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UrbanBaby Cofounder John Maloney wrote in to comment on my "Local Baby Site" post yesterday. I had complained that I was "confounded" by CNET's acquisition of, since CNET is basically a real good tech site that’s heavily skewed toward geeky men.

The deal’s ad math I understand. UrbanBaby enables CNET to add more young and affluent women to its demographic mix. It makes CNET a more appealing site for advertisers. But what's next — iVillage adding a link to The World Wrestling Federation site? MTV linking to AARP? Slate being added to MSN? Generally, I like to think that sites stand for something.

Maloney begs to differ — and I appreciate the time and thought he put into his reply. (He also reminded me that UrbanBaby won The Kelsey Group's LISA award for "Best Local Vertical" under my watch in 2000.)

Maloney wouldn't put it this way, but basically he thinks I am out of date. CNET broadened its orientation beyond tech more than a year ago, adding such sites as Webshots, a shared photo community.

Moreover, the sale is not just about UrbanBaby cashing in and CNET being opportunistic. CNET's team understands "affinity brands and audiences, and has a great track record for nurturing and developing them," he says.

Besides, UrbanBaby is not "just" a baby site. "UrbanBaby reaches a passionate group of women — who happen to be in the midst of a major life event. These women use our site and boards as the primary source for both parenting and all the others things that are happening in their lives."

And UrbanBaby’s local ad sales, from internal sales channels, do very, very well. "I can’t speak specifically to the revenue breakdown, (but) it’s safe to say local plays a key part of it. We have dozens of recurring local businesses as clients, many of which have renewed annually for the past 3-4 years," he says. Some advertisers have "moved their marketing dollars away from local print."

I haven't really changed my mind about CNET being a good fit for UrbanBaby. But you can. UrbanBaby is a real good site and a pioneer every step of the way. And I have absolutely observed women’s growing use of tech sites — even though this isn’t about technology. Thanks again for the insights, John.

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  1. C|Net’s acquisition of isn’t all that odd, especially considering that mom market represents $1.6 Trillion in purchasing power each year. But the company’s buy into "mom space" wasn’t the first. On July 5, 2006, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel purchased, a parenting resource site that my wife and I co-founded in 2002 to serve parents like us raising children under six-years-old. Our exponential growth –driven entirely by word of mouth advertising among metro mothers — wasn’t by chance; it was by relationship. We do what the overwhelming majoprity of marketers and advertisers neglect: speak to mothers in a language that imparts respect for the challenges of their daily life, structuring content around the narrow windows of time they deal with in managing the affairs of house and children. As any parent knows, satisfying a toddler can be a vexing endeavor that requires Mom to fill windows as narrow as 5 minutes. There simply isn’t time for leisurely brand comparisons or listening to an array of dumbed down, stereotypic pitches for everyday staples. By necessity they will return to productsd, places and Web sites that make their lives "just a little bit easier."

    Whether or not C|Net can make the transition from servicing geeks to serving moms will turn on its ability to have an intimate understanding of a momn’s life and to strike up a sincere dialogue with them in the cities represents and to impart real value into their lives. One thing’s for certain: sticking with UB’s cookiecutter design will yield limited results. To serve the mom niche, local content and local voices are required, and that’s where newspapers and local publications have a significant edge. — Pat McKenna

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