September 12, 2007
New Social Sites Cater to People of a Certain Age
By MATT RICHTE
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 11 — Older people are sticky.
That is the latest view from Silicon Valley. Technology investors and entrepreneurs, long obsessed with connecting to teenagers and 20-somethings, are starting a host of new social networking sites aimed at baby boomers and graying computer users. The sites have names like Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Maya’s Mom, Boomj, and Boomertown. They look like Facebook — with wrinkles. [snip]
“The older demographic has a bunch of interesting characteristics,” Mr. Kedrosky added, “not the least of which is that they hang around.”
This prospective and relative stickiness is helping drive a wave of new investment into boomer and older-oriented social networking sites that offer like-minded (and like-aged) individuals [snip].
In August, Shasta Ventures led a $4.8 million financing round for TeeBeeDee, a site coming out of its test stage this month. The name is short for “To Be Determined” [snip].
But there are 78 million boomers — roughly three times the number of teenagers — and most of them are Internet users who learned computer skills in the workplace. Indeed, the number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a market research firm.
“There’s a recognition that this generation now uses the Internet just like younger people,” she said. “The one thing this generation hasn’t done yet is network online.”
Some of the older users of the sites say the experience feels more comfortable to them than when they tried MySpace, Facebook or Friendster.
Peter Pezaris, president and chief executive of Multiply.com Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., said he believed that older customers were stickier than younger ones, but said the evidence so far was anecdotal. He said 96 percent of the company’s active users returned each month, a statistic that he said impressed the venture capitalists who considered investing in the site.
David Carlick, a managing director with VantagePoint, which led the latest investment round in Multiply, said he believed that social networking sites in general had a bright business future as advertisers start to gravitate to them. He also said he believed that targeted sites, like those focused on an age demographic, could be particularly effective.
Peter Ziebelman, a partner at Palo Alto Venture Partners, joked that the interest in sites aimed at aging Americans represented the end of a state of denial for venture capitalists.
“Perhaps there aren’t many V.C.’s who want to be in the newspaper saying they’re backing the 5o-and-over population,” he said. “They’d rather say they’re attending the next keg party.”
Ms. Ayers said that the investors are learning that social networks aimed at older users are a big draw for investors, consumer products and services companies. “Not only do we have a lot more money, we pay a lot more attention to advertisers,” she said.
“Our audience, while it is harder to attract, is more durable and sticky over time,” he said.