It's a boom time for blogs and similar websites catering to the shopping, networking and shoulder-crying needs of the big-spending modern mom. Good news for marketers looking to tap into this market-yet worried about the usual pitfalls of blogger involvement (bad design, worse writing)-is that the creators of some of the more popular sites are (or were) agency creative directors, advertising lawyers and women's-content developers for major media conglomerates. And those women, many of them new moms themselves, are delivering loyal mothers eager for shopping tips and product picks.
Unlike corporate sites such as iVillage or BabyCenter, "The mom webmaster overdelivers in impressions and marketing because a big brand has valued what she's doing, and her readers support her and respond better to those ads and content," said Maria Bailey, CEO of mom-targeted marketing firm BSM Media and author of "Trillion-Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers." Ms. Bailey noted that major marketers have been slow to sign on to these smaller sites that, while offering fewer eyeballs than large online networks, have something far harder to come by: intimate online relationships with moms.
"Moms are the ultimate internet networkers," said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer.com. "They seek out other moms' advice for what they're looking for." All of today's e-media buzz words, from Web 2.0 to blogging to user-generated content, are "right down the alley of today's moms." Ms. Williamson's recent report, "Mom's Online: Parenting With Web 2.0," found that in 2005, 32.2 million internet users-or 18.4% of U.S. internet users-were females with children under 18 in the house, a number that is predicted to rise to 36.6 million by 2010. And mommy-blog readers are a marketer's dream: Blog-ad firm Blogads in March reported that the average consumer of such content is a 29-year-old female with annual income of $70,000 who taps in to five blogs a day and spends four hours a week on them.
BlogHer, an aggregator for women's blogs, counts more than 400 mother/family blogs and, by all accounts, that's a wholly conservative number as Modern Mom, Mommy Track'd and Cool Mom Picks are joined by countless others looking to cash in on moms. Technorati links to more than 1,000 blogs tagged parenting.
Michelle Madhok left her position as director-editorial products for women at AOL in 2004 to launch SheFinds, a site dedicated to women's style and fashion advice that she extended last April to cater more to moms with a separate site, SheFindsMom. Though she garners a mere 4,000 visitors a day to SheFindsMom-a far cry from AOL's 112 million unique visitors a month-she charges far less and offers far more. For cost per thousand of just $80, Ms. Madhok offers marketers customized, dedicated e-mails to her database of newsletter subscribers and offers sponsorships of shopping guides for products including underwear and Uggs. Through such sponsorships, Ms. Madhok said, she has helped "build the trust factor" for online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities and has sold $200,000 worth of Uggs.
Liz Gumbinner co-founded Cool Mom Picks last year with Kristen Chase, a blog buddy she had met only online. She had coached many a client at agency David & Goliath in Los Angeles, where she is now part-time creative director, that "the blog world is [ripe] to be targeted" and she wanted to put her money where her mouth was. Now, the site, which features reviews of non-mainstream baby gifts and gear that appeals to hip parents-mostly products created by other "momtrepreneurs"-gets roughly 1,200 unique visitors a day.
Ads come mainly from past mom-made products it has featured, while some are sold through blogads.com and some come from CNN or Scholastic. The site is definitely on the radar of major media, Ms. Gumbinner said, as at least four "really obscure companies we've written up all got spreads in Real Simple." Major marketers too are currying favor with Cool Mom Picks, with General Motors flying a Cool Picks writer out recently to review its new Chevy Malibu.
Mommy Track'd likewise leads readers of its Deals & Discounts section to favorite online destinations, all of which are mom-owned and -operated. But unlike many of its upstart compatriots in the cool-spotting trend, Mommy Track'd was able to lure an exclusive deal during its first holiday season last year with Gap Inc. for Gap, Old Navy and its new shoe store, Piperlime. Mommy Track'd founder and CEO Amy Keroes says the deal was based on more than the fact that she had, until the site's launch last fall, been the retailer's senior corporate counsel for its advertising-related legal work. Gap, in fact, won praise as an innovative marketer in an AP wire story for signing on to the site and garnered far more than traditional banner ads. In November, Mommy Track'd began wrapping Gap's messaging in its own to hook advertorial with tips and suggestions, including picking out offerings that overextended moms might especially like. The site featured a promotion for Gap Inc.'s Options card (good at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic). "Our ad offerings are more customized, more interactive," Ms. Keroes said. To wit: A recent promotion with Netflix tied a giveaway of a year's subscription to the service to an article on the site about "Sherrybaby" director Laurie Collyer just as the film was being released on DVD.
Now, Mommy Track'd is bringing on apparel retailer Gymboree and has a number of other advertisers on the hook. Ms. Keroes' pitch focuses on more than just visitor traffic. "We say, 'You're reaching your pure target demographic ... and they're listening," she said.
Lolita Carrico, founder of the blog Modern Mom, is beginning to offer big numbers. She launched the site, which is aimed at helping moms balance their busy lives, two years ago. Today, she gets 500,000 unique visitors a month, and has more than 100,000 subscribers to her newsletter. In addition to plans to develop other Modern Mom media offline, including testing a concept of Modern Mom moms'-night-out clubs, Ms. Carrico has forged a relationship with nail-polish manufacturer Essie to offer a Modern Mom color (that camouflages chips far more easily than today's hip darker colors).
The partnership is an indicator of things to come, she said, "as marketers are getting hip to the fact that they need to address moms more directly."