DivineCaroline.com, the first of the sites that will make up the Real Girls Media Network, will debut in January. DivineCaroline is targeted toward women ages 25-54. Two others--one aimed at teenage girls, the other at women 18-25--will launch later next year.
Everett-Thorp, who resigned as president, digital worldwide for AKQA in January, said the three sites will include staff-written material as well as user-generated content and community features.
DivineCaroline will allow women to submit articles, product reviews and related photos using an online publishing system developed for the site and intended to streamline the editorial process. User-generated content will screened only for obscene material, and will run alongside articles written by staff editors covering subjects from parenting to travel to gardening.
"We're creating a platform that allows women with real voices to publish like real pros," said Everett-Thorp, who was an early employee at CNET and in 1998 started Internet agency Lot 21, later acquired by Carat. In addition to publishing their writing, the site will also allow women to set up profile pages and gather in online forums to discuss topics of their choosing.
But does the Internet have room for another women's site? Everett-Thorp pointed out that iVillage currently dominates the category with 17.6 million monthly visitors in October, according to comScore Media Metrix. The next closest is CondeNet, with less than half of iVillage's traffic at 8.1 million visitors. "So there's a huge void in the market of general womens' sites," said Everett-Thorp.
By emphasizing user-created content and community features, Real Girls seeks to put a Web 2.0 spin on the women's site to set it apart from both iVillage and a bumper crop of more narrowly targeted parenting sites. "Everybody wants to start a 'mommy' site--there's a ton of them in the marketplace," noted Everett-Thorp.
Real Girls Media Network also will formally announce today that it has received $6 million in first-round funding from London-based investment firm 3i and San Francisco venture firm Walden VC--where Everett-Thorp started Real Girls Media as an entrepreneur-in-residence.
For their part, WaldenVC and 3i are betting a growing online women's audience will embrace the Real Girls sites. "It would appear that there's room for another entrant and we think this company has a chance of building a new type of publishing platform," said Steve Eskenazi, managing director at WaldenVC.
The firm has been encouraged by the growth of Glam Media, another portfolio company aimed at women--although focused on shopping and fashion-that has broken into the top ten women's sites with 3 million visitors a month.
Eskenazi, who has known Everett-Thorp since her Lot21 days, also expressed confidence in her ability to attract brand advertisers to the new site. To that end, Everett-Thorp she has already lined up several major brand marketers, although she declined to name any. "They're responsive to a high-end brand for women that's so inclusive of user-generated content," she said. While at AKQA, Everett-Thorp played a key role in AKQA client wins, including helping bring Coca-Cola to the agency.
The site will give marketers the chance to develop campaigns that integrate their brands with user content without worrying about them being associated with unpredictable or questionable material, explained Everett-Thorp.