Recap: Four Trends Why Blogs Are Evolving Out of Golden Age In the previous post, it was identified there are four distinct trends why tech blogs are changing:
Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation.
Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover.
The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social.
As space matures, business models solidify –giving room for new disruptors.
The Next Generation Blogs Will Have The Following Traits
Then, it was identified four future trends on what the next-generation blog will look like, in summary: 1) An opportunity for new stars to emerge, 2) Yet, the rise of personal brands will be harder, 3) New models to emerge, long form content not the only way, and finally 4) that a new mix of media will emerge. To further the discussion on what these trends will mean to this industry, let’s explore even deeper to identify where we should expect to see innovation from.
A Taxonomy of Tech Bloggers This classification will help to shape who are the players are who should defend, those that are on the fast move, and those that could clinch a new seat as an established tech blog. To understand, let’s segment the market by class, Ill give examples, and explore at a high level their strengths and challenges.
Have solid coverage, strong editorial teams and processes and have established their business model.
Some may be content to forge their own destiny and not exit, yet some may seek to be acquired and exit, They will constantly be threatened by the tier above them scooping them, and challengers below trying to out-manuveur them.
These players could quickly move into the Established category: The Verge (Vox Media) who left AOL’s Engadget’s to start this visually rich new site with high production video.
These players have tried a new approach, and are seeking to gun at the Established by trying a new format, editorial process, and may have connections to scoop stories.
While many root for the underdog, they may not have the resources the Established blog networks have, and will be forced to find inventive ways to get what they need, and Established blogs may not link to them.
These up-and-comers are the ones to watch. These folks will innovate, try new editorial approaches, formats, and providing storytelling styles. In some cases, these blogs may find a niche and own it.
While all team blogs started here, this segment likely has the most challenges: Struggle to get scoops, lack of resources, and fight for advertising revenues, and Established blogs may not link to them.
Career Individual Bloggers
These individuals have learned to make blogging a career, and may be funded, sponsored, or work for a tech company, notable examples include: Chris Pirillo (multiple sponsors), Robert Scoble (Rackspace employee), Louis Gray (Google+), and many others.
Autonomous and masters of their own destiny, they’re able to do their passion at blogging, while earning a living.
Difficulty scaling a personal brand into a network, beholden to those that fund them, and difficulty in scooping stories from team blogs who may not link back.
Millions of talented bloggers (like you!) worldwide that chime in on topics related to personal technology, careers in tech, and the industry overall.
Passion baby, Passion! What a great outlet to get your voice heard. Most in this space started off here, or still maintain a personal blog.
Will be challenged to directly monetize through traditional advertising, but often this medium is used for career growth, promotion of books and speaking, or access to events. This crew is challenged to maintain their blog, while holding a full time job.
Be a Savvy Blog Reader: Know How Hierarchy Dictates Behavior. The behaviors of each tier of blog depends on where you are in the taxonomy. For example, those at the top of taxonomy are in dominant positions and will to sustain that. As such, they will: have higher quality production in content, ability to scoop stories, may not link to original sources, all in order to maintain their lead. On the flip side, those on the bottom of the taxonomy will also have different behaviors: they may give their own editorial spin, find long tail specific stories that mainstream doesn’t pickup, and can give deeper coverage in interviews the top players will not.
Watch the Challengers and Emerging Blogs as Post-Golden Tech Blogs. Who will emerge as a victor in the post-Golden Age? The established will seek to keep the up and comer challengers down, as well as the Emerging category. In particular, the Verge is demonstrating a new approach by a fresh visual layout, high production video, and an experienced editorial team with insider connections. Secondly, the Emerging blogs continue to grow organically, or have carved a niche that will keep from growing into a mainstream tech blog. As players towards the bottom move up, we’ll see a new “Platinum Age” (Sarah Lacy term) of Tech Bloggers emerge.
