The site is called "Flip" and is "based on the idea of fueling teen ambition," according to early presentations circulated among marketers and seen by Advertising Age.
CondeNet, the division developing Flip, declined to comment, but the plans reveal a strategy encompassing not just teen girls' social world, but their inner creative worlds and outer sources of inspiration. The materials indicate the site is aimed at business-minded teens, citing a survey that found 53% of teens want to be celebrities; 54% want to "go into business or sell something"; and 37% would like to be a fashion designer. (Even better, apparently: "A mere 15% want to be in politics or activism.")
Flip is geared to "give girls a chance to realize their dreams and get discovered," the materials say, by allowing users to create galleries called "flipbooks" using their own photos, content or media tools (including images from Teen Vogue, Style.com, Lucky and Glamour) provided by "Flip's Media Studio." Flipbook "owners" can fashion their own collages, e-cards and mobile content on the site and get feedback from other users. They can also use Flip how-to's to learn how to "make something to show off or sell."
The site remains under development, however, and anything from the name to e-commerce details could change. A plan to reward girls with "Flip Points" redeemable for an item of the day in the "Flip Shop," for example, is now on the back burner. And one media buyer doubted "Flip" was a cool enough brand name to attract teenagers.
'The ad model flipped'
So how do advertisers fit in? With ad bumpers on pages and sponsored how-to's and contests. Under one scenario, prizes could be offered for teens to create ads for their products. Advertisers will also be able to post flipbooks with which Flip users can interact. "The ad model flipped," screams one page of its plan. "Advertising becomes content. Sponsored and advertorial flipbooks are integrated within the site."
Magazine publishers, advertisers and digerati have all been waiting for details of Flip to emerge, not just because the site will come from the powerful Conde Nast. Flip will also become the latest test for a magazine industry trying to make the most of the web, increasingly without an accompanying print edition -- though the materials indicate Flip might sometimes work hand-in-hand with Teen Vogue.
Flip will also compete with TeenPeople.com and ElleGirl.com, whose print editions' graves are still fresh. It will not, however, try to out-MySpace MySpace.
This June, after all, My Space racked up almost 46 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen/Net-Ratings. TeenPeople.com attracted 495,000 unique visitors in June and CosmoGirl.com received 230,000, by Nielsen's best estimate. Traffic to ElleGirl.com and TeenVogue.com fell below Nielsen's measurement threshold entirely.
Debut has been delayed
Construction delays and ongoing strategizing have already delayed Flip's arrival. While the company once hoped to bring the site out this fall, Flip is now expected to enter beta testing in December and open to the public shortly after that.
"On the face of it, the concept sounds very interesting," said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst, eMarketer. "Thinking back to my teenage days, it would have been really cool to have a hangout like this."
"The challenge for them is going to be whether they can draw enough teen girls away from MySpace, Facebook, Xanga or any of the sites that are out there to make an audience large enough that advertisers are going to be interested," Ms. Williamson said. "It's too bad they couldn't get it launched earlier. Now is the time."
A print media buyer said Conde Nast was correctly calculating that teens are gravitating online, even if they are continuing to read magazines' print editions. But because teenagers are more sophisticated ones than previous generations, the site will need to deliver an air of sophistication to match.
"It's not 'If you build it, they will come,'" the buyer said. "Will they come if you build it?"