On Sale Category  

Great Leaders CD
Audio/Video | Wireless/PDA
Tools | Free Newsletter
Wise Guides | Bookmark

Grow a Great Marriage
Raise Happy Kids
  Build Wealth
Real Estate
Retire Well
  Ailments & Answers
Care For a Loved One
Fearless Aging
Health Coach
Sex & Love
Stay Healthy and Strong
Stress Busters
Weight Loss & Nutrition
  Craft Your Dream Career
Great Entrepreneurs
Great Leaders
Explore Your Inner Life
Home & Garden
Live the Good Life
Expert Advice
Site Map
About Us
E-Mail Newsletter

Family Money Health Work Play Shop Expert Advice
Home >Press > Booming Business

Media | Press Releases | Founders | Media Kit


December 20, 1999

Booming Business

How do you appeal to a group as wide as the baby boomers? Get narrow.

by Lain Ehmann

They are 75 million strong. They have the largest average household income in the history of the United States. They're the baby boomers, and virtually every marketer, online and offline, wants a piece of them.

Appealing to a group so large and disparate is no easy task. The best strategy, successful Web entrepreneurs have decided, is to discuss the major themes of interest to the boomer population like travel, finance and health and hit them on target.

There's a bit of confusion as to what exactly constitutes a baby boomer. The age groups targeted by boomer-specific sites range from 35 to 54 at the low end, and up to 45 to 59 at the high end, with the majority spread around the 40-something mark.

That disagreement aside, it's safe to say most boomer sites are aimed at midlifers. If we were talking men's undergarments, they would be the guys between boxers and Depends. But more important than age is attitude, most Web entrepreneurs agree. "It's more of an approach to life," says Trish Halamandaris, VP of marketing for MyPrimeTime.com.

A key part of this approach to life is the Internet. According to Media Metrix, an Internet and digital-media measurement service, 35 percent of the Net's 63 million users are aged 35 to 49 smack in the middle of baby boomer country.

And online boomers have household incomes averaging $75,000 and above, compared to only $58,000 among the overall online population, according to MyPrimeTime's initial research. Consultancies like AtPlan in Stamford, Conn., have suggested that older Net surfers are far more likely to buy online than younger ones.

Plentiful, wired and wealthy, the boomers are a marketer's dream. They always have been. By virtue of their numbers, they've been the group to capture since their teens.

Of course, reaching such a huge group poses challenges. "A generation is really too large to target," says Chris Charron, research director at Forrester Research (FORR) in Cambridge, Mass. "Even in its short history, the Web has taught us that targeting large consumer segments is a difficult and expensive proposition."

Having a Go At It

You'd think boomers have enough shared experiences to make it easy for sites to draw a sizable cross-segment, but typically that's not the case. For instance, the GoGrrl network tried to develop a news and information site for women between the ages of 45 and 65, called Freedom.goGrrl.com. Because they'd successfully introduced women-oriented wedding and erotica sites, the GoGrrl team thought they could just as easily create a destination site for female boomers.

Their instincts were wrong. Marketing to an age group proved significantly more complicated than marketing to an interest group. Women hung out at the wedding and sex sites, but used the Freedom.goGrrl site to find links to other Web resources. "We really found that it didn't work the way we thought it would," says Melinda Powelson, editor of the Boulder, Colo.-based GoGrrl.

In response to visitor feedback, GoGrrl added more links and community resources. Still, Freedom.goGrrl, which launched in May, has been much less popular than GoGrrl's other ventures. While reluctant to give stats, Powelson concedes, "it's not been our most successful site by far."

BoomerCafe.com, launched in August, is a broad-based site. Founder and CEO David Henderson says he created the site in response to print magazines that feel too "old" those featuring ads for burial services and recreational vehicles, for instance.

"We set about to develop a Web site that was targeted at active baby boomers," Henderson says. BoomerCafe is a combination of community resources and editorial content on topics like money, relationships, literature and "inner direction."

A group of private investors funds the site, which is experiencing modest page views: 30,000 to 40,000 hits a month. Henderson hopes to offer revenue-generating services in the future, focusing on leisure activities.

Bigger Is Better But these smaller sites are in for a tough battle to get boomer time and money. Their first step is to identify a hook to lure people away from boomer giants like MyPrimeTime and ThirdAge Media's ThirdAge.com. "You need to target people based on their interests," says Michelle Slack, an analyst for Jupiter Communications' online advertising group. "And the deeper you can target them, the better."

The megasites have megastaff, megacontent and megamoney. Spun off from CNNfn, MyPrimeTime is backed by Joan Rivers and has an investment partnership with Fidelity. ThirdAge Media got $89 million in financing in June, with a significant chunk coming from CBS (CBS) .

