Q&A: Jodi Kahn

The iVillage chief discusses the NBC Universal site's redesign

NEW YORK -- Jodi Kahn oversees iVillage, the online destination for women acquired by NBC Universal in 2006. As executive vp of iVillage Networks, she has overseen a relaunch of the site in several phases that is designed to update its look and feel and integrate more community features. THR New York bureau chief Georg Szalai talked to her about the changes and what is driving them.

The Hollywood Reporter: Why the redesign/relaunch, and why now?

Jodi Kahn: We had the opportunity to look at how women are using the Web. I came to the company in November, and we did some research in January about how women are looking for information on the Web. We determined it's a great time to build the business and make it stronger.

THR: What did you find about how women use the Web and what they are looking for?

Kahn: Our research showed us two things. No. 1: In their lives, women are task-oriented, and they approach the Web as they typically do in their life -- very categorized. Certain things, women do automatically online -- health, family, food, home and some beauty and style. Plus, of course some relaxation and entertainment. The key insight is that very typically women are very busy, and they are managing their lives online. And they typically do something for someone else in their circle -- whether it's a friend, a neighbor, a kid or a mother, whether they are answering or sending out invitations. And we have a unique formula in the inerconnection of our key verticals. If you are researching something about a health condition, you can't ignore that food has something to do with it. We'll develop tools that when you research soimething in one category, you will be automatially given relevant information from the other categories. So, we will wrap topical, newsy content with conversation and tools and utilities to allow them to travel. It's a huge opportunity for us to roll more of this out over the next six to eight months.

THR: The first part of the site set for relaunch is the entertainment section. There are already a lot of entertainment news sites. How do you provide a unique iVillage spin that targets women and their needs?

Kahn: These entertainment sites out there are not geared for what women want and the way they navigate. It has huge impactful images where we invite the community to give us their opinion based on the headline with that imagine. If it's Jon and Kate in a divorce, we would relate that back to your real life. "Do you feel the kids should travel back and forth between homes?"

We will also watch what the community is clicking on and serve it up based on what our users find the most interesting.

The third thing is we know what women are mostly looking for -- celebrity gossip. Photo galleries are really important to them, and so we will deliver that in a way that's easy to navigate and in a feminine environment. Madonna adopting a baby spurred a huge amount of conversation inside the community about people's own adoption experiences. When we did Michael Jackson, our photo gallery was other celebs that were brought up by grandparents. Every time I ask people if they know Jack Nicholson was brought up by his grandparents, people go no. So, the slant is always if it's something that women are interested and enganged by.

THR: Where does iVillage stand in terms of usage and what's the upside -- mainly higher traffic or increased engagement?

Kahn: Our goal is both. Our traffic has been going in the right direction -- north. We have had five months of over 20 million uniques. And we are up 25%-30% over that time year-over-year. Since April, we have put up higher-quality content and images. And on our homepage, the "6 More Not to Miss" button is the most heavily clicked button.

THR: What's your key demographic, and how may it expand with the relaunch?

Kahn: Our age group is 25-49 with more so the young moms 25-35. With the entertainment piece, I think we will get different segments. We might stretch younger. We stay engaged with people over different ages and stages, and that's what
differentiates us from other women's sites.

THR: What about the ad opportunities that the new look and feel of the site provides?

Kahn: In anticipation of our launch, we rolled out a number of new rich media units. And "6 More Not to Miss" and other content areas can be sponsored. In the food area, there are fully integrated opportunities in the shopping lists and the like.

THR: You have announced that iVillage's relaunched entertainment site will feature exclusive interviews from NBC Universal fan favorites, such as Amy Poehler, Jay Leno, Brian Williams and "Heroes" stars Greg Grunberg and Ali Larter." What kind of other cross promotions should we expect?

Kahn: A good example is the Olympics. How exciting is this going to be for us to profile women and look at the family elements and cross-promote? Everyone really rallies around that.

The second thing is we have access to show talent and ask them to participate at their disgression. Tomorrow you will see hopefully our editor Angela and our parenting expert showcasing the For Kids section of the entertainment site on the "Today Show." The bet is iVillage can really make a difference towards NBC's digital future. (It's also digitally anchoring a lot of deals across the for-women platform at NBC Universal.)

THR: How will you cover the fall TV season?

Kahn: We're going to do it through two filters. Would you want to watch this with your girlfriends and should your kids be watching it? Somebody wrote in to the community that "Twilight" helped them talk to their child about sex. That's something we are going to bring up and write about more formally.