Above all Else, Look for Passion. One of the attractive aspects of this medium is how the individual writer brings forward their point of view, their personality, their opinion. As such, this has made blogging hold our attention as the rules of traditional journalism have been challenged Despite the business aspects of running either an individual blog, or a big media blog, we should always look, interesting content, unique points of view, and of course, passion.
I look forward to your thoughtful comments as our industry continues to mature.
That’s right. We’re at the end of an important period. The tech blogosphere as we know it, is over.
Four Trends Show the End of this Era:
Like the film industry, the Golden Era is the emergence period, when fresh innovation in a new medium is born. New techniques, revolutionary content, and different business models emerge as innovators pioneer a new medium. I first had this discussion with Chris Saad, which triggered some thinking on my end. I asked some of the foremost tech bloggers of their opinion, and found four clear trends on why the Golden Era of Tech Blogging is over, here’s what’s shaping this change:
Trend 1: Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation
Over the last few quarters, there’s been considerable acquisitions of organized blogs (which are more akin to news sites now-a-days), most notable, we’ve seen Techcrunch, who claimed annual revenues of about 10 mil a year, being acquired by AOL. Yet these purchases are quite common, as AOL has acquired Engadget in 2005, and also Huffington Post in 2011. Just two weeks ago, another larger tech blog that has enterprise focus Read Write Web was just sold to Say Media. What typically happens when these acquisitions happen? Often the star talent, or founding team is pressured out, takes a back seat while corporate business development teams match existing advertising inventory to a new found audience –forever changing the DNA of what created these startups. Lastly, acquisitions often force a conservative mindset over startups, because the purchase is focused on strengths of an asset, the mindset of ‘don’t break it’, keeps the culture to focus on the status quo. As acquisitions occur, innovation decreases.
Trend 2: Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover
Perhaps they were forced out, or maybe they saw the writing on the wall, but lately, we’ve seen a major change up in the all-star lineup of tech blogs. Just a few weeks before the acquisition of Read Write Web, the Senior Writer, Marshall Kirkpatrick separated ways (edit: he’s still writing at RWW, part time) now focused on building a product and company called Plexus Engine. Furthermore, Editor-at-Large of Mashable, Ben Parr separated ways from Mashable, yet continues to blog on his personal site. The most discussed exodus is a majority of the Techcrunch staff leaving, from founder Michael Arrington, CEO Heather Harde, top writer Sarah Lacy, and star journalist MG Siegler. Yet despite this loss, they acquired Eric Eldon, Josh Constine (both of Inside Facebook) and Sarah Perez (formerly of RWW) into the Techcrunch fold. Ben Parr himself listed out in greater detail all the people movements in the tech blogging space, there’s no doubt a shakeup occurring. The talent shakeup is normal after several exits occur –with new stars moving on to new business models.
Trend 3: The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social
First of all, congrats if you’ve read this far! I’d assert you’re one of the few. I asked Ben Metcalfe (former MySpace and BBC) his opinion, and he says: “Attention is too fragmented now. There are just so many blogs/news websites/sources vying for your attention that you can’t read them all and build up the kind of relationship that you once could when the size of the universe was degrees of magnitude smaller.” As attention spans wane, readers want smaller, shorter bits of content, and this is why we’re seeing the growth in behaviors that social networks provide: commenting, sharing, images. I heard from Robert Scoble, who’s noticed a shift that, “…when I write something on Twitter,Facebook, Quora, or Google+ I get immediate feedback. I get thousands of views very quickly and get distribution through things like Google’s Currents or Flipboard readers. Blogging seems to have struggled in some of these areas.” As a result, content needs are smaller and shorter, as I’ve noted in the rise of inforgraphics. Even the content strategy of Mashable is changing, their new direction is more akin to digital lifestyle –not just social media.
