Top Sites for Women: Online Communities

by Jimmy Smith on March 11, 2009

In February 2008, it was reported that comScore ranked Women’s Communities as the fastest growing category of sites on the Internet, growing 35% from Dec 06 to Dec 07.  Below is a list of the top Web sites, at that time, in that category:

comScore MediaMetrix Oct. 2007 Page Views Visits Minutes per Visit
CAFEMOM.COM 90,000,000 5,212,000 10.9
BABYCENTER.COM (Johnson & Johnson) 77,000,000 10,863,000 6.1
IVILLAGE.COM (NBC Universal) 67,000,000 8,845,000 3.8
OPRAH.COM 59,000,000 6,947,000 7.0
MARTHASTEWART.COM 39,000,000 3,357,000 7.9
PARENTS.COM (Meredith Corp.) 27,000,000 3,434,000 4.9
KABOOSE.COM 26,000,000 3,810,000 3.2
FAMILY.COM (Disney) 7,000,000 1,990,000 4.8
GLAM.COM 4,000,000 863,000 0.6
PARENTSCONNECT.COM (Viacom) 1,000,000 467,000 1.8

After seeing the data above, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find some common themes and features among these top women’s sites.  I started by going to each site, and seeing how they describe themselves (see the descriptions of each site in Appendix 1 below).  By analyzing these descriptions, I was able to come up with four high-level purposes/features that nearly all of the sites’ content could fit into.Balancing Life by Stephanie Ackerman

  • Connections/Support (peer to peer, peer to expert, blogs, photo and story sharing, etc.)
  • Information/Research (on health, parenting, babies, relationships, beauty, etc.)
  • Home Making (coupons, budgeting, decorating, gardening, etc.)
  • Fun/Entertainment (games, celebrity gossip and style, travel, etc.)

I found it interesting that, except for the last category, it seems like most  of the purposes and features of these top women’s sites fit well within the gospel.  Relief Society meetings and visiting teaching provide connections and support.  The scriptures, Sunday School lessons, manuals, and Church Web sites provide information and tools for research.  And with the Church’s emphasis on home and family, our sisters, wives and mothers are among the best homemakers in the world.

Though these topics might fit neatly into the purposes of the gospel, the Church has yet to venture into producing a Web site like these, most of which have social networking/online community-type features.  Do you think the Church should build a Web site to address these functions: Connections and Support, Information and Research, and Home Making?  Or, since there are already many other Web sites providing these functions, is this something the Church doesn’t need to venture into?  Or should the Church address these issues through a Web site and, in our unique and inspired way, better serve women?  Your thoughts are appreciated.


Artwork “Balancing Life” by Stephanie Ackerman of Homegrown Hospitality

 

Appendix 1: Descriptions of the top 10 sites for women:
1. cafemom.com (CafeMom is a place for moms and moms-to-be to connect with one another. We invite you to take a look around CafeMom and join the moms who are already sharing, supporting, and having fun with one another at CafeMom.)
2. babycenter.com (Find information from BabyCenter on pregnancy, children’s health, parenting and more, including expert advice and weekly newsletters that detail your child’s development.)
3. ivillage.com (the daily destination for women, with horoscopes, health and pregnancy information, message boards and blogs, celebrity gossip, beauty and more.)
4. oprah.com (The place for everything in Oprah’s world. Get health, beauty, recipes, money, decorating and relationship advice to live your best life on Oprah.com. Plus, the home to The Oprah Winfrey Show, O Magazine, Oprah and Friends Radio, Angel Network, Harpo Films and Oprah’s Book Club.)
5. marthastewart.com (Food and dessert recipes, entertaining and home decorating ideas. Find ideas for cake decorating, baking, and kids crafts. Your online source for ideas from gardening to weddings.)
6. parents.com (Parents – Pregnancy, Babies, Baby Names, Pregnancy Calendar, Ovulation, Birth and More. Expert advice about pregnancy, your life, and family time from the editors of Parents magazine.)
7. kaboose.com (Kaboose is the premier family and parenting destination with kids’ crafts, holiday fun and activities, healthy food recipes, free online games, expert health and parenting information, community message boards, parenting blogs, photos, videos, shopping, interactive quizzes and tools, and much more.)
8. family.com (Family.com provides answers for every family’s needs. Find resources on parenting and raising healthy children, activities, entertainment, recipes, family travel and attractions, budgeting, shopping, coupons, and answers from the experts, other moms.)
9. glam.com (Glam covers fashion, celebrity style tips for women. Celebrity photos fashion designer interviews and beauty advice.)
10. parentsconnect.com (Get expert parenting advice, tips, & recipes for all stages of raising your child, plus connect with other parents)

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle March 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm

My first thought was that maybe it wouldn’t be necessary because there are already many sites created by Mormon women that focus on content relevant to women. There is also an LDS networking site (lds.net) that, although not official, draws a decent amount of traffic.

