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Home >Press > IS Boomer Generation

Media | Press Releases | Founders | Media Kit

Craig Forman Interview
Craig Forman Profile

MyPrimeTime Talks About Its Generation

A team of CNN veterans has built a site aimed at 35- to 54-year-olds, backed by capital from Hummer Winblad and Joan Rivers.

By Diane Anderson

Helen Whelan is a go-getter. As a manager of business development at CNN in 1995, she says she cornered Ted Turner outside the men's room at a management conference and pitched him an idea for a financial network that would later become CNNfn and CNNfn.com. Her latest idea: Target the same money-savvy baby boomers who watch financial programming.

Earlier this year, Whelan joined with fellow CNN veterans Craig Forman and Donald Van de Mark to form MyPrimeTime.com, a site targeting the 35- to 54-year-old crowd. The spending power of people in that age group is a big lure. The company easily attracted $5 million in seed funding from an eclectic group of investors, including venture-capital firm Hummer Winblad and talk-show host Joan Rivers.

Setting up shop in San Francisco, MyPrimeTime hired 47 people in four months and unveiled its site in October with at least one impressive backer. Fidelity Investments has signed a two-year deal to be the exclusive sponsor of the site's financial section.

One of the current theories floating around the VC world is that the way to make money on the Internet is to invest in affinity sites. Sites like Women.com and ThirdAge, which caters to adults over age 50, are trying to identify niche audiences attractive to online advertisers. MyPrimeTime has a larger group in mind: the 81 million baby boomers in the United States.

"This is a prosperous and underserved market," says Ann Winblad, a venture capitalist whose firm has a 30 percent stake in MyPrimeTime. "We've got the dream team to own the segment."

MyPrimeTime, a self-proclaimed "personal trainer for life," hopes to become an indispensable and interactive resource, offering advice as well as information. "People in this category don't want to just know that interest rates are rising," says Forman. "They want to know how to change their portfolios as a result."

Actually, lots of sites offer that particular information, including sponsor Fidelity. It's also not clear that targeting a broad demographic will necessarily attract a sizable following.

"Boomers have a variety of interests and life-stage needs," says Robin Raff, senior VP at Age Wave Impact Interactive, a marketing firm that focuses on baby boomers. "A 35-year-old could be a new parent, a 45-year-old an empty nester. Someone with kids might also be caring for aging parents."

Some ad execs predict the broad audience will be a good thing. Kate Everett-Thorpe, CEO of Lot 21, a San Francisco-based interactive agency, says boomers make up "a large segment with incredible buying power." She believes advertisers will assume certain things about this audience that they are in the market for higher-bracket services like house refinancing, multicar insurance and family vacations. "If there's an audience and it's loyal, they could have a nice, sweet spot here."

But a slew of health, finance and travel sites are competing for the same eyeballs. Meanwhile, many advertisers still covet a younger audience. And others will prefer an older audience, asserts ThirdAge CEO Mary Furlong. "ThirdAgers go through brand changes; you buy different cereals when you have kids in the house than when the kids are gone," she says. ThirdAge, which has been around since 1996, has attracted high-profile advertisers like IBM and Ameritrade.

MyPrimeTime discounts ThirdAge and SeniorNet as competitors, even though audience overlap clearly exists. "Boomers are feeling younger," says Whelan. "Those sites address a much older audience."

Because MyPrimeTime's target audience spans such a wide range of interests and needs, refining the site's personalization capabilities will be critical to its success. And since much of its target audience has yet to go online about two-thirds aren't logged on, according to Raff the company will need serious offline promotion and advertising.

Before the launch, MyPrimeTime got some television exposure, though not quite in prime time there were spots on CNNfn (no surprise given the previous experience of the management team) and the Joan Rivers Show, the host of which is not only an investor in the company, but also a friend of Van de Mark.

The company has plans for a multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaign, according to Whelan. Given the competition, it's going to need every dollar it can get.



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