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Monday, November 17, 2008

A new community web site

Whenever I read this phrase my mindset moves into pessimistic overdrive.

The “about us” tells us: “Julie Wainwright is dedicated to making SmartNow the best place for information, referrals, inspiration and community for women over 35. And, she hopes you will be inspired to join her in the adventure.” I also found a reference that the web site was aimed to: “Fulfil the many needs of women 35 to 55.”

Rather than me wittering on about the site there is an interesting review in Brandchannel.com

I am not sure I agree with the analysis, but it is a good starting point. The review says:

Unfortunately, SmartNow makes a common miscalculation many “community” websites are guilty of committing: believing it is possible to exist in a vacuum. Many such sites mistakenly believe that by ignoring, or not acknowledging, the existence of the rest of the Internet, they are not competing with other websites for visitors. Or at least that’s the assumed reasoning, because nothing else makes any sense—especially for a site that aims to be “comprehensive” but fails to exploit the endless opportunities and resources available.

Wainwright says of this insularity, “SmartNow takes submissions from experts all over the world currently and we are 'opening' up for other community and more sites for links at the first of the year. However, the expert information submitted and displayed on the site will still be vetted. We have real health information on the site written by some of the top doctors in their field and have to be careful about protecting that information.”

On this point I agree with brandchannel.com. Smartnow does present its own content in a really nice and accessible way and there is a lot of it. It is great to see it using video whenever possible. And to be fair, the site does provide lists of external links but this is not the same as embedding the wealth of the web into site generated materials.

Look at the way that Amazon now enables you to go and purchase goods from another site, directly from the shopping basket process. That is putting real control (and trust) in the hands of consumer.

I still retain my scepticism about the long term viability of community sites that rely on age as the only means of describing their audience. OK, in this case it is age and gender. I would be interested to hear what other think – especially women. Is it going to be a winner?

The smiling face is of SmartNow.com’s co-founder Julie Wainwright. Webby people might recognise her as the founder of the Pets.com brand, during the 1990s dot.com era. She was also the CEO of Reel.com and of Berkeley Systems. A real life serial entrenpreneur. I do hope it goes well. Dick Stroud

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