All in the Family

  |  March 16, 2007   |  Comments

The Web's in a family way, with new arrivals from Disney and The Knot.

Two Web sites geared toward parents, and in particular mothers, were unveiled this week. Disney.com re-launched Family.com, and The Knot brought out its acquired property Lilaguide.com.

In the same quarter when Disney instituted a major relaunch of its kids' site, it made public the redesign of its Family.com property. The site aims to appeal to parents, in particular the over 32 million online moms in the U.S., with content, search and community elements. It will operate in beta this spring with plans to ultimately go live over the summer after a testing period.

"We are blending together content, answers and community in what we feel is a new way," said Emily Smith, VP in charge of Disney Family.com development. "Community is woven throughout everything we do... part of every page on the site."

Sections including original and aggregated content, answers, and a family toolbox may originate with editorial articles, but will allow users to comment and offer their own experiences.

The re-launched site includes the "Disney Family 1,000," a dynamic listing of the most useful sites on the Web as rated by registered site users. People can then conduct searches within the 1,000 sites, or limit queries to the Family.com site.

Family.com advertising opportunities include both display and sponsored links. The former come in three IAB standard sizes and are sold through Disney's central sales team. Media buys can be made in conjunction with the company's TV, online, radio and print properties.

A second family-oriented site focuses on first time and new parents with special attention paid to user-submitted local reviews. Lilaguide.com, a site from wedding portal The Knot, will leverage community aspects by collecting user reviews and experiences with local stores, restaurants and attractions, as well as first-hand product reviews. Parents can find pointers on where to get a baby haircut in a particular city, how to select a stroller for twins, and where to find maternity clothes, among other topics.

The Knot acquired Lilaguide in July. It previously existed in a Zagat-like print format sold in maternity and children's stores as well as some OBGYN offices. Lilaguide became attractive to the previously wedding-focused site, which also runs The Nest, for obvious reasons.

"What newlyweds do is terrifyingly predictable: buy a home, buy a car...," said The Knot CEO David Liu. "We realized there was a community of newlyweds and their issues; we broke off a portion of our boards and created a new brand, the Nest, about two years ago."

One of the most popular components on the network was the message board Babies on the Brain. It stood out as a unique category, couples contemplating having a first child, said Liu, and offering a baby-centric property was a natural next step.

At launch Lilaguide.com boasts 32,000 listings and over 120,000 reviews of baby products, services, and activities in 5,000 neighborhoods and metropolitan areas. Liu said The Knot hasn't yet begun to sell advertising on the site. "With these site launches we need to first demonstrate that there will be a certain level of traffic," he said.

Advertising efforts will first target vendors in local markets with the option to create enhanced listings. "As traffic builds across all 23 markets, we will layer in national advertising," said Liu. "We will be going after the usual suspects like Pampers, Huggies, and formula companies."

Both Disney and The Knot have said video is being considered for their sites.

To promote Lilaguide, The Knot is planning organic and grass roots efforts to drive traffic. "There's a natural flow of consumers that come through The Nest right now, and the Babies on the Brain message board. The Knot also hired a dozen or so moms part time in certain local markets for guerilla marketing. These moms are disclosing their affiliation with the site, however.

Disney's rollout will happen in stages. It will reach out to its target audience through e-mail campaigns and other means to get users testing the site. Once the site comes out of beta over the summer, Smith said there is a full marketing campaign in the works, including SEM and offline efforts to "blanket the city" in certain markets. "Assuming those go well, it will roll out nationally," she said. And promos will appear on Disney channels. "The company is behind it. You'll see various ways the company can support it [with] cross-promotions," Smith said.

Two more sites in the family market don't crowd the space, according to Smith, who says Liliguide.com will join sites like Urban Baby and other useful parenting destinations on the Web. "Any site that parents are interested in is a site we are interested in," she said.

Lilaguide.com is already live. Disney's Family.com site is expected to enter public beta and become available in the coming days.

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Enid Burns

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