CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: PRIVATE SURF WITH PATRICK SEMPLE
By PATRICK SEMPLE, creative director of Ba, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 December 1999 12:00AM
Trillion. It’s a real boy’s-toy of a word - a billion K - it’s also the number of US dollars that IDC predicts the internet economy will be worth by 2001. Which is doubtless why everyone’s looking to carve a slice of that sticky-portal pie and may explain the recent surge of interest in sites that offer community and e-commerce to women on the web.
Trillion. It’s a real boy’s-toy of a word - a billion K - it’s also
the number of US dollars that IDC predicts the internet economy will be
worth by 2001. Which is doubtless why everyone’s looking to carve a
slice of that sticky-portal pie and may explain the recent surge of
interest in sites that offer community and e-commerce to women on the
But it’s not just the new-media start-ups. Associated New Media and
Hollinger Digital/Boots are already there and Emap and Express
Newspapers are set to join the fray in spring 2000. Can it be that we
live in such an equal society that the big media companies have only
just remembered their oldest and biggest audience? Or is it that
everybody thought the web was for men?
I found a document in the office with the title ’women on the web’,
inside which was the marvellous phrase: ’Women use it, while men play
with it.’ The point being that women aren’t that interested in the games
so much as the content, tend to interact with each other and,
apparently, quite like shopping (on the whole). But there’s the rub -
’Women’ is a very large group and aiming to be the site for women they
are almost guaranteed to fall short of the mark.
Freeserve’s i-circle is less of a magazine than a marketing
Its design takes low bandwidth simplicity to new levels of dullness and
its content (with the exception in part of babyworld) still reads like
the rush before launch, or should that be lunch.
Speaking of which, Charlotte Street, by contrast, has professional
journalism written all over it. It’s updated every day across 20
different channels and gives immediate access to bulletin boards and
chatrooms that actually have something going on. I wonder if this has
something to do with its older audience - 55-year-olds may have more to
say and more time to say it. However, the most ’designed’ of the bunch
is also perhaps the most self-conscious - Flash gives really small file
sizes but I wonder if it’s the best software for a pleasurable read, and
I do hate unnecessary secondary windows.
I asked my partner whether she thought handbag.com would replace the
printed magazine and, to my surprise, she said yes straightaway. For
her, immediacy and dialogue online far outweigh in-the-bath-readability.
For me it’s a damn good place for Christmas present ideas. The site
design is very simple and verging on no-nonsense, but manages it with
confidence and style - and reads like someone enjoyed writing it.
I asked a colleague at work the same question but she disagreed. She
said: ’From the pre-sell I expected an iron fist in a Gucci glove, but I
got the usual something designed by men.’ Perhaps that’s why I liked
Quite tricky, this being-a-man-in-a-woman’s-world thing. I wanted to
like everywoman.co.uk but found it quite difficult. It has all the
hallmarks of an idea stumbled upon by two ’real people’ who end up
making it a reality.
It has some nice stuff in it - the ’barter board’ for instance - but has
a bit of a personality disorder. Split into ’woman@home’ and the
slightly uncomfortable ’woman@business’, it has all the same channels as
the others but somehow creates a very ’worthy’ and earnest atmosphere
(nothing to do with having the Guardian Unlimited as a content partner
For example, I hit ’health and fitness’ and was met by a banner-ad that
read: ’Don’t miss this - scalp psoriasis’, which accompanied a feature
entitled: ’Stay safe - at home.’ Having said that, its ’what’s-on’
search engine was remarkably good.
It’s just about site personality, which is about who you’d prefer to sit
down and have a chat with: someone who’s inspiring and interested in
you, or someone who’s made all sorts of assumptions about you and won’t
shut up. ivillage.com is a bit like everywoman.co.uk only a trillion
times larger and a trillion times more American. Despite being way
outside its target market I quite liked the site - it has a maturity of
delivery and a calm confidence that reflects the state of the US market.
But it’s like American TV - channel-hopping becomes more amusing than
staying with the programme. Content matters.
Brief: Be the largest online community for women, providing a friendly
supportive environment in which women can get up-to-date information and
Created by: in-house
Brief: Most useful site online for British women
Created by: Carlo Tartaglia
Client: Associated New Media
Brief: Where women meet on the web
Created by: in-house
Brief: Be the number one female community website for women in the UK,
specifically those in small/medium busineses
Created by: Red Fuse
Brief Organise into brand communities a US women’s network targeting 25-
to 54- year-olds
Created by: in-house
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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