the less in original content).  The portal’s segment has been flat to declining over the last year (8.7m UVs in October 2007 vs. 7.8m UVs in December 2008). Following some of its competitors strategy, MSN launched a vertically focused site around food called Delish in partnership with Hearst. The publisher is providing 100% of the content as well as designing and powering the site whereas MSN is focused on promotion and ad sales. Delish is probably the first one out but, unless the portal changes strategy, it should be followed by additional sites to grab fashion, beauty, entertainment etc.

What’s striking is that all of the portals are focusing close to 100% of their strategies on content pure. You won’t find innovative tools and applications past the now spreadout makeover tool or the astrology iPhone app. Communities are only funneled through classical content comments and videos are also not very spread out on their sites.

Here’s the 15-month lookout from ComScore for all of these portals women subsites.

Part 2 will be on the Women Ad Networks… Stay tuned…

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