But the more I think about it, and the more I look at those numbers, I think some sort of site with a particular focus on women could be a really good thing. What persuades me in that direction is the numbers on this table. The sites that already exist likely won’t be able to draw the kind of traffic shown in this table. I’d love to see more content that upholds our teachings that could compete with these sites and also help the world understand our beliefs and teachings about womanhood, motherhood, etc.

I’m not sure which approach would be best, though. Sometimes forums and social networking sites can get a little chaotic, so my initial thought would be to lean toward your last suggestion to address these issues through a Web site.

But then again, Mormon women love to share their ideas and thoughts. :) And women have a lot of questions and concerns, and like to have interaction to sort through their lives.

The challenge I see to opening up a website for interaction would be keeping content consistent with the Church’s teachings. How would you separate out what is “official” Church material and what is not?

This is an interesting concept, and I would love to see something done in this regard by the Church. I just can’t get my mind around what an official site would or should look like.

heather March 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm

It would be interesting to find the numbers on top websites for Christian/LDS women. I know websites like Sugardoodle.net are popular because women share ideas with homemaking and church responsibilities.

I’m not sure what the best type of website is to fulfill all the needs of LDS Women, but I’m sure the idea is out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered.

Kristin March 11, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I agree with Michelle. I would love to see something. I think that it would be simple in a networking area to keep it as “nothing is ‘official’ unless the church actually says it”. I don’t think that would impede good conversation among the women. In order to keep the content appropriate, however, I think there would need to be a moderator… someone who could remove a comment or other form of communication that they deem inappropriate for the site.

Cindy March 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

My two cents:
1. It doesn’t make sense for the Church to duplicate functionality or content that is already available. But, it does make sense for the Church to do something in areas where it specializes or can add value beyond standard sites already available (e.g. Food Storage).

2. Many of the members of my ward Relief Society are already on Facebook. Rather than building a completely separate network, could we build Facebook Apps and utilize the networking that is already done there?

3. I think we deceive ourselves and run the risk of offense if we think of LDS women as one monolithic block of people who all think the same and have common interests. As a single engineer who also happens to be a member of Relief Society, I haven’t visited any of the top ten women’s internet sites. Rather than building sites for “LDS Women” (would we ever even attempt to build an “LDS Men’s” site, with all the diversity of interest and experience among our male members? LDS women are just as diverse!), why don’t we build sites that are around common interests? Like sites for Gospel Doctrine teachers (both men and women) to share ideas and insights. Or sites for people focused on geneology? Or sites for mothers with young children? Rather than building a community around a gender, build a community around interests.

Ardis E. Parshall March 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I don’t have any hopes that an LDS site for women would really be for women — it would be for mothers and for wives, like everything else offered by the church. It would be wonderful, and would have my full support, if an improbable website addressed women as women, rather than women in relational roles that are closed to me, but I’m not interested in just one more church program that addresses only the pattern and leaves the exceptions out in the cold. Again.

Michelle March 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

I like the Facebook possibility. Interesting possible option there. (Do these apps show up on Google? I haven’t seen them, but then again, have not looked for them. If they aren’t, I wonder if that would be the best route, then.)

It doesn’t make sense for the Church to duplicate functionality or content that is already available.

Hm. I actually think having many sites trying to get information about Mormon womanhood etc. is a good thing. No one site will usually be able to dominate Google searches; the more truth- and faith-filled sites that get lots of traffic, the better, imo. Note above how many sites get a lot of traffic on the same kind of content; this can be true within the Church, too, with the combination of official content and non-official content.

