Over-40 Women's Website Is Destined For Failure

There's a big splashy article in today's New York Times about the launch of Wowowow.com, a new website for women over 40 founded by NY Post gossip dowager Liz Smith, former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan, ex-Simon and Schuster president Joni Evans, 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl, and ad exec Mary Wells. The site, a sort of upscale alternative to iVillage, is described as "a virtual Le Cirque," where the aforementioned media matriarchs — along with contributors like Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and ex-Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck — will "trade on their celebrity and sophistication." The thing is, this focus on the founders' celebrity and sophistication is exactly why their site will fail: These women are looking to form a community of sharp, like-minded women over forty, but they all seem to share the totally condescending attitude of Vogue-ette Buck, who tells Rosenbloom, "iVillage has always puzzled me...I love the idea but it's like Macy's or something."

Macy's?!? THE HORROR! The extra-moronic thing about that statement is that Macy's is popular and accessible. When you're creating a media property, those are qualities to aspire to, not denigrate. And most women, even Wowowow's target audience of successful women over-40, do not want to hear about how Halston lent Candice Bergen a "white mink bunny mask and strapless gown for Truman Capote's 1966 Black and White Ball," or how Joni Evans made an embarrassing gaffe at a party, "gushing to "Calvin Klein" about how she adored his designs, only to realize that she was gushing to Halston." You know why they don't want to hear about it? Because it's name-droppy and completely unrelatable to the average websurfer. And what do people look for in a web community? People who make them feel at home, not people who make them feel terminally unfabulous.

Finally, this site is doomed because the sort of women who would relate to funny little anecdotes about that fabulous night with Calvin and the boys at Studio 54 are not surfing the web all day. The Times piece makes it sound like Wowowow wants a readership much like themselves: "seasoned" women who "who broke through glass ceilings." And those women? Like the founders of wowowow, they're mostly "cyberneophytes" who probably delegate email reading to their personal assistants. Maybe a little bit of that "Macy's" flair could go a long way.

Boldface in Cyberspace: It's a Woman's Domain [New York Times]