Self-help is big business—just look at all the Tony Robbins and Dummies books at your local Barnes & Noble. As with all media businesses, the self-help industry is moving online in a massive way. The latest Website to organize itself around self-help is First 30 Days, which took the covers off its private beta this weekend. The new site is designed to take people through the first 30 days (and beyond) of major life changes, such as the first 30 days of finding your dream job, starting a new business, buying a home, being pregnant, or getting a divorce. Founder and CEO Ariane de Bonvoisin tells me, “We will help you through any change that life throws you and will help you get going on anything you want to get started.” The site is launching with 45 different life changes and will soon get up to 100.
Before founding First 30 Days, de Bonvoisin worked as a corporate strategist/VC at Bertelsmann, Sony, and Time Warner. At Time Warner, she worked directly for former CEO Dick Parsons, who personally put up the seed money for the business. The company recently closed a $5 million series A financing, led by Hearst Corporation (other investors included Parsons and the New York City Investment Fund). The site plans to make money with ads and sponsorships targeted at each life change—stroller ads for people looking at how to deal with pregnancy or being a new parent pages, banking ads for people contemplating starting a new business.
I suspect that First 30 Days will appeal more to the Oprah crowd than to readers of TechCrunch, but I also suspect it will have no problem finding its audience. The site will likely skew two-thirds towards women, predicts De Bonvoisin, (indeed, it’s the type of concept you’d expect to see on the cover of a woman’s magazine). But she hopes men who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a self-help book in public will flock to the site as well in search of answers.
After all, people going through major changes in their work or personal lives need a place to turn to when they cannot figure out what to do. Visitors are encouraged to sign up to get a daily e-mail with a different tip about the particular change they are going through. Each life change has its own section on the site, with Top 5 Things to Do, expert interviews, daily news and blog posts from across the Web on that topic, a daily tip, community Q&A, shared wisdom from readers, and links to relevant books, websites, magazines, movies, music, and more experts. There is also a weekly podcast called Change Nation that features interviews with celebrities about how they deal with change.
The site takes a positive approach to dealing with the changes in your life. Its overriding message is: change is inevitable, change is good, make the most from it. The whole approach reminds me of corporate change management techniques applied to people’s personal lives. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. Each change section on the site follows a familiar template, which provides easy entry points, but sometimes can make every life change sound the same. For instance, look at the two lists of Top 5 Things to Do below. One is for improving your sex life and the other is for switching to a Mac. You can tell which is which, but barely:
Dig deeper and you’ll find some actual advice,and maybe others going through the same change. That is potentially the most powerful aspect of the site, as a place to find other people who are going through the same twists in their lives as you are. Once you go through all the expert advice and check out the resources, that would be the biggest reason to go back.
The site is built on Ruby on Rails. And there are two viral widgets in the works. One is an Everyday Change tip that can bring some inspirational candy to people’s personal sites and pages. The other is a Facebook app due out in March where you can select which types of changes you are going through, get tips sent to your Facebook feed, and post a bar chart that shows how many people on Facebook (who have loaded the app) are going through breakups, starting a job, or going through some other change.
First 30 Days is starting on the Web, but it could easily expand into other media such as books and TV. In May, HarperOne will be publishing The First 30 Days by de Bonvoisin. And she plans many more books. “The idea in my head,” she says, “was to start it as a book series. Dick Parsons said start it online. With books, I have no relationship with you.” If she can make First 30 Days the first place people go to when they need help with life’s transition points, it could easily become more than a 30-day habit.