If you Google “mormon women,” for example (and people do wonder and search for info about us!), there are many sites are not Church friendly, are inaccurate, or are downright antagonistic. I think an official site with a particular focus on womanhood and our roles could fill an important place. I also think with all the LDS people who are online who would surely be interested in linking to it, it could have the potential to quickly rise to the top of Google searches on relevant topics.

The idea of different sub-groups is interesting, too. Although I don’t think that a site by the Church about womanhood would need to suppose that we are all the same. That would, in fact, be an important message to fold into the site. There could be subgroups within such a site, no?

(Sorry. This is a topic about which I am pretty passionate. :) )

Michelle March 11, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Since I’m still here, and just saw Ardis’ comment, I would second the thought that it would be important to make a site broad enough to recognize and acknowledge the variety of life situations in which women find themselves.

It’s interesting, though, to note how many of the traffic for women’s sites above center around parenting, etc. I wonder if young moms end up spending more time on the computer as they are home more? It would be interesting to see what the demographics are of LDS women who are online most often.

But how to appeal to all women in all phases of life would be an important question.

j March 11, 2009 at 10:28 pm

yes, i think thechurch having a social support site world be great

Terrie Lynn Bittner March 12, 2009 at 5:10 am

While a site like that would be fun, it would be nearly impossible to manage. Anything with the word Mormon or LDS on it attracts the haters, who post away happily, and the church might not want to be in a position of having to make value decisions on posts.

I would like to see a site that pulls together church information about LDS women–Ensign articles, food storage, and that sort of thing. Different sections could address different groups.

SilverRain March 12, 2009 at 7:11 am

I think that having a networking/forum/information/advice resource that is officially hosted by the Church would be a wonderful resource. It could easily feed into and work with existing sites. Having a place where faithful LDS women could confidently and safely go to participate with other LDS women around the world would be nothing short of miraculous.

It would be especially powerful if Relief Society and Young Women leadership could participate. It would certainly be a way to draw the vast sisterhood closer together, and help us all feel more a part of the Church.

The caution would be the lack of control such a site would have. I imagine there would not only have to be a moderator, but moderators, with clearly defined guidelines for those moderators to follow.

Rob Watson March 12, 2009 at 8:33 am

At the risk of being accused of sexism or chauvinism, I’d like to re-mention something a previous commenter said. A site for LDS Men.

WHAT?! “Guys” don’t want to talk to each other, right? They just want to grunt and get back to whatever they were building in the garage…

Just remember, though, that LDS blogs, in the beginning, were primarily dominated by male authors and proprietors. Women have begun to overtake us, which is awesome, but I believe there was a reason so many men took to blogging and podcasting. It was an outlet for all of their questions about doctrine, pent-up anxieties about life, and even righteous anger about the state of this world.

No, seriously. As a married, male member of the Church, I would LOVE to be able to connect with other guys about guy things. Being a good dad is one topic on my mind. Correctly understanding Church doctrine is another. Connecting with worldwide priesthood brethren is a third. Finding and sharing resources for self-sufficiency, for employment, for mechanical stuff (at which I am really, really bad) is a fourth. Each of us, all over the world, has skills and experiences and interests we can rally around.

I often joke with my wife that I’m jealous of the messages the RS sisters get during General Conference because they’re almost 100% uplifting and positive and encouraging. Rightfully so, because LDS women are the best women in the world!

When I attend Priesthood session, I also get uplifting and encouraging messages, of course. But, as is common to the male variety of the species, there is sometimes a certain atmosphere of guilt and shame for not being like the women in our dedication to callings, family, and ability to multi-task it all. Of course, I believe it’s inspired and very much needed counsel, without a doubt. We men have to be constantly reminded of our duties to God, family, and fellow man because we’re so one-track-minded. Still, it would be nice to just have a Church-sponsored online community to go to in order to process that and turn it into something positive vs. falling into self-loathing that Satan tempts us with when we’re confronted with our inadequacies.

If I were a single, male member of the Church, I would also want to go somewhere to do online gaming (LDS standards, of course) and join male-oriented interest groups (computers, tools, travel, career, etc.)

If I were a man (single or married) struggling with any kind of addiction or other sinful behavior, would I want a place to go to read LDS Family Services articles or chat online with a counselor, or share my struggles anonymously through a “walled-garden” blog? Perhaps there are some who would feel safe and would make progress in such a community, and others who would not.