Although they appear to offer something for everyone, these sites are actually strategically segmented into vertical topics that appeal to boomers. MyPrimeTime, launched in October, offers four main channels: work, money, health and play. Recent features include a health article on the possibility of gene therapy to reverse balding, a business piece on e-commerce's role in bringing philanthropy to the Web, and another on how pets can improve your health.

Those are the right topics, according to Jupiter's Slack, who names pets, finance, travel and health as boomer "sweet spots."

Targeting deeper, Halamandaris says MyPrimeTime is after an even more narrow audience: people intent on "improving their lives" in different ways, and MyPrimeTime directs its content accordingly. She says this approach targets a specific "psychographic," rather than demographic. "When you approach it from a demographic, the ages are so disparate," she says.

Buzzwords aside, 2-year-old ThirdAge.com spreads itself a little further, including sections about family, romance, technology, travel and more. But the segmentation and the intended boomer appeal is evident. To attract men and women, ThirdAge offers elements for both, to create a balance, says Shelly Porges, ThirdAge Media's executive VP of marketing.

Porges says the men gravitate toward news, finance, sports, politics and the "speak out" section, an area where visitors can post opinions on the topic of the day, which can range from mandatory marriage counseling to politics. Women congregate on the family and romance channels. Both genders are interested in travel, which is another sweet spot for boomers, given their high disposable income and interest in leisure activities. "Travel is huge in this cohort," Porges says. That led to the recent introduction of ThirdAge's travel channel.

The segmentation approach appears to be working from a consumer standpoint. Halamandaris says hits at MyPrimeTime are doubling weekly. ThirdAge boasts an audience of 1 million, with 2 million visits per month. Both sites plan to try to lure a larger crowd with on- and offline ad campaigns.

Also in the works, Porges says, is close cooperation between ThirdAge and CBS. "We'll be working hard with CBS to leverage their investment" in the areas of both news and entertainment, she explains.

Segmentation draws more visitors to sites and the sites, in turn, draw more dollars. "When you have that very targeted focus, there are more opportunities from advertising and commerce activities," says Forrester's Charron. That's an area where the smaller sites even if well targeted will be at a disadvantage. Advertisers want to hear about big numbers. "Until there's precise targeting, there'll still be interest in amassing a large audience," Jupiter's Slack says.

Both MyPrimeTime and ThirdAge are participating in extensive sponsorships and plan to build their e-commerce efforts. "The year 2000 will be a huge year for commerce," ThirdAge's Porges says.

As the baby boomers go, so goes the rest of the Web, one might say. The countertrends seen as successful in this market increased segmentation coupled with the "bigger is better" mentality should work equally well for Web sites that draw from a large demographic, whether it be women, men or young people.

When looking to capture the boomer market, in particular, the key is to keep the focus narrow and avoid that middle-age spread.


Baby boomers are a hot demographic for e-commerce. At ages 35 to 55 (although some draw the line at 59), this group is wired and wealthy. While boomers represent about 52 percent of the online population, according to Media Metrix, they appear to be an untapped market. Boomers with Internet access have household incomes of $75,000 and up, compared with incomes of $58,000 for Net users overall. Yet today, they're not buying too much more than the rest of the folks online, suggesting their business is ready to be mined.

E-BuyersGuide.com surveyed the online purchasing habits of different age groups. Here's what they buy.

Apparel and accessories 9% 8% 9% 8%
Auction 3% 4% 3% 4%
Books 18% 12% 17% 14%
Computers 6% 6% 10% 8%
Electronics 7% 6% 7% 6%
Financial Services 0% 0% 1% 0%
Flowers and gifts 3% 3% 2% 3%
Food and drink 2% 2% 2% 2%
Games and hobbies 3% 5% 2% 4%
Health and beauty 12% 9% 11% 10%
Home and garden 4% 4% 6% 5%
Movies and video 9% 9% 6% 8%
Music 8% 7% 8% 7%
Office 1% 2% 1% 2%
Sports and fitness 2% 2% 3% 2%
Toys 10% 11% 7% 10%
Travel 3% 3% 2% 2%
Movies and video 9% 9% 6% 8%
Total Sample 5,134 1,035 631 1666

Source: e-buyersguide.com

Home | Family | Money | Work | Health | Play
E-mail Me | Unsubscribe | "Me" Meters | Message Board | Search
About Us | Site Map | Employment | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Contact Us
Advertising and Sales | Advertise with us
Copyright 1999-2001 MyPrimeTime, All Rights Reserved.
MyPrimeTime and the other MyPrimeTime products on this site are trademarks of MyPrimeTime, Inc. The names of actual companies and their products mentioned on this site may be the trademarks of their respective owners.