Tuesday, September 11, 2007


10 Sep 2007, New Paper

Friendship sites for older users gaining popularity

IT's the latest in online social networking - sites targeting the grey-haired.

Technology investors and entrepreneurs have started a host of new social networking sites with names like Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Maya's Mom, Boomj and Boomertown, reported the International Herald Tribune.

Think friendship sites for seniors, devoted to topics that interest them.

The sites are designed to grab the attention of a generation of Internet users who have more money and leisure time than those several decades younger, and who may be more loyal than teens who flit from one trendy site to the next.

Some of the users of these sites say they offer a smaller community of like-minded (and like-aged) people than the bigger sites like MySpace, Facebook and Friendster do.

On these sites, you can find discussion and dating forums, photo-sharing, news and commentary, and information about diet, fitness and health care.

Ms Martha Starks, 52, spends an hour or two on Eons every evening. She said: 'I've discussed my divorce, my medical issues, and when do I dare go dating again. I sure wouldn't discuss that stuff with a 20-year-old.'

But it's not all gloom and doom. Ms Stark said she talked about fun things too, like movies and music, with an audience who gets what she's saying.


In the US, there are 78 million baby boomers - roughly three times more than the number of teenagers and 20-somethings - and most of them are Internet users who learnt computer skills in the workplace.

And seniors have patience.

The creators and financiers of these new sites say older users tend to stick with a social network once they get comfortable with it, unlike teenagers, who switch sites often.

VantagePoint Venture Partners has announced it is leading a US$16.5 million ($25m) financing round into Multiply, a social network based in Boca Raton, Florida, it considers itself a social network for people who want to stay connected with existing friends and family, not those trying to hook up with new friends at the hottest club.

VantagePoint was one of the earliest investors in MySpace.

Another site, TBD (which stands for To Be Determined) will be launched in the middle of this month.

TBD.com's founder is Ms Robin Wolaner, who in 1987 created Parenting magazine. She said: 'There's a recognition that this generation now uses the Internet just like younger people. The one thing this generation hasn't done yet is network online.'

Networks aimed at older users are a big draw for investors and companies providing consumer products and services, said Ms Susan Ayers Walker, a freelance technology journalist for the AARP and founder of SmartSilvers Alliance, which offers consultant services to businesses looking to connect with seniors.

Another reason for the popularity of such networks: Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs and investors are greying too.

Ms Ayers Walker said: 'They've all got high blood pressure. They're starting to understand their age group - they're living it.'

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