Would there be a place on an LDS-approved community site for single adults to meet as well, without it becoming a “meet market” or fostering inappropriate behaviors and conversations? Maybe. That one’s tricky though.

Lots of possibilities here. The thing is to keep it all from becoming men vs. women or single vs. married, or anything vs. anything. The goal would be to become more “one in heart” as Zion. Community management, or at least really responsive and transparent ombudsman processes, would definitely be required.

Tracy Keeney March 12, 2009 at 10:05 am

I guess I just don’t really see the point of a Church sponsored site JUST for women. As previously stated– it would have to be a strictly informational and one way site in order for it to be manageable and to secure that information is doctrinal and not merely the thoughts/feelings/opinions/protests/complaints/
suggestions/debates etc of 8 million women.
Unless it was mainly a place for women to “chat” then what would it offer that isn’t already available at lds.org?
Besides that, from previous responses, I have the feeling it would end up being divided into a million boards — different women wanting their own group with similar situations/interests, instead of everyone gleaning from the same field. A section for singles who’ve never married or had children, a section for the divorced with children, a section for the married with no kids, a section for the married with kids, a section for the empty-nesters, a section for working moms, a section for stay at home moms-etc, etc, etc. I’m thinking there are already plenty of sites and blogs that fill these needs.

Johnna Benson Cornett March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am

Should the church provide a LDS-women’s online community?

In general, no.

Although we have Ensign articles from time to time on health, parenting, babies, relationships, beauty, coupons, budgeting, decorating, gardening, games, celebrity gossip and style, travel, etc., those topics are really outside the three-fold mission of the church, there’s little you can say that will be universally true. It trivializes our message, and it’s really better if we don’t do all our online socializing in-house. There’s enough of a tendency we have to be insular already. Better for us to be salt and light at iVillage. Better for us to relate to people outside the fold, both for ourselves and for sharing the gospel. I’d rather go to MarthaStewart for advice on cleaning my floors, really.

As far as connections and support, no. It’s a lot of work to make anonymous communities a pleasant place. What might work is some online adjunct for our local ward–our ward has an unofficial email list where we post our furniture giveaways and events in the community and personal news. Something to supplement the facetime. But that’s here in California where we’re typically the only LDS person on the street.

Michelle March 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Rob — I appreciated hearing your thoughts.

You know that there is a Church employment site, right? (http://www.providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1703-1,00.html) And I imagine that men could let others know about resources by going through their local employment specialists. Some of this networking can happen, imo, through resources we have available…we just need to use them!

Also, though not an official site, I have seen an LDS Addiction Recovery site out there that does allow those who struggle in this way to gather. FWIW. http://www.ldsar.org/

(Hope links are ok to share here…since the topics have come up, I figured it is good to know what *does* exist as we talk about what *could* exist.)

I ran across an LDS therapist who is offering services online, too.

http://mormontherapist.blogspot.com/

And have you checked out lds.net to see if they have some of the things you are suggesting?

SilverRain March 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Just some thoughts that came up from other comments: I don’t see a problem with fractioning into several boards or groups within the whole. People would likely participate in more than one group, anyways, according to interests. That would be, in part, the point. It is no different than our current Enrichment system of specialty groups (such as a book group, lunch group, etc.)

No matter how many other groups there are out there, not only are they sometimes hard to find, they are not sponsored by the Church. That makes a difference, particularly with women who do not know how to begin participating on the web. If they knew there was a Church-sponsored site, they would feel safer going and participating. Those other sites have a purpose, true, but there is also a purpose for a Church-sponsored corner of the web.

There are many who feel somewhat isolated in their wards, and would love an online opportunity to relate to Church members around the world as well as within the ward. It could also allow people to get to know ward members before a move, or on a more day-to-day basis. Perhaps, like other Church-sponsored sites, one’s member number could be utilized, if possible in a way that would not completely keep those who are not members from participating, if they wished.

I can certainly see the value of using such a site for all members, with a corner of it for women, rather than a women-only site.

Michelle March 12, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I think I have a comment in moderation…was sharing some links in response to Rob Watson.

Michelle March 13, 2009 at 1:01 am

Ah, looks like my comment disappeared (was deleted, I guess). Sorry if sending links was a no-no. :)

Daryll Jonnson March 13, 2009 at 5:17 pm

We have a very successful international online community for LDS women. Our members come from all backgrounds and are aged between 18 and 85.

