IQ News: It Takes A Village

Candice Carpenter continues to fine-tune iVillage.
Candice Carpenter, the woman who helped launch iVillage five years ago, is reaping the benefits of being an Internet pioneer–getting awards for her work.
Among them: the Matrix Award she receives this week from New York Women In Communications, an organization that annually awards exceptional women in the communications field. The group recognizes that “we not only built a company, we built a brand, a much harder exercise,” says Carpenter, who turns 48 this week.
Also this week, iVillage will receive the Gracie Allen Award given out by The Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television for excellence in programming for women.
And the site continues to grow. The iVillage Music Network, a 24-hour/seven days a week online radio station, debuts this week. IVillage members helped to select the three music formats: country, soft rock and Top 40. A live disc jockey, on air from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. eastern time, will take e-mail requests and conduct interviews with prominent women.
Carpenter’s eager to see her business, a network of sites aimed at women ages 25 to 54, expand into broadband, but she wants to make sure changes make sense for her users, which include 7.6 million unique visitors every month and 4.2 million registered members.
She’s built up the site around the audio and video components without turning it into an entertainment site. Currently, iVillage has more than 100 hours of video, consisting of 3 to 5 minute segments on topics ranging from female entrepreneurs to pet care. Carpenter says that women visit the site to get things done and learn skills, such as how to negotiate a raise.
She is interested in convergence, but only “for the sake of our members.” It’s important not to be “television obsessive.” While competitors, upstart Oxygen Media among them, are offering more tie-ins with TV shows and other types of entertainment, she says TV is a distraction to her audience’s needs. But it doesn’t mean they won’t go there: The site is currently promoting a contest with NBC to give away a walk-on role on the show Providence and $5,000 in cash.
She chooses her battles. She counts 170 advertisers on iVillage, including longstanding relationships with Visa and Ralston Purina. But she has not taken every ad that came her way. Ads are turned down if they are not a good fit or if the advertiser “wanted a quick fix and not [a chance to] build a bigger relationship” with the company. IVillage has never taken cigarette ads.
Most of the site’s traffic is women: about 80 percent, but Carpenter says “our brand has been friendly to men” who visit the site for health and parenting tips.
Celebrity involvement is another issue Carpenter is contending with. She’s proceeding cautiously: She wants stars to be members themselves and willing to make a long-term time commitment to iVillage.
Carpenter claims some high-profile interest from people such as model Iman, who is expecting a baby with husband David Bowie, and visits the site daily for pregnancy information.
Still, Carpenter is careful not to have celebrities represent the ideal woman. “Women have had magazines blasting perfection at them,” she says. “Our goal is to let women be focused on themselves.” n