If you are IPC - the leading publisher of women’s lifestyle
magazines - the emergence of the internet is pretty frightening. Could
all those magazine franchises which have been the basis of your business
for the best part of a century be usurped by web sites?
To insure against this, IPC, with 23 women’s magazines, is next month
launching its own women’s lifestyle web site, entirely independent of
its magazine titles. It is an indication of the importance that IPC puts
on the BeMe.com project that the company has recruited the editor of
EMAP’s Looks magazine, Eleni Kyriacou, to oversee content for the
BeMe.Com joins a market that is already busy. Associated Newspapers’
Charlotte Street.com site, and The Telegraph Group’s Handbag.com both
launched last autumn, supported by significant advertising
There is some evidence that the sites are finding a willing audience,
with women using them as content sources and lifestyle accessories in
the same way they do magazines.
Research for Handbag.com has found that 30 per cent of women internet
users said they had heard of the site, compared with 50 per cent for
bookseller Amazon. Handbag also claims 300,000 people have accessed the
site since launch. CharlotteStreet claims to have around 147,000 core
users, with 2.1 million page impressions recorded a month.
The site owners are keen to stress that they are not in the business of
simply replicating women’s magazine fare on-line. But given that the
audience is much the same, it is not surprising that the same subjects
(relationships, careers, family) feature heavily.
The interactive element allows the sector’s traditional expert advice to
be given more efficiently, as well as generating quicker polls and the
opportunity for on-line games. The sites can also develop as
’communities’, allowing topical discussions via its message boards.
The three sites use slightly different approaches. Handbag has 18
different ’channels’ of content on different subjects, much supplied by
independent operators. The idea is to develop the site as a portal to
The Associated site is a destination in itself, and both Associated and
IPC mostly use their own content.
As yet, the sites will have little by way of an income, but this could
change if e-commerce takes off in a big way this year. Research for
Handbag suggests that women make 75 per cent of the buying decisions in
the home, and a site that is a regular port of call for large numbers of
working women has obvious value.
Launch: October 1999
Updates: at least three times a day
’We are aiming at a female audience aged between 25 and 55, but mainly
in their late-20s and early-40s. It is a middle-class audience, similar
to the so-called middle-youth market served by magazines like Red.
’We are going for the people that have some responsibilities and we
provide information that can help them. I think Handbag is a bit younger
- it does more fashion- and beauty-type things. We do more on childcare,
pensions, workplace rights, how to make the most of your time and get
the best for your family. A lot of web sites are still a bit geeky, we
are trying to be more friendly and sassy.’
’Being part of Associated Newspapers gives us an advantage, we have the
right to take things from the company’s titles, including the Daily Mail
and the Evening Standard, but we don’t have the same political line and
we go into more detail. Our site is free access, but you have to
register to join in the message boards and then you become a member.
’When we set this up there were no female-friendly web sites in the UK.
Newspapers are run by men and news stories with a female focus do not
tend to get the space they deserve. Take the recent story on breast
cancer screening - we can go into that in a lot of detail.
’At the moment, advertising is the main source of revenue, but I think
e-commerce will get a lot bigger next year.’
Launch: February 2000
Position: women’s media director
’We are a women’s portal launching out of the biggest publisher of
women’s magazines in Europe, so obviously we have expertise in this
area. We know women - but we’re not just a women’s channel. We welcome
men, too. It is aimed at women who aren’t interested in being labelled,
who want to be themselves, yet who want to be connected to a wider
’These are not just magazines on the web, if they were, nobody would
read them. The beauty of the web is that you can learn about things,
find solutions now; today; this minute. Information needs to be provided
in witty nuggets to achieve this. It’s like written talking, or live
radio - the way Alistair Cooke writes his Letter From America is
perfectly suited to on-line style.
’We are trying to achieve everything that’s not yet been achieved - we
want fresh, warm, easily accessible information on a site that’s
actually a nice place to be, and one that doesn’t look like a cross
between a text book and a fruit machine. People will use our site
intuitively. We have fried many brain cells working out a seamless
navigational journey to avoid user web rage. Our site will develop with
more of a TV feel and, with our links with IPC Magazines, be more
connected to a female audience. There will be six content channels with
25 editorial staff producing them.’
Launch: October 1999
Position: editorial director
’Handbag is a joint venture between Boots and the Telegraph Group.
Ninety per cent of women go to Boots once a month, so the company
believes it is in a special position to know the women’s market and the
Telegraph was the first paper to go on-line, so it has always been
progressive in this medium.
’We have a much fuller offering than other sites. Each of our 18
channels has a theme; for example the technology centre gives you e-mail
and helps you build your own web page. We have ten editorial staff and
work with content providers - we’re not just commissioning it all or
taking it from the Telegraph. Sainsbury’s is coming on-line with us
’Our target market is not defined by age - we are looking for people
with similar interests. Travel is one of the key things, plus managing
finances, homes and gardens. I think there is a big enough market for us
and the other sites - look at all the magazines in newsagents. But we
don’t want to replicate a magazine on-line. We wanted to mix the
closeness of magazines with the interactive features of the net, so we
have things like quizzes, games and votes.
’We wanted to give people access to experts on line: Gordon Ramsay for
cookery, for example. We also wanted to build interactivity with
bulletin boards and things like the ’bosses hall of shame’.’