NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- IVillage.com, the grand dame of the online community world since 1995, is counting on a site makeover to become the fresh face of women's communication once again. With a new logo and home page, and plans to roll out the redesign in phases over the coming year along with more robust content, the anchor [email protected] property also plans to court new advertising suitors along the way with integrated-sponsorship opportunities.
The relaunch comes at a time when traffic for the site is off 12% year over year in March, to 3.4 million monthly unique visitors from 3.8 million, according to data from Compete.com.* Exec VP Jodi Kahn, who joined iVillage Networks last November, said the goal of the facelift was to "breathe new life" into the brand, improve the site's integration with parent company NBC Universal, and highlight the original content from the communities.
Ms. Kahn said that over the winter, as iVillage researched how women use the internet, the network learned women don't surf the web aimlessly; rather, they have specific tasks they hope to achieve, from catching up on celebrity gossip to making purchases. As a result of these findings, iVillage will retool its channels so that they are attractive destinations for task-oriented women.
Ms. Kahn called the old iVillage.com home page "very passive," with few links inspiring users to click. She added that content from the message boards, where women congregate to talk about parenting and health, among other topics, often remained buried within the site.
"We're weaving the community into the relevance," she said, noting that two-thirds of the new home page will feature timely content from the community message boards. By highlighting the conversations among women around news stories, she said, iVillage.com is returning to its roots.
At the top of the home page and on the left-hand side, there will be what Ms. Kahn calls "curated content" -- news stories and content selected from the message boards or from other NBCU properties, such as "Today," Oxygen and Bravo. Angela Matusik, former development editor at People.com, was brought on board in March as chief content executive to lead the efforts.
The content will offer unique sponsorship opportunities for advertisers.
"What's coming is a cleaner, less-cluttered interface," said Peter Naylor, senior VP-digital media sales at NBC Universal. "The opportunity to be seen increases dramatically, which means advertisers will get better branding results and better click through."
IVillage will adopt the bigger ad units heralded by members of the Online Publishers Association and roll out sophisticated targeting capabilities, such as psychographic targeting, in the coming months. Advertisers will be able to sponsor any of the featured stories or video, or one of the site's channels. IVillage Networks has experimented with this on momtourage.com, where Walmart is the anchor marketer. Mr. Naylor stressed, however, that not every story would have an advertiser, and that no sponsor would drive editorial.
Instead, they will just be inching closer to the social aspects of iVillage.
"Advertisers are intrigued and interested in social media," Mr. Naylor said. "But I think there's still uncertainty about doing that." IVillage, he continued, is an established and safe environment to tap into consumer conversations.
The network will also explore relationships that can carry over to the offline world, for example, with coupon distribution or widgets. Mr. Naylor said the network is "client-focused" and invested in working with marketers to determine how they can leverage iVillage for their brands.
And Mr. Naylor said that NBCU will be selling ads across its properties to reach women in the most effective ways.
IVillage will roll out changes to the site gradually in the coming year. In the third quarter, iVillage Networks will release enhanced versions of its entertainment and astrology sites; later this year and early next it will do the same for most of its other channels. In August, the network will apply the redesign to the entire site, and in the fall it will relaunch its community platform with more social tools and applications.
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The traffic data in this story refers specifically to iVillage.com, the site being re-designed, and not to the complete range of sites that comprise the iVillage Network. The iVillage Network, which includes web sites for Bravo and Oxygen properties, Astrology.com, BlogHer, and MedicalNewsToday.com, has actually increased traffic 10%, according to NBC and Comscore, and was down just 1% according to Nielsen. ComScore said it is unable to provide traffic figures for iVillage.com; it only provides traffic figures for the network.