Trend 4: As space matures, business models solidify –giving room for new disruptors This is a normal business trend in any new industry: New entrants, formalization of a new business models, and a series of business exists. Unless these authors been able to make blogging part of their business model, sustaining blogging is a challenge. Yet, let’s look at the data, in Technorati’s state of the Blogosphere for 2011 they reported that despite bloggers are publishing more, “Overall, fewer bloggers reported this year that they are making a living via their blogs.” In fact, this maturation of the tech blogosphere is a aligned to a normal cycle of industry maturing, emergence, many fail, some develop disruptive business models, and some exit. I heard from father of the Social Media Club, Chris Heuer who told me that “Blogging, and Social Media broadly, is past adolescence and into young adulthood, maybe even getting ready to go off to college. Going by our early measure of where are we compared to the dotcom era, I’d say we are about 2000, but without the irrational exuberance.” I agree with Chris and to illustrate this point, I’ve noticed that long gone is the scrappy new media entrepreneurs like Arrington who built a decent sized empire, cashed out, and moved on to to a traditional industry like venture capital.
The Future: A New Era to Emerge
Tech blogging isn’t dying, it’s evolving. This is a normal part of any industry, and here’s what tech bloggers themselves told me:
An opportunity for new stars to emerge Now, with the major talent turnover, there’s an opportunity for a new media model to emerge, and along with it new stars: “The tech journalism space has changed considerably in the last few months, but there are new stars that are taking up the roles that the old guard have left behind. The voices, opinions and personalities that define tech are changing. Perhaps fresh minds and ideas are exactly what the tech media world needs.”-Ben Parr
Yet, the rise of personal brands will be harder Now that the ecosystem is entrenched with corporate owners and mature advertising programs, there will be less room for innovation and new stars to emerge. Why? PR firms know who the established players are, and will continue forge alliances in page views for exclusives. ”Take for example that many of the “big blogs” don’t even link to the primary sources of their posts because they don’t want to send the traffic off-site. How can anyone get discovered if those who have the attention won’t share it?” -Ben Metcalfe
New models to emerge, long form content not the only way Bloggers themselves know that relying on a single tool isn’t effective, they need a series of tools to use; “blogging isn’t dead. it may have gotten a LOT more social, and it may be less frequent now for those of us who also use twitter / facebook / tumbler / youtube for other distribution efforts, but the overall impact from these platforms together is BIGGER than ever before (and i maintain, also EASIER than ever before if you build it right).” -Dave McClure, who, on a related note, is also on a Blogging Hiatus.
Will mix new forms of media
Yet these top bloggers all agree that a new form of media mix will emerge; “Blogging isn’t dead and still a fantastic tool, there is room for new players and it’s still the best way to build your personal brand IMO. I’m actually planning to go back to blogging much more myself and just updated the template of loiclemeur.com. Also, what is blogging? Publishing a video with your thoughts on YouTube is blogging and that is extremely powerful, each time I do itI get a good audience, even if the video quality is crappy. A video can be much more like original blogging as you can take the time to express yourself in longer form.” -Loic Lemeur, tech blogger, entrepreneur, LeWeb host. Yet, he’s not the only one, Francine Hardaway, VC blogger says “Blogging is a tool, like social media. This year’s new tool will be personal video, which is long overdue.” who also nods to video usage.
Despite the Golden Era of Tech blogging to be over, we should expect a new format, new type of content and new pioneers to emerge, forever changing the new media and tech reporting space. I for one, look forward to it and will embrace it, both out of necessity, and with passion.
How are today’s social media teams structured? Ever wonder who’s behind those corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts? Think there’s more to it than an intern just tweeting haphazardly?
