There are 50 million mothers and fathers of young children, so it’s no surprise that there are numerous websites competing for parental attention — particularly moms, who have yet to be dislodged from their dominant role by dads who have learned how (and when) to change diapers.
One of the earliest sites is intensely hyperlocal Macaroni Kid, which was founded by “recovering lawyer” Joyce Shulman and her husband, marketing entrepreneur Eric Cohen, in their Water Mill community in the Hamptons on Long Island in 2009. In this Q & A, Cohen, who is Executive Editor/CMO, tells why Macaroni Kid recently acquired equally well-established Stroller Traffic, which is aimed at mothers of 3-year-olds and under:
StrollerTraffic is for what the site calls “hip moms.” What are the attributes of a hip mom?
Hip moms parent with style. Predominantly urban and upscale, they are interested in what’s new and trending, love to be among the first to try new products and share the latest with their friends.
How many subscribers does StrollerTraffic have, and what are its 10 top cities?
StrollerTraffic has an email list of about 200K and our top cities are, in order: NY, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, SF, Boston, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Dallas.
With StrollerTraffic, you’re acquiring a sub-audience of mothers of children under the age of 3 and expectant mothers. Do you see any synergies that will affect your broader Macaroni Kid audience of mothers of older children?
Absolutely. The StrollerTraffic audience will age directly into the Macaroni Kid community. Once their child is ready to experience all the great events and activities available in their communities, StrollerTraffic moms will love Macaroni Kid.
StrollerTraffic makes recommendations about products and services, like diapers featuring the logos of some Major League Baseball teams. How much clout do those recommendations have in advertising click-through rates? Testimonials?
The StrollerTraffic audience is nothing if not passionate. We see significantly higher rates of engagement and interaction than the industry norms. We look at engagement through actions, clicks, comments, likes, shares, etc.
StrollerTraffic has 119,037 Facebook “likes,” at my last look. How impressive is that number for a nationally scaled site aimed at a segment of the mothers’ market?
When you consider the demographics and psychographics of our audience, it’s very impressive. But even more impressive is the engagement by the community.
How many Facebook “likes” does Macaroni Kid have?
Macaroni Kid is a pretty unique platform. When you aggregate the “likes” of our hundreds of local Facebook pages, we have about 1 million likes across the country.
After Facebook, what’s the second-strongest social medium for both StrollerTraffic and Macaroni Kid?
Instragram for StrollerTraffic and Twitter for Macaroni Kid.
What about dads – don’t they push strollers too?
We have some dad readers but the StrollerTraffic audience is geared towards moms. At Macaroni Kid, we have the Macaroni Dad channel, that has about 12,000 email subscribers and it’s just getting started.
Macaroni Kid has been in business for nine years. What’s your model for succeeding in the crowded parent market?
Our secret sauce is our local model powered by our local moms. One thing we learned early on is that you can’t automate local. And from that we’ve learned that you can’t automate influence. The content created by our local Publishers has that mom-to-mom authenticity you can’t get any other way.
How many subscribers does Macaroni Kid have? Monthly unique visitors?
Just under 2 million subscribers and 1.5 million monthly uniques.
Macaroni Kid’s community-based content is generated by 500 “publisher moms.” What are your criteria for selecting them, and how much oversight can your small corporate staff provide to them?
The vast majority of our publishers come through referrals. We sort of un-select them. We never sugar-coat it, we let them know it’s a lot of work to reap the rewards and that scares many away. The ones that “get it”, love it and we’ve seen them achieve amazing success. As for oversight, we’ve built a community that oversees and supports each other in a way unlike any I’ve ever seen. We do plenty of training, but the bulk of the lessons come from the vast experience of the tribe.
How are your publishers compensated, and what do they earn?
Our publishers earn through the local advertisements they sell themselves, as well as by participating in our campaigns for our national sponsors. Earnings can reach into mid-five figures, and we’ve had one reach six figures.
How diverse are the subscribers to Macaroni Kid and StrollerTraffic?
We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community that welcomes all. Our Publisher community includes all races, religions, and family types. Our local readers mirror the local community, so we are fairly diverse.
Is Macaroni Kid a corporation with investors or an independent operation?
Macaroni Kid is an LLC. We were fortunate enough to receive some angel funding early on and have been self-sustaining ever since.
Are you profitable?
Basically. Any profits are invested back into the company. Joyce (my wife and co-founder) and I have not taken a penny of profits to date.
Now that you reach an audience that begins with expectant mothers and extends to mothers of children in elementary school, what share of the moms’ market in those categories do you have, based on subscribers and traffic? Does Macaroni Kid have its eye on any other segment of the market?
We don’t base ourselves on a particular share. Our audience for both Macaroni Kid and StrollerTraffic is selective and desirable. At this time, we are not eying another segment, but we do have some ideas about engaging other ways and also expanding our audience.
You and your wife have two children, 11 and 16. Their love of pasta inspired you to rename your site, which was originally called “HamtonKid.com.” Did Macaroni Kid help you and your wife in your parenting?
We’ve learned a ton about parenting from Macaroni Kid. Early on we ran a series of articles from Noel Janis-Norton, a renowned parenting expert, and her tips are great and many we still practice to this day, like descriptive praise.
Tom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of hyperlocal news network Local America, and is also working on a book about the history, present, and future of Charleston, S.C.