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Give Them What They Want: How A Digital Community Engages 1.4 Million Users Over Age 60

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By Pam McDonald

Senior Housing Forum Publisher Steve Moran continues his Conversations series at the recent Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, where he interviews Rebecca Wilson, a digital media pro who is serving a worldwide audience of more than a million people over 60.

Rebecca Wilson, founder and publisher of StartsAt60.com, describes her Internet enterprise as “Australia's largest digital media community for over 60s. But we're also potentially one of the larger digital media voices in the world for the older generation and definitely the most engaged in this segment.”

A Media Site with Reach and Engagement

Rebecca says, “We have 1.2 million regular users in Australia, another 200,000 in the U.S., and, we’ve also brought to life a travel aggregator serving the over 60s with travel that they absolutely love. We’re the young site for the older generation. We're not into talking about people's age . . . talking about people getting old. We're not in the aging population discussion really at all.”

She continues, “We . . . [are] a place they go every day, all day, all the time to engage with media that speaks to them respectfully, that entertains them, that has fun, that’s a little bit cheeky, that speaks through their voice, and they talk to each other. So we get about 25 to 35 thousand comments on social media a day . . . People come for each other, they lodge comments . . . They talk back.”

As Rebecca points out to Steve, “We just start conversations.” She notes that her company publishes about 250 pieces each week, has over 60 bloggers, is touted by about 300 community champions, and runs 52 meetups every month in different locations in Australia.

“We Do What Consumers Want.”

Steve tries to discover the subjects followed by her readers, but Rebecca states, “There's no recipe or formula beyond the fact that we do what our consumer wants. They’re our community and they come back and tell us what they want more of. We use data to underpin the decisions we make and we're here for them.

“We had 70 million page views in the last month and probably about . . . [a] 35 million reach on Facebook . . . The subscriber-user base is opening 40% click-through rates during the day on our e-mail. They’re reading everything with great diversity.”

The Key to the Website’s Success

Even though the site’s subjects are widely varied, Rebecca is well aware of what’s working. She says, “The thing that people want most today is to be listened to. And most businesses and most environments aren’t listening. They are broadcasting . . . We are simply here for our community. We facilitate discussions. We create things they're interested in and we put them first. That is the key to what we're doing.”

Conquering the U.S.

Rebecca gives a resounding “yes” to Steve’s question about the site expanding stateside. She says, “We are already publishing in U.S. time zones. We are in discussions to bring the site rapidly into the U.S.”

Steve wonders about the site’s business model and revenue streams so he asks if they accept banner advertising. “Yep,” she says, but further explains, “We are not in the old school magazine world of advertising sales.

“We’re in the world . . . [of] programmatic, data-driven, segmented audiences . . . you've got to be able to buy the person you want. That person has got to have a message delivered to them that they're interested in or they don’t feel respected as well.”

Audience Segmentation

She describes the primary segments of the StartsAt60 audience saying: “We talk about our community in three different voices: the pre-euphoria voice, the euphoria voice, and post-euphoria voice . . . they’re just phases of retirement and you don’t go into them at an age. They’re just stages of life where you make the choice or you're forced in.

“And so for us, we sort of track people's reading and what they do and make sure we're delivering to them the right things . . . we get to know they’re patterns and we want to serve them what they want. That’s what all media is about at the next stage.”

Working Hard to Make It Work

Steve learns that Rebecca launched StartsAt60.com only four years ago but has dedicated herself to it. “I haven’t slept,” she says. “It is very, very hard work to be in digital media today . . . But the key is to serve your user and to align with the companies that respect and support that demographic.

“You will find a way together through partnerships, through advertising, through content, and we do all of those things. And we work with the best . . . it’s all about values and ethics and treating our user right.”

Steve and Rebecca agree that many companies are slow to adapt to technology and shifts in the marketplace. Rebecca says, “Two years ago I was being told by leading edge ad agencies and media companies . . . that seniors weren’t online . . . We had to prove it to Australia, the over 60s were online and they wanted something really cool.”

She says, “I hate the word ‘senior.’ We don't use it. We called our community ‘over 60s’ because they are over 60. That is a fact . . . but I mean, our tagline is ‘Forever Young.’ We are not looking to box anybody up. People choose their own adventure in this era and I can only hope that as many people as possible find a path where they’re happier.”


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