It has become a great missionary tool as we have women from other faithfs wishing to be a part of it because of the standards and values we uphold.

We call it Our Ladies Room as it is for women only giving us the opportunity of discussing and sharing topics pertinent to women today. I wish I coild share some of the amazing testimonials we receive daily here as tohow this community has changed their lives.

Our Ladies Room March 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I previously posted a comment about our community and then went back to read all the comments posted. I just wanted to say again our community is bsed on the a similar concept to FaceBook. it is moderated and all memebers are approved before being accepted.

it was put together to help the join women through their differences in life. It is a free service to all around the world.

So much to say about it – maybe just check it out and give it a try.

I wish you had an email address Jimmy smith so I could contact you direct with this information!

We also have a community for the Youth at http://www.YomYow.com that is also moderated, monitored and approval of membership before allowing them to join.

Michelle March 15, 2009 at 2:03 am

Even with all that exists, I just can’t imagine that any site will be able to attract the kind of traffic that something official from the Church could. I have a hard time imagining that even some of the more popular LDS blogs could come close to scratching the surface in comparison to most of these sites listed above.

One question I have is whether high traffic in relation to these sites would be seen as important. If so, I really hope the Church will consider doing something.

Christina March 24, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I have been part of the LDS Support Group on Babycenter for 7 years. I don’t think having the church try to create something like this would be feasible. First of all, the best thing about babycenter is that we can have lively, often humorous, debate. The “fringe” members can come and not have to tow the party line. Also, we have quite a few “visitors”, both friendly and not. While I don’t enjoy the pot-stirrers, I thoroughly enjoy the curious visitors. AND, we have quite a few non-married, non-member, childless members of our board. I love the diversity. I just think it’s better left to other places… not the church.

Julie March 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I don’t know about a WOMEN’s site so much as perhaps some type of social networking application on a ward website that would be attractive to the youth. I hear lots of YW leaders contemplating whether or not it okay to have a blog for their YW group. I have seen several such blogs. They want to be able to share photos, calendar items, upcoming events, etc. with their YW in an “exciting” way that the youth will use.

Anyway…just a thought!

Cindy April 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Hello,

I am Cindy, a proud student of the University of Texas at Austin, and a research assistant for the University’s Nursing School. Our research team is conducting an Internet survey study on the physical activity attitudes among diverse ethnic groups of American middle-aged women (40-60 Y/O).

We invite you to help us to increase awareness of the importance of women’s opinions and experiences by participating in our study and announcing it to your organization, family, and friends. Please visit our website at (http://mapa.nur.utexas.edu ) We know that all women will benefit from participation in our study. With more participation, the more complete our data will be.

The survey will begin by asking you a series of eligibility questions. If the study has filled our sampling quota for an individual with your characteristics you will receive a kind message that states so. Upon completion of the survey, you will be invited to join the optional online forum discussion. Sorry, but we are unable to translate the survey into any other language except English, hopefully this does not discourage anyone.

Plus! Each participant will be rewarded a $10 gift card for the Internet survey and a $50 gift card for the online forum discussion (6 months).

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our study. Thank you so much for considering this study. Sorry for any duplicate emails.
Have a great day!

Cindy, Research Assistant, e-mail: cindyt86@gmail.com

Michelle May 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm

New idea today — with the Church’s new internet radio, I am wondering if it might be worthwhile to consider a feature that includes topics relevant to women, and interviews or invites women from all ages and stages, with varying life experiences. Also, the talks and content relevant to women could be flagged somehow (e.g., listening to Sheri Dew’s Deseret Book talk today, I wished it had been labeled somehow as being directed toward and about women.)

Amber September 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm

The variation of chat sites out there with an LDS presence is amazing! These women do such a great job representing the church in their little area of the world. I think an LDS sponsored one would take away from the missionary opportunities that these communities do.
For instance, I run LDSmoms at Cafemom. We have an active group of LDS ladies there but we also get a lot of non-lds people pop in all the time. Because they seek us out, these Moms are what Missionaries dream for. They are eager and open. I cannot number how many people have been helped by online communities much like mine. From converts to re-activation of members; you cannot put a number on them.

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