Can Jeff Taylor revive Eons, his dying social network for aging Boomers? A few weeks ago, he dropped the minimum age requirement of 50. And, today, he is giving his old lady of a site a facelift. The redesigned site now has new navigation, new organization centered around groups, and new search that helps members more easily find others with the same interests—whether that’s perennial gardening, books, or plus-50 hookups. “Now,” says Taylor, “if you say I want to go to Italy, you can meet all the other people that want to go to Italy. If your first car was a ’67 Ford Mustang, you can meet other people who had that same car.”
Taylor, who founded Monster.com, finally realized that what his dwindling members wanted was a social network, not a portal for Sunsetters. Most of the intense activity was around the groups on the site, and so that is where he is focusing his efforts now. He also realized that nobody wants to go to a social network to be reminded about death. So he is spinning off the obituary section as a new site (and company) called Tributes. Eons is the majority shareholder, but Dow Jones is also a strategic investor. The Financial Post puts the investment in Tributes at $4.2 million. (Legacy.com is the leader in online obits).
Taylor also threw out a custom search engine called Cranky that returned results with a preference for the top-5000 sites that people over 50 visit, as measured by Compete.com. Search, it turns out, is very rarely age-specific. People just want to find what they are looking for. And they don’t like being called cranky.
These are all sound moves, and the site is better for it. But despite the redesign, and the $32 million that Sequoia and other investors have put into the company, its basic premise is still flawed—that people over 50, like children, need their own safe place on the Web to congregate. Some old people just aren’t interested in the Internet other than to check their e-mail, check their stock portfolio, and see pictures of their grandkids. Eons won’t draw them either. Then there is a whole other set who are completely at ease with the Web, and don’t need a walled-off area especially for geriatrics. They want to find people who share their interests, no matter how old they are. Finally, there is the subset of Boomers who only feel comfortable with people their own age. Those are the only people who Eons might appeal to.
Currently, that amounts to only 283,000 people a month—the number of unique visitors going to Eons, according to comScore. The best way to get that number up is to create vibrant communities of interest, regardless of age. The nature of many of the activities in these groups naturally skews towards an older demographic. But that should be a byproduct of the site, not the organizing principle.
One of the distinguishing features of Eons is the “Lifepath” on each profile page—a timeline that marks important memories in each member’s life and aspirations for the future. Members who share similar points in their Lifepath can easily find each other. But in other areas, Eons is lacking even the most basic social networking features like third-party applications. Taylor is a marketer, not a technologist. OpenSocial? “Our audience doesn’t want to take a widget because they think it is stealing,” he claims. When I ask him during a recent visit to my office if profile pages would now have activity streams (like the news feeds that have helped make Facebok so popular), he looks at me blankly and asks back, “What?” Old people, they just don’t get it (and Taylor is not even 50).