Time Warner, Condi Nast go for the girls

A new alliance is formed to build yet another women's TV network and Web site -- to capture that "smart, active," big-spender female demographic.

Published June 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Brainy babes, to your keyboards! Time Warner Inc. and Advance Publications Inc. (parent of Condi Nast) on Friday announced a new venture just for you. The project, according to CNN president Pat Mitchell, will be "a destination exclusively for smart, active women" (as opposed to, say, our dumb, lazy sisters?) and will include both a cable television station designed to give Lifetime TV a run for its money, and an accompanying Web site.

This glossy new venture will reportedly be based on content from the two publishing powerhouse's women's magazines -- which include InStyle, Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle, People, Self and a host of others. Net veterans, however, may recall that Condi Nast already offers two Web sites for women based on this same repurposed material: Swoon, which regurgitates romance articles from Glamour and Mademoiselle alongside personal ads and horoscopes, and Phys, which recycles those magazines' health info. Neither site has proven too successful over the years -- especially when compared to the competition.

And that competition is doing quite well, thanks in part to a keen interest from investors who have realized that women are going to spend a lot of money online. IVillage.com, the stultifying recipes-and-diet-tips site that currently dominates the online women's market, recently had a wildly successful IPO. And Women.com earlier this year merged with Hearst's HomeArts Web sites, purveyers of yet more recipes and middle-of-the-road advice for women, to create an all-purpose fem site with links to magazines like Cosmo, Good Housekeeping and Victoria. (Hearst, incidentally, is the co-creator of Lifetime TV with Disney).

But the Time Warner-Advance project is most clearly aimed to compete with Oxygen, the much-hyped upcoming network for "gutsy new women" from Nickelodeon creator Geraldine Laybourne. Oxygen will include a cable TV station for women and accompanying Web sites; so far, its offerings are a handful of also-ran women's sites that were picked up from AOL, and include (surprise!) diet tips, romance columns and parenting advice.

Will the "smart, active" content promised by Advance and Time Warner include more than the mainstream pablum for women currently available online? Or will the ladies receive yet more advice on how to slim our thighs and prepare nutritious snacks for kids while dressed for the catwalk? If the new venture does what it promises, it will sure be in a league of its own.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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