This data, in the below graphic, is compiled from Altimeter’s recent survey to 144 global national corporations with over 1000 employees shows how today’s teams in 2011 are breaking down. This is the core team that operates the social media program within a corporation, often within corporate communications or a marketing function they will work with other business units. For very large corporations, they may be fragmented among many business units (the Dandelion model), and this data doesn’t even include agency, consultants, or even research firms who help out. Here’s what we found:
Finding: A Social Media Team Consists of Four Major Functions While the team size may vary, it’s important to understand the components of a team. Also, it’s key to look at the ratios between the groups, so companies can know how to plan and budget. Although you can learn more about the specific titles here, among the responses, we found a trend of four key groups, segmented by:
Business Unit Facing: Two folks are facing the business units (liason, education), and work inside of the company to help multiple business units from sales, support, products, field, execs get on board. Often they can be segmented by region (like Sarah Goodall, SAPs EMEA social strategist) and even by product units. These roles are key for coordinated scale, once the center of excellence has been established
Market-Facing: Three three community managers are facing customers, and serve as a go-between to balance the needs between customers and the corporation, I’ve written at length about these important professionals, see all tagged posts. These units are key for customer interaction, but in the end cannot scale and will shift to advocacy or enable customers to respond to each other.
Program Management: We found 4.5 are in program management (developers, analytics) that keep the ship growing by running programs often at the corporate level like the social media managers, the analyst that’s conducting reporting and brand monitoring programs, and lastly the developer teams, which get systems to work. As a corporate resources serving spokes, these roles are key, esp as data needs to be aggregated for business intelligence.
Applying This Data To Your Program
Averages are helpful, but only if we can apply this to your business, and because it’s not easy to publish about all the variations, here’s how to apply it to your business:
Company size changes team headcount –yet ratios likely stay same. This is an average, so the changes of you having exactly 11 folks is not likely, chances are your company is larger or smaller than this average –and your team size will vary. In fact, this is often a cross-functional team, as a majority of companies are in the hub and spoke or dandelion models. In fact, if your company is smaller, you may be wearing multiple hats –but we should expect the ratios of the roles to roughly average out, all things equal.
Mature programs shift to empowerment, changing team dynamic. We’ve sorted data by maturity in previous sample sizes, and know that in 2010 the team sizes were a little under 4 for novice, about 8 for intermediate, and could get up to 20 for mature programs, read the report on budgets and team sizes. You should expect similar modeling to occur in all corporations. Furthermore, we’ve seen trends that more advanced companies will have more business unit liasons to empower teams, and reduce their core community managers as the conversations move the edges of the company.
If these teams are successful, they fade into the background. In the future, these teams will likely shrink, or evolve into customer experience teams. Know that the corporate social strategist will work themselves out of a job. Why? Business units will be able to operate their own programs without excessive oversight, following program guidelines, and using pre0-set best practices and sanctioned software systems. With that said, a core team will always be required, to coordinate the enterprise, but we predict this will evolve into a customer experience team (or back into the CX team)
Thanks to Christine Tran, Senior Researcher at Altimeter (and part-time tomato farmer) for work on surveying brands, analysis, and collating data for this graphic. If you’re in one of these teams, I would to hear from you, what your team size is, composition, in the comments below.
Update: Here’s a related graphic detailed the team roles and descriptions, all from the report on Social Business Readiness where the data above is from.
For seasoned or budding community managers, investing in a solid foundation of learning through an education program and becoming certified is a good investment –yet don’t think classroom time is sufficient, as time and experience in the field is the most important.
A Need for Capable Community Managers on the Rise
If there’s one thing I’ve been learning in my research it’s that corporations need skilled staff to use new media tools. Enter the Community Manager, part customer advocate, part product manager, part host, who tirelessly deals with customers online. In fact, Altimeter’s research indicates that budgets increase significantly for social media boutiques, and digital agencies as corporations become more advanced. Despite the increase in adoption from corporations, they are often ill-staffed, or throw traditional communicators into a new media mix –with poor results. Furthermore, we’re seeing a rise in out-sourced community management services, which raised quite the online conversation.
[As the Social Business Space Emerges, Education and Certifications Will Emerge --Yet Be Sure to Balance Your Team with Education --and Real World Experience]
“Our training helps organizations in three specific ways:
-It sets common expectations for individuals and companies about what individuals should know at different levels.
