Ten days ago, the Huffington Post announced it would be launching a new site aimed at Baby Boomers, edited by a celebrity Boomer herself: Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks and co-producer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
At 54, Wilson is exactly the age of the "average" Boomer. And although she has almost no journalistic experience, she looks great and seems to have a feel for cultural trends. So far, so good.
But what about the name that Wilson and Huffington agreed on? "Huff/Post 40."
I like the pun -- taking advantage of the website's "HuffPo" nickname while also indicating its target. But what about that target itself?
It's inaccurate, for one. The vast majority of Boomers are in their 50s and 60s. In a couple of years, there won't be any Boomers in their 40s. Will they really relate to a site calling them "post-40"?
But it also seems disingenuous. Huffington says the new site will target "the Baby Boomer generation," but also said it "is designed to appeal to men and women over 40."
In a press release, Wilson said, "Issues related to being over 40 have always intrigued me. The Over 40s I have met are some of the most interesting, vibrant, curious, courageous, sexy, energetic people I know. The idea that we Boomers are somehow supposed to wind things down as we get older has completely escaped me."
One thing women have taught me at VibrantNation.com is that there is a much bigger difference between 50 and 40 than there is between 40 and 30. At 40, almost no woman has begun menopause. At 40, very few women have sent their children to college or lost a parent. By 50, everything is different; women's bodies are different, their values are different, and the way they think about themselves and the future are different.
Certainly Wilson and Huffington herself (who turns 61 next week) understand this. What does 40 look like among the women they know? Sofia Coppola is 40; Uma Thurman is 41; and Jennifer Aniston is 42. Does anyone think that these women are (in Wilson's terms) "supposed to wind things down"? Or does anyone think that they really share a set of life stage-specific interests with women in the 50s and 60s? I don't.
So why is a smart publisher like Huffington saying that Boomers are 40+; and why is Wilson saying that people over 40 need to connect with each other in midlife?
Unfortunately, it's because advertisers would be less interested in the site if they thought its goal was to reach real Boomers: men and women over 50. Huffington wants to avoid the challenges faced by More magazine, which ended up with a loyal subscriber base of women aged 50 whom their advertisers didn't want to reach. So More turned its back on those women and started targeting the women its advertisers wanted it to target: women in their 30s and 40s.
And here's the challenge for Huffington and Wilson. If they actually target Boomers with life stage-relevant content, they will drive away the advertisers they need to survive. But if they create a site that is attractive to readers in their 30s and 40s (and even some in their 50s and 60s as well) ... well, they've already done that, and it's called the Huffington Post.
Publishers who really want to engage Boomers actually have to embrace them, whether advertisers want to join them or not.