FM and BabyCenter: An Appreciation

I don't use this space very often to talk about my "other" business, but as loyal readers know, that "other" business has become my passion, so much so that it has taken the best of my time away from Searchblog. I often say to folks that I started FM…

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I don’t use this space very often to talk about my “other” business, but as loyal readers know, that “other” business has become my passion, so much so that it has taken the best of my time away from Searchblog. I often say to folks that I started FM to create a model that would allow me – and hundreds like me – to write and publish full time. Well, two and a half years in, I’m proud to say that’s true for scores of FM partners, but I’m not quite there at Searchblog. I have so much I want to write about, but so little time to actually write – as writing, of course, also requires reporting, reflection, and editing. And FM requires, well, full time focus.

But given that the last two posts have been about pals – Casey at Dell, and the team at Six Apart – I figured I may as well do a bit of log rolling with regard to the latest deal FM has consummated – our partnership with Tina Sharkey and her colleagues at BabyCenter.

The mainstream media world has woken up to the power of conversational media in the past six or so months, with nearly every major company announcing a blog and/or social media strategy. At FM, we knew this was coming, and we welcome it – it’s a validation of the authors we work with – from Om and Mike to ProTrade and Graffiti. We’re at more than 50 million uniques worldwide, which makes us a pretty big media company, if you want to look at it that way. But we don’t, really. We focus on each of our authors, and the federations they are part of.

We started with a small technology federation, and our second federation was about parenting. Why? Well, besides the fact that I have three kids, one of our tech authors was a huge fan of Dooce, one of our anchor authors. And when we met Heather and Jon, we knew we had to figure out a way to make parenting our second federation.

As time went by, it became glaringly obvious that we were not alone in seeing the value of conversational media, in particular when it comes to an area that large media companies call “women’s interest.” Very large companies – from Martha Stewart to Conde Nast to Time Inc – were noodling their own social media plays. And while we were very proud of the voices in FM’s network, it was clear that we needed a partner if we were going to take our support of parenting authors to the next level.

That’s where Tina and BabyCenter came in. As I surveyed the landscape of possible partners, there was only one I saw as a perfect fit with our current authors. BabyCenter is not only the best (and largest) parenting resource on the web, Tina is one of the finest media execs I’ve worked with. It was a perfect match.

Together, FM and BabyCenter are integrating our authors’ voices into BabyCenter, and bringing new voices into the family. From the point of view of marketers, we have scale, quality, and safety; from the point of view of readers, we have extraordinarily deep resources and singular voices; and from the point of view of authors, we now have a partnership that brings both new readers and new marketers to their respective sites.

I’m looking forward to more partnerships like this one, and to continuing to scale FM while maintaining our focus on supporting independent conversational media. How does this relate to search, you might ask? Well, to be honest, search is what proved the whole idea of conversational media in the first place. With search as the navigational interface to media, we all started finding voices we could connect with. And a new form of media was born. It’s pretty cool, when you think about it.

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

One thought on “FM and BabyCenter: An Appreciation”

  1. John, speaking of babies — let’s nor beat around the bush: This is basically a question of “is it the chicken or the egg”?

    Let me provide an example: would shopping.com have been (and continue to be) successful if the site (i.e. the LOCATION) was “myshopping”? Probably not, and all those epinions would never have happened if they were not linked to shopping.com or shop.com or http://gifts.com or whatever (it’s interesting to note how JCPenny concentrates on “what makes a gift a gift” @ http://gift.com — this is [just as expected] the difference between singular and plural forms of a term: singular describes the essence, plural provides a laundry list of instantiations of the term).

    That you have landed this “deal” with Johnson & Johnson is great — and of course this is what I have been predicting for many years already (I noted that shopping.com was far more valuable than ebay.com years before ebay bought it. And I do not doubt that you may very well have some of the best authors on board. My question is: how much would an investor have to pay to open up shop at baby.net? (AFAIK, most of the domains that are worth anything are not reflected in the NASDAQ and/or Marchex [which have many names, but AFIAK few that worth very much] — mainly because so many people are punch drunk on the koolaid [i.e. believing that a “links” are the end-all solution to information retrieval — bwahahahaha!!] ;D)

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