-It ensures that individuals are introduced to the issues and concepts that they will face over time.
-It consolidates learning so that individuals can more quickly ramp up and become productive contributors.”
I also like how they segment their classes for different roles: Community specialist, Community manager and the Community strategist. As this program grows it can certainly advance the industry, as well as the professionals involved in partaking in the offering.
Risks of Certs: Best Practices are Few and Far in Between What’s one big challenge with certs? It’s hard to define best practices in a nascent space that may be just as much art as it is science. In fact, Dells’ Bill Johnston who’s leading their Community Strategy told me that “The inevitable downside will be a lack of standards. I’m assuming that every association or firm that is involved with social media / community will develop their own curriculum and standards” He also writes; “Further, certification without hands on training and mentoring is not going to help advance the practice of community management and development.”
Yet, Don’t Over Rely on Education –Real World Experience is Key
Like any trade or art, from sales, PR, performance arts and beyond, real-world experience is the most important teacher of all. Unlike black and white task orientated jobs, Community Management, and the art of dealing with dynamic humans, is as much of an art, as it is a science. I asked the CEO of Liveworld (who hires hundreds of Community Managers), Peter Friedman who says we should look broader; “The key is to get someone with the right personality, enthusiasm and skills. Experience counts too. Even if there were good CM certification programs around, I wouldn’t disqualify someone for not having such a certification. I’d look at the person’s other specifics” he also put certifcations into priority order: “For example a person with 5 years real CM experience is likely to be much stronger than a person with 1 year of experience and a certification”.
Hiring and Compensating your Community Manager
Look for experience match against the Four Tenants of Community Managers. In 2007, I analyzed 16 job descriptions, and published the Four Tenants of the Community Manager and we found the following four job requirements: Community Advocate, Brand Evangelist, Savvy Communicator, and Shapes Product Roadmap. Your Community Managers should match these job needs, and have the relevant experience to boot. For example, Dell’s community strategist Bill Johnston told me he made his two hires (Connie Benson who’s written a post covering this topic, and Cy Jervis) based on “experience & impact” and cited both of their previous work.
Ask them how they’re polishing their skills, beyond the day job. Although Community Managers are often social creatures, they could be working in a vaccum, and may be missing out on greater training or perspective. Ask them how they stay current on industry trends, as well as help them connect with their peers in groups like the Community Roundtable, and participating in online discussions such as the Twitter #cmgrchat tag. By bolstering skills and learning through education programs (like the Womma Certification), and see this older list by CM Roundtable.
Reward them based on Business Impact. As orginizations invest in communities, they must serve business purposes from marketing, increasing adoption, self-support, or even using for innovating new products. Companies should measure based on the business impacts that these communities provide –not just raw engagement or community growth. I asked Evan Hamilton the Community Manager for UserVoice (which in itself a community) what he thought and he told me; ”I think employers should pay based on what their team members accomplish. I didn’t start in community management with any sort of training, but I deliver results for the companies I work for, and they pay me accordingly. Companies should always encourage employees to get more training…but they shouldn’t pay based on a piece of paper that says you’re good at something.” …well said.
The Bottom Line: The emerging Community Manager education and certifications are a good thing for all professionals –yet be sure to balance them out with peer to peer learnings, and real-world experience.
Both the submissions on this job announcement board, as well as available social media positions at corporations continue to pour in. In this continued digest of job changes, I like to salute those that continue to join the industry in roles focused on social media, see the archives, which I’ve been tracking since Q4, 2007.
People on the Move in the Social Business Industry:
Dave Olson is promoted at HootSuite as VP Community Dave Olson oversees HootSuite’s international community building strategy. His portfolio also includes marketing, communications, media outreach, public relations, collateral creation, localization and support at HootSuite.
