Traffic Up for NBCU Female Sites Despite Crowded Field

Now that every last person in America has launched a Web site catering to women, one would think traffic for some of the older sites would start to dwindle as the audience fragments. But like Starbucks in the 1990s, there seems to be no limit to how many female-oriented sites one can open before public demand is satisfied.

Witness the most recent Media Metrix numbers for NBC Universal’s women and lifestyle entertainment networks, the collection of women-oriented sites that includes iVillage.com, BlogHer, Oxygen.com and BravoTV.com. Collectively, the sites drew 19.8 million unique visitors in August, a 28 percent increase over the 15.4 million visitors it drew in the same month last year. That marks the 25th straight month of year-over-year growth for the properties.

In that time, traffic at iVillage.com itself, the network’s flagship brand, is up 26 percent, according to Peter Naylor, SVP of digital media sales for NBC Universal. He also pointed to the network’s Parenting and Pregnancy Channel, which is up 8 percent year over year. Naylor said that was “a great place to be considering the competition” in the category.

Naylor said such competition made for a tougher environment online, but speculated that women-oriented sites were still far from the saturation point.

“The Internet is a busy woman’s best friend,” he said, adding that NBCU’s sites were providing “great services for both solution-oriented surfing and entertainment-oriented surfing and making connections with friends and community.”

“We are also making very search-friendly sites, so when women go searching for what they are interested in, [our sites] are right at the top,” he added.

On the advertising front, Naylor said NBCU was making meaningful deals through its Women@NBCU initiative. Rolled out earlier this year, Women@NBCU sells inventory to advertisers across all of NBCU’s women-oriented properties, both on- and off-line.

A sponsorship deal with Wal-Mart in August made through Women@NBCU brings content to sites like iVillage and shows like Today that help women connect with the people who help them meet their responsibilities as mothers. Collectively the content is known as “momtourage.”

“We’re taking advantage of corporate synergies,” said Naylor. “If you watch the Today show, you can’t go a few days without hearing a reference to iVillage.”

Meanwhile, as the stable of women-oriented sites continues to expand, controversy has emerged over the metrics and what exactly constitutes a “women’s” Web site. According to the NYTimes, comScore in August told NBCU’s chief competitor in the category, Glam Media, that it would no longer count sites in Glam’s network that don’t cater specifically to women when compiling its rankings for the women’s category. Glam Media has been number one on that list since June 2007, when it took the top spot from iVillage.

Naylor declined to predict whether this would put iVillage back on top when the new comScore numbers come out, but he did laud the measurement company for being strict about its definition.

“[Glam] has things like MyYearbook.com in there, which is not really a woman’s site but is kind of a Facebook clone. So that’s a big part of their numbers, as are sites like Dogster and Catster,” he said. “So I think there’s a little bit of scrutiny as to why they should be in the women’s category and not just be considered an aggregator or ad network.”

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