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A COFFEE KLATCH FOR MOMS AND DADS

Dropping kids off at school, keeping up with shopping, cooking, cleaning, Little League games, soccer practice, ballet, and helping with homework. No wonder few working parents have time to surf the Web. But that's not to say they don't go online. Just ask the folks at iVillage's Parent Soup.

Since its birth in January, 1996, the World Wide Web site and area on America Online have created an online community of more than 200,000 parents who spend, on average, 10 minutes per session chatting with other parents. The computers at iVillage's headquarters in New York City's trendy Silicon Alley serve up approximately 1.5 million Web pages and host 450 scheduled chat sessions per week. ''We're the virtual 24-hour hotline and community center,'' says iVillage's co-founder and president, Nancy Evans.

And like many community centers, most of the success of Parent Soup (www.parentsoup.com) is based on the close-knit relationships among its members. For Kathryn Simpson, a 33-year-old ''stay at home'' parent in Port Orchard, Wash., the ability to chat ''with someone who can talk in complete sentences,'' has been invaluable. When she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that causes pain and fatigue, she logged on to Parent Soup for advice about getting a hysterectomy. In addition to her doctor's counsel, ''a lot of my decision was based on talking with people on Parent Soup,'' she says. She went ahead with the operation. Now, Simpson is training to become one of 520 ''remote staffers''--other ''Soupers'' who volunteer to lead chat sessions and message boards. ''People are drawing from each other,'' says iVillage's other co-founder and CEO, Candice Carpenter, a single mother of a 3-year-old daughter, Michaela.

PROFITS, TOO? And that's just the way iVillage--and its advertisers--want it. In fact, Parent Soup has grown sixfold from its initial five advertisers, nabbing such powerhouses as Procter & Gamble, Sony, and Fisher Price. With an average ad rate of $45 per one thousand views, Parent Soup closed the first quarter, ended Mar. 31, with 150% more ad revenues than for all of 1996. And while iVillage isn't profitable now, the company is on track to be in the black by early 1998.

Like many other Net companies, iVillage is eager to explore ways to create an even bigger sense of community--and make money in the process. One possibility: online seminars on special topics, which parents can attend after paying a small admission fee. A Parent Soup book of advice culled from its online community is due out later this year. And iVillage is branching out into other community-based Web sites: Vices & Virtues for health and About Work for career issues. At that rate, iVillage may become iCity in no time.

By Paul N. Eng in New York


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Updated June 15, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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