This Monday, I’ll have spent five years on the microblogging service Twitter. Exactly how much of a commitment is that? Let’s do some crude math: starting with the baseline of 30,000 published tweets, (about 13 a day), I estimate this to be equivalent to writing about 4-8 books. In aggregate, that seems like a lot, but when one publishes on this micromedia network it’s hard to even fathom how it could add up.
To share how I got into this journey, let’s go way back to when I worked at PodTech, a fledgling social media network that pooted out. I did however work with some of the best in the industry, and I recall my colleague Robert Scoble coming by my cube proclaiming “You need to get on Twitter right away Jeremiah”, his eyes ablaze in geek-citement. To me, this was nothing new, as with every week, Scoble would come into the office telling me about the next greatest thing from his interviewing adventures. Yet this one had legs. It felt right. The conversation was small, there were just a few folks on from Silicon Valley, NY, a bunch of edgelings, in fact, I recall the top 100 list looking similar to the top 100 list of Google+ a few months ago, a cadre of mostly well read tech bloggers.
Over time, we saw it grow, and mainstream media celebs moved in, media companies, and brands. Spam started to happen, and we saw a strain on their service as fail whales emerged at great frequency –causing a migration to the ‘backup’ network on Plurk. Over time twitter continued to grow, we saw applications emerge, marketers jump on, and even political figures join into the fray. Things started to grow into a frenzy as there was a race to get to a million twitter followers between aplusk and news networks –a testament to the turning tide of people gaining power over larger corporations –and the the impact this tool had to regime change in distant countries that really don’t feel so far away now. While I could go on and on about what I saw, I’ll leave that to expert story tellers like Shel Israel, he captured the history so well in his book Twitterville, I’ll let you revisit his tome.
Now, on to the future. Where is Twitter going? As my colleague Charlene says, “Social media will be like air”. It will continue to be part of many of our digital communications. I expect automated devices to tweet on their own (from Puppy Tweets, Fridges, and Plants) it’ll spread to cars, appliances and even our heart monitors. Twitter themselves, has gone through a series of internal leadership changes, and has recently launched a new layout, and I expect them to roll-out more features similar to Facebook’s brand pages. In the end, Tweets will become a data layer, just a way to simply pass information, much how we rely on RSS, and then fade into the background as a cultural utility.
It’s been a fun five years on this network, and I look forward to the next 5, as social disappears into the background –and people surface to the front. Thanks Twitter, and all those that are using it.
I’m thrilled to return as a keynote speaker at LeWeb for the third time in a row. While I’ve shared these same findings on social business at conferences in the US, I’m pleased to finally present in EMEA. We found that despite companies running to open social media accounts, internally, companies are ill-prepared. Yes, that’s right, it’s time to return to basics and focus on building a scalable infrastructure –before jumping into adopting social tools.
I’ve embedded both the slides from the keynote as well as the report (original post here) which it’s based off of below, feel free to widely share. Also, I’m thankful for the broader research team which includes Christine Tran and Andrew Jones.
Above: Here’s the 20 minute video. I added it a few days later.
Industry Note: On a not so surprising note, Facebook continues to expand and will be hiring thousands of employees in locations such as NYC, Seattle, and likely in their new Austin location with the acq of Gowalla this past week. This growth of talent will impact our overall space as startups vying for software engineers will have to compete with lucrative equity packages from FB in those key markets. Often a secondary market of third party developers often emerge spurring on additional growth using the FB API.
Both the submissions on this job announcement board, as well as available social media positions at corporations continue to pour in. In this continued digest of job changes, I like to salute those that continue to join the industry in roles focused on social media, see the archives, which I’ve been tracking since Q4, 2007.
People on the Move in the Social Business Industry:
David Murray joins Moncur Associates as Director, Social Media Helping businesses communicate effectively on the Social Web.
Karen Lee joins Stanford Graduate School of Business employed to provide Social Web and Email strategy for the social media and email marketing strategies and execution for the Stanford Graduate School of Business
John Schneider joins Taykey as senior vice president of sales Schneider will lead Taykey’s efforts in bringing top brands and agencies on board its new platform, which uses trends to improve the performance of social media advertising.
