I thought the article was well done, and I'm glad that it was placed where it was. (BTW - I get the whole logistics about the siloed section placements in the mainstream papers. We've been over this, so please let's not revisit that quagmire. I still think it's a crappy system. But that's not what this post is about.)
The article had a very balanced tone, was very business focused, and featured objective writing about the appeal of female-centric websites for advertisers wanting to reach this influential audience. Statistics and studies abound - see just a few results from Forrester here - about the influence and buying power of women in markets both online and off.
I do think there's tremendous value in segmenting gender demographics for marketing and branding purposes, because let's face it - men and women are different. And statistically speaking, we skew our interests toward certain things. Marketing and advertising have spent many, many millions of dollars on gender-focused campaigns for this very reason. And as far as social media goes, advertising dollars are shifting online, and in large part to women-centric sites.
The discussion on Plurk this monring, however, shifted gears a bit, and we started talking about women and the internet in general. How do they use it? Are the largest volume of them really using sites dedicated to fashion, food, or entertainment?
To wit: this question from my social media-savvy friend Deb from I Can't Keep Up:
Why not show how women participate online in other ways? I really struggle over this issue. I would rather see more evidence of women using the internet intellectually, professionally, and even for their sport. So maybe I just want to see something on women's participation in non-gender based sites. Then we would have an idea of women's impact overall.
This report from Pew talks about how women are more likely to use the internet to foster their human connections with others. The popular blog Lip-Sticking talks about marketing to women online - and covers topics as diverse as entrepreneurship in Afghanistan, health and fitness, real estate, and technology (and yes, there are plenty of posts about fashion, family, and other traditionally female topics).
Personally, I don't frequent sites that are female-focused exclusively. I prefer to get my information from all across the web, and my tastes are probably not "traditionally" female. But oddly, I talk to a LOT of women who have similar interests to mine, and eschew destinations focused on lighter fare like fashion or celebrities. (For the record, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of bloggers like Dooce. 850,000 people read her blog - including me on occasion - which means she is unequivocably providing fun and at times irreverent content that people love. Great stuff, and the essence of building a community online.)
So, the big questions:
Am I just swimming in a fishbowl of other non-traditional women? Are we predisposed to dismiss "women's" sites simply because they're not our cup of tea, and are we missing something as a result? Are we too sensitive about the idea that women like to talk fashion, celebrities, and sex?
Does the impact of women online who don't target their activities based on their gender matter to the future of the internet and social media?
The statistics don't lie, and the women's sites abound and thrive (which I think is great, for the women who DO want that content). Advertisers are spending their money there, and presumably they're seeing returns for their efforts. But according to the NYT article, advertisers just aren't seeing the value in reaching women on sites that focus on more serious topics like politics or business. Why is this?
How is the internet going to adapt to and connect with women that aren't in that traditionally female niche? Should it?
Are they reaching us already, in more mainstream ways? Are we in the minority, and is it merely a numbers game? Do we just not respond to advertising in the same way, and why should they care about us?
Would love to hear your thoughts and insights. I know I'll be chewing on this one for a while!
photo by Valerie Renee
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