paidContent - The Latest iVillage Revamp: Can NBCU Get It Right This Time?

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Just over two years since its last major revamp, NBC Universal’s iVillage is promising to be more topical, more focused and more user-generated. Although the full redo isn’t being unveiled until this Wednesday, as the NYT reports, the site has been sporting a new logo and lighter, less cluttered homepage since spring. And despite comScore stats showing July’s monthly uniques up 23 percent to 21.4 million at iVillage, Lauren Zalaznick, the president of NBCU Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, knows people inside and outside the company are still waiting for the return on the $600 million the GE unit spent to acquire the site in 2006. Nobody ever looks backward in an acquisition, Zalaznick tells the NYT. My job is to make that purchase price look like a bargain in retrospect, and were on our way to doing that.

(NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker told paidContent’s Staci D. Kramer in June: “I think iVillage is a great asset that we probably paid too much money for. ... I dont view it as a failure at all. Its raison detre has changed over the time its been here and now is really a key part of our whole Women@NBCU strategy, which I think is incredibly differentiating in the marketplace and incredibly strong and powerful for us.)

Until Women@NBC, there were few cross-platform synergies to speak of for iVillage and NBCU, as were promised at the time of the acquisition. NBCU even pulled the plug twice on the iVillage Live TV show due to disastrous ratings. After several much-hyped overhauls for iVillage that seemed to lead back to square one again and again, NBCU’s efforts to attract more women began to pay off last September. That was a few months after it had started to link its women-skewing sites together in a content/ad network under the Women@NBCU banner, which put iVillage together with Oxygen.com, BravoTV.com and the Green is Universal brand, along with other women-skewing propertiea.

While the collective effort has allowed NBCU to claim some traffic success, when it comes to iVillage without its cohorts, it’s still viewed as a little weak. Some of the changes by Zalaznick and iVillage EVP Jodi Kahn, who is managing the revamp, include greater personalization. Since NBCU has an extensive stable of female sites that are knitted together within larger framework, iVillage is freed from having to be a general, “all things to all women” sort of site. By delivering more customized content when, say, a user identifies herself as pregnant, for example, iVillage can deliver more relevant features and ads to that individual. In turn, iVillage hopes that user will contribute some content herself, allowing NBCU to sell advertisers on a more engaged audience, who is willing to do much of the heavy marketing lifting for them. Given the fact that iVillage is not likely to be sold off—at least not in this market—it probably has a few more chances to drive some significant revenue. And with the expectation that many women’s sites have been able to beat the odds against ad growth right now,iVillage will have few excuses if it doesn’t get this latest revamp right.

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By David Kaplan