Although at Salesforce for a few months, I had the honor of meeting Jennifer Burnham, who is a Director, Social Strategy and Content at Salesforce, hailing from Adobe.
I also got to meet Kendall Thornton a Community Analyst at Salesforce.com who works in the Social Media Command Center at HQ in SF responding, understanding, and analyzing community response.
Left image: Melanie Notkin, in middle, evangelist for Savvy Aunts, at her book launch in Manhattan NYC.
Sex in the City in real life? Professional working woman climbing the corporate ladder? Married women entrepreneurs holding their own? Yes to all.
I so often hear from brand marketers they want to reach the mother bloggers (thank you Moms!), and we’ve seen large industries emerge to serve these very powerful markets, and that’s great –yet what about the rest of the women? I had the pleasure of getting educated about this growing market, which potentially give brands to shift focus away from a saturated market.
Learning about PANKs:
I had an enlightening lunch in the center of Manhattan with Melanie Notkin, a former Marketer at L’Oreal, is the evangelist for this unserved market of Professional Aunts, with No-Kids to better understand this growing market with spending power, which she’s dubbed the Savvy Auntie, and she’s got a website, and company focused on serving these women. While I’ve helped a number of clients on research projects to understand moms, there’s a much broader market we could be looking at: professional women that may be alienated from “mom marketing” with disposable income, Melanie calls these “Savvy Aunties”, and her book with the same title, really brings this demographic to life.
Show me Numbers: Who are these Women?
First, by the numbers, how big is this market? Melanie provided me these numbers, and she’s uploaded a media kit to slideshare, her source is US Census / The White House Report: Women in America (March 2011), she summarizes these women as PANKs or Professional Aunts, No-Kids:
American women without children: 47%.
Here’s the “women without children” data, broken down by age range:
15 to 19 years: 94.6%
20 to 24 years: 70.5%
25 to 29 years: 46.6%
30 to 34 years: 29.7%
35 to 39 years: 19.7%
40 to 44 years: 18.8%
In fact, more women than in the past have never had a child. In 2008, about 18 percent of women age 40–44 have never had a child, almost double that in 1976 (up from 10 percent in 35 years). Thats nearly a fifth of all American women likely without child.
There has been a steep rise in the share of women age 25–29 who have not had a child, rising from 31 percent in 1976 to about 46 percent in 2008.
Marketing focused Q&A with Melanie Notkin
I also conducted an interview with Melanie I did a Q&A with Melanie to learn more about this under-served market, here’s what we discussed:
Question from Jeremiah: Can you tell me more about demographics and what brands have catered to them? Which brands are catering to these women?
Melanie: Until the launch of Savvy Auntie, there was little way to connect with the PANK. She’s not reading parenting mags, watching kid programming on TV and seeing commercials, and she’s not at the playground to learn what other aunties are talking about so even word of mouth wasn’t available.
Now, brands like: Disney, Hallmark, Yoplait Kids, Hasbro, Scholastic can reach aunts about gifts for their nieces and nephews. And brands like Tropicana, Schick, Yoplait Delights, BareNecessities.com and more can reach women with discretionary income relative to mom to spend on themselves.
While not a Savvy Auntie sponsor, in 2010 Sears aired a Mother’s Day commercial that honored all the mothers in your life, like your aunt and mom’s best friend. I spoke to their head of PR about this direction soon after:
The important thing to note here is the opportunity for brands to be at the top of the Zeitgeist. When you can reach women in one of the most heart-felt parts of their lifestyle – as aunts – and you have acknowledged their power and influence in the family village – and at the mall, airport or bank – then you probably have brand-loyalists for life.
To quote a Twitter reply when I announced Tropicana had become a Savvy Auntie sponsor because they “value the role of the aunt in the Family Village” – “I always knew their orange juice tasted better!”
Jeremiah: Why is this different from Mom bloggers?
