On Fathers Day, Another Moms Post

Yet another article appeared about the power of online communities and moms in particular. This piece from the Sunday NY Times (reg. req'd) is about "Peachhead," the Southern California Yahoo! Groups' version of Northern California's Berkeley Parents Network (BPN). Neither site is "commercial" (accepts ads) and both have tremendous influence over local businesses and their success. From the article on Peachhead:

Unlike some of the larger sites for parents, like Urbanbaby.com and iVillage.com, Peachhead does not accept advertising or sponsors. Ms. Perry personally screens all members and monitors the discussion.

This combination of factors has made her disproportionately powerful in the small community of businesses that serve affluent mothers on the fashionable West Side of Los Angeles. A rave or a thumbs-down from her can make or break, say, a children's hair salon or even a pediatric practice. This clout has made her the don to a kind of mommy mafia in the hyperattentive child-rearing circles.

The BPN wields similar influence though not necessarily intentionally. It's this kind of value and local impact that the social-directory sites are trying to emulate and cultivate, not to mention a new raft of potential money making mom sites now coming out.

The phenomenon exemplified by the BPN and Peachhead is both simple and complicated. We can observe word-of-mouth translated online and heightened in its impact because of the speed and reach of the Internet and growing consumer reliance on it. That's the "simple" part. But the sites that arguably have the most credibility with local consumers are precisely those that don't take ads per se (the BPN has email classifieds). That's the complex part: complex because advertisers can't do much to influence the community, yet the community wields so much potential influence over them.

These sites are valuable for a range of reasons; Peachhead and the BPN offer advice and a range of non-commercial information helpful to moms and parents. This gives people more reasons to visit the sites and makes them more valuable to users than simply as a list of recommended business listings.

Craiglist has developed similar credibility with users because people feel there's a real community there and its purpose isn't chiefly to make money (only job listings are monetized on a flat fee basis and real estate in New York). The user experience on Craigslist is quite awkward but that's part of the appeal; it doesn't feel "corporate." Ironically, however, by not being focused on service rather than revenue Craigslist is now more commercially successful (and worth more) than Craig Newmark and its other founders could ever have imagined. (Here's an interesting piece on CL from the WSJ [sub req'd].)

Social-directory sites (e.g., InsiderPages, Judysbook, Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo Local/Answers) occupy the middle between non-commercial online communities with "total credibility" and local media that are purely ad driven (e.g., traditional yellow pages). And Peachhead is an example of something that will only gain momentum: reliance of local consumers on trusted online communities and review sites. This is because they offer more depth and detail (e.g., see "Home Repair & Household Services" on BPN) than traditional media and are also more efficient for those same reasons.

Most people no longer have time to call three "anonymous" advertisers, get three estimates and invest the time involved in screening them. They'll still ask their friends for recommendations "offline," but they'll also increasingly turn to sites and online communities that offer trusted referrals and other ways to expedite finding worthy local businesses.

2 Responses to “On Fathers Day, Another Moms Post”

  1. Andy Vogel, Interactive in Milwaukee - “The reality of the economy of Milwaukee is Laverne and Shirley don’t work here anymore. …tell people if you’re looking for a cutting edge city, come to Milwaukee.” - Mayor Tom Barrett i Says:

    […] You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave aReply […]

  2. Andy Vogel Says:

    Here’s what I tried to post last night:

    I want to make sure folks know about one of the early groundbreakers in this space: MilwaukeeMoms.com

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