NBC Universal looks to leverage iVillage users

Aims to funnel Bravo, Oxygen viewers to website

A year after NBC Universal’s iVillage rolled out its new content, the site is focused on finding new ways to monetize the asset that made it a saleable commodity in the first place: its chatty readership.

Site, at one point a primary destination for women seeking domestic solutions on its message boards, is attempting to set itself up as the flagship site for viewers of Lauren Zalaznick’s Women@NBCU group of assets — cablers Bravo and Oxygen, iVillage and what conglom called “female-skewing properties” throughout the company.

Those properties are aimed at web-savvy women who actively participate in discussions about everything from how to talk to kids about money to dating after divorce, and who seek out editorial content revolving around parenting, beauty, health and entertainment. And iVillage was the Web destination where many of those discussions took place even before the buy.

Conversations about brand quality and money are uniquely valuable to advertisers anxious to find an inroad to consumer psyches — the talking-to-kids-about-money board led to an ad campaign with American Express (ads featured uncomfortable parents about to give kids “the talk”… about money). The Web forums’ focus on pets helped to sell a Procter & Gamble branded website called Petside.

“Year on year we’re up 35% in ad sales for Q3 and around that number for Q4 as well,” said Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, who heads up marketing for iVillage. “We have 160 new advertisers, and our audience is up about 18% over last year.” That 18% is mostly in the site’s entertainment (up 190%) and beauty (up 77%) sections.

While the increase is respectable rather than staggering, it does suggest that iVillage is on to something when it vigorously markets the social component of its site; Balsam-Schwaber says the site includes “20,000 brand mentions on average,” and that because of those, they see a lot of community adoption of its advertisers’ products.

It’s another step in integrating brands into the Women@NBCU platform, which also includes Walmart promoting its eco-friendly policies to consumers.