Melanie: First of all, it’s not for moms (although some “Mommy-Aunties” do love it too) It’s for the nearly 50 percent of American woman who are not moms but love the children in their lives.
Savvy Auntie is a multiplatform media company and was never designed to be a digital-only platform. SavvyAuntie.com isn’t a blog; it’s an online community or online magazine. I don’t share publicly about my own nieces and nephews and it’s not a platform for my personal views on aunthood. It’s filled with Expert information and advice, Activity ideas, Gift ideas (I’m a toy expert) and Community. My book, SAVVY AUNTIE: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids (William Morrow/HarperCollins) is a WSJ Best-Seller. I founded Auntie’s Day in 2009 to acknowledge the aunts and godmothers in America every fourth Sunday in July. I also launched the Savvy Auntie Coolest Toy Awards in 2009 to give aunts a list of holiday gift ideas that are sure to be winners
But as much as I build my own platforms, I leverage external platforms to support the Savvy Auntie brand. I’m one of the 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter. You can also find a very active and engaged “Auntourage” on Facebook. As of this writing, there are over 72,000 Fans there which rivals iVillage and Lucky Magazine – both decade-old women’s media brands. You can also find me on HuffingtonPost.com (my posts have gone so viral I ended up on CNN that week) and PsychologyToday.com. I appear on TV and on radio.
Jeremiah: What is their income? Tell me about their spending power, this is important to executive decision makers.
Melanie: There is no publicly released HH (Household) income data on women without children, per say. Here’s what I can tell you:
Whether single, married, or partnered, we PANKs pack a powerful punch. Especially during economically turbulent times, “there isn’t a business alive” that can afford to overlook our financial clout, says Mary Lou Quinlan, founder and CEO of the marketing firm Just Ask a Woman and author of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It.
Here are some key stats that demonstrating the power of the PANKs’ collective purse.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?) Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.
Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.
Jeremiah: Who Do They influence? Are they socially active? Marketers want to know the benefits of engaging these Women.
Melanie: We’ve been told again and again that moms influence 85 percent of the HH purchases. But the stats usually refer to women – not moms exclusively. In my household, for instance, I am in control of 100 percent of buying decisions. Whether single, married or partnered, women without children have purchasing power like mom, only we may buy less milk and more pink cocktails. (Savvy Auntini anyone?).
They influence each other – and probably influence mom. After all, the ‘cool aunt’ may know the best lip gloss or latest trendy gym class to take.
They also influence their nieces and nephews and other children in their lives. From my book: “Simply being who we are is far too often regarded as “different”—which I put in quotes to emphasize how some people say that word as if being different is a bad thing. Here’s a great rebuttal: In his book The Forgotten Kin: Aunts and Uncles, author Robert M. Milardo, Ph.D., a professor of family relations at the University of Maine, writes, “Parents and nonparents, homosexuals and heterosexuals are valued as aunts and uncles in part because the social conventions that define aunting and uncling simply permit, and sometimes even encourage unconventionality.” The notion that our uniqueness is precisely what makes us such a highly valuable member of the American Family Village is one of the loveliest ideas I’ve ever heard.”
“Aunthood in and of itself has a profound and positive effect on our own personal development. Says Milardo, “The relationships aunts and uncles establish can provide personal satisfaction, opportunities for the development of lifelong friendships, a connection to family and community, a sense of place located in the convoy of generations and the opportunity to enact generative themes.” In other words, aunthood gives meaning to our lives today, and whether we wind up single, partnered or parenting, we give meaning to the generations to come.”
I appreciate the time Melanie spent to educate me on this market and providing me, and now armed with a new perspective, now that I think about it, I’m surrounded by PANKs and Savvy Aunties at work, at home, at family events, and at play. Now, back to you, what brands do you see catering to this specific set of women?
Any Savvy Aunts out there? Tell us how brands can better serve your needs in the comments below, or on my Google+ thread.