Talks About Its Generation
of CNN veterans has built a site aimed at 35- to 54-year-olds,
backed by capital from Hummer Winblad and Joan Rivers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.