Unicast Vet To Launch Social Site For Women

While many Web sites have emerged to serve women's interests, few have harnessed the new social-networking phenomenon--seemingly so compatible with a female audience--as well as general interest sites like MySpace. But a new multi-channel media and lifestyle company, Sisterwoman.com, plans to do just that, according to its co-founder and online advertising veteran, Allie Savarino.

"Sisterwoman is a hybrid of MySpace and iVillage because it's for women, but it completely centers around their social circles and the content they create," Savarino told OnlineMediaDaily on Tuesday.

Sisterwoman, slated to launch by March, is targeting women ages 28 to 50--closer to iVillage's demographic than to MySpace's younger crowd. Visitors will be encouraged to create closed circles of friends and loved ones as well as open hobby- and location-based circles. Like other social networking sites, Sisterwoman allows for the exchange of text, videos, photos, and social calendars. MySpace has recently grown to become one of the most popular sites on the Web, with 26.7 million unique visitors in November of last year--up from 4.9 million the year before.

Savarino, who helped launch the streaming media company Unicast, believes that advertisers and publishers are just now catching on to women's unique Internet usage habits.

"For men, you show them something in an ad, and they think, 'Great, thanks,'" Savarino said. "But advertisers are learning they can't reach women with just an image, they have to support them--whether it's with services or more helpful information--and women then want to participate."

Current research seems to support Savarino. While men pursue many Internet activities more intensively than women--according to a report released earlier this month by Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at the Pew Internet Project--women frame their online experience with a significantly greater emphasis on deepening connections with people.

The self-described "women's community site" iVillage is presently the most popular "woman oriented site"--according to comScore Media Metrix--although its percentage of unique visitors has dropped 23 percent year-over-year--from 16.9 million in December 2004 to just over 13 million in December 2005.

iVillage does offer its visitors tools such as blogs to communicate with each another, but some analysts draw a clear distinction between what iVillage considers user interaction and the newer, more intricate social-networking sites like MySpace.

"It's got a community element based on an old-school model," JupiterResearch analyst David Card said of iVillage, adding: "I do see an opportunity for someone to capitalize on the new school of online community building."

Savarino is not attempting such a feat on her own, however. She is joined by business partner and former journalist Sally Rodgers, as well as Joe Shults, a former E! and MTV executive, and Bart Barden, out of MSN's advertising team.

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