Q&A: iVillage’s Jodi Kahn

IVillage, an NBC Universal-owned site that aims to connect women on topics like health, wellness, fitness and pregnancy, has relaunched several of its most popular digital channels, undergone a logo change and is introducing new interactive features this spring.

The effort is part of iVillage’s strategy to become the premier, online information resource for women. Jodi Kahn, evp of iVillage Network and a former Time Inc. vet, said the makeover, which began in 2008, is on a steady “growth trajectory” and everyone is taking notice. Click-through rates and overall unique impressions are soaring, and iVillage is attracting plenty of new advertisers, Kahn said.

Kahn, who started her career as a media planner at Wunderman, spoke with Brandweek about these changes and what advertisers can expect to see from iVillage in the next few months.

Brandweek: In September 2009, iVillage kicked off a massive, site relaunch. What prompted that and how’s that project progressing?
Jodi Kahn: In November 2008, we conducted an exhaustive research on the women’s space, and realized that iVillage is a tremendous asset in this space and especially among larger, content-driven communities. And when we looked at that research, there were three things that informed us about this space: One, it is a female-driven economy, women are living [busy] lives, and they touch [a minimum of] five devices a day. We thought there was a unique opportunity and it was the right time to invest in this space. The company was really excited about the plan to reengineer the site and the design, but overall, to revive the brand and really capitalize on something that has tremendous equity for both [advertisers] and consumers.

What are some of the channels you’ve relaunched to date and what results have you seen thus far?
We relaunched Entertainment in September, Food in November and Astrology in December. Overall traffic on our site has grown north of 100 percent from May through January, according to comScore. For Entertainment, our unique visits were up over 65 percent, and on Food, it’s up over 140 percent. Our home page unique visits are up 170 percent, and the exciting thing is, we’ve seen engagement increase but also our click-through rate [rise] for advertisers as a result of the new design and content. Click through on Entertainment was up 116 percent and on “Food,” it was over 87 percent.

IVillage recently relaunched the Health portion of its site. What’s changed about it and what insights/focus group findings brought about some of these changes?
Last year, we went to four cities to see what women were looking for, what their needs and unmet needs were, and we found that … in health specifically, the driver of the experience — what women are looking for — is information that is quick and simple. Most women are not interested in looking at medical definitions or a medical journal definition. They want to understand what it is and to connect to other people’s stories, to be assured that they — or a family member — are not the only ones suffering through something.

The key insight: women are at the center of a very large care circle. It’s not just their daughter or their mother, but also their neighbor and friend, so that we’re all caring for a lot of people in our universe, and we’re entering in [and searching for] information that relates to that. We are very much designing the site with those key things in mind. We know that when women go online — due to the vast amount of information out there — they need to understand why they’re on some site and the content has to be clean, fresh and up-to-date.