Friday Fun: The "Real" Women of WowOWow Tell Their Stories

04/18/2008

Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly.

Wowowow_logo Today's Friday Fun is being turned over to Mugsy, Iris, Suzanne and Suzanne, a few of the women who are the heart of the the WowOWow - Women on the Web site. However, Girlfriend, they are not the founders (media celebrities: Liz Smith, Lesley Stahl, Peggy Noonan, Mary Wells and Joni Evans). Nor are they are paid employees. Nor are they are formal volunteers. In fact, they have had little to no interaction with the women who launched WowOWow. And that was what mystified and intrigued me.

A little background .. early this week I wrote a post about three social networking communities, Dove, Shine by Yaoo! and WowOWow - Women on the Web, that are targeting women .. and not only "mommy bloggers." A couple of the WowOWow women reached out to me to tell me their reasons for being involved and committed to a community where the founders/contributors seldom engage with their peeps.

I had several reasons for this post. I wanted to share these four amazing women with the Diva Marketing community; and in doing so, give them a platform to tell their stories about their WowOWow experiences. The learnings about how to build social networking community is evolving and we continue to learn from each other.

At first I thought the post might find its way to the ladies who lunch, the founders, and perhaps help them understand/encourage them to be more "social" within their own community. However, as the emails flew back and forth among the vintage vixens (Iris' term .. love it!) and myself I began to understand these smart, savvy women had created their own community. They didn't need, nor were they really interested in, extensive interaction with the founders (altho I'm sure it would be nice).

Organically they have assumed the role of community managers. As anyone who has been involved in online community knows influence grows with interaction. The vintage vixens want to be involved in the development of what they consider to be "their community." It would be wise of WowOWow to listen and engage directly with these women.

It with pleasure that I turn Diva Marketing over to Mugsy Peabody, Iris Odonata, Suzanne de Cornelia and Suzanne Conti

Mugsy_peabody_2 Mugsy Peabody

Toby/Diva Marketing: What attracted you to read WoWoWow on a continuous basis?
Mugsy Peabody:

When else in history have women over 40 been actively asked to express their opinions about anything in public? 

I mean, since Seneca Falls, which was when?  1848?  I have always been interested in what women say when they are in a space to speak safely and honestly about their lives. Reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen on the farm, when the men were off somewhere, and the women were cooking together, telling the truth about their lives because they knew they would be heard.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What do you like best about the site? 
Mugsy Peabody: What I found lots of women like me out there. It helps with the cosmic loneliness of having Mensa IQ without an interest in hanging out with a bunch of snobbish winos who smoke too much.

I really am amazed that the wowowow people didn't realize we'd want to get in touch with each other and build community.

But most of them don't just make friends with folks; they get handed "suitable" people by others to evaluate, so they probably wouldn't know what the rest of us do to hook up. Like George Sr. not knowing what a grocery scanner is.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why the active, very consistent participation in not only adding comments but engaging other women in conversation?
Mugsy Peabody: Good conversation is one of the great rewards for dressing up our eternal souls in this human suit and lugging this corporal body about the planet for whatever alloted years we have.  It's a skill I learned early on, growing up in a family not unlike J.D. Salinger's Glass family.  Three brothers (one actually a rocket scientist) and parents whose brains were incandescent, and an adopted sister who glowed with smart genes.  My sister-in-law is a big shot techie at NASA, e.g.  All sorts of people used to gather at our house just for such conversation. 

So I get some of that juice from the wowowow site -- not necessarily from the contributors or the owners (two separate sets of people) but from the posts of these amazing women who are sharp enough to have found the wowowow site in its beta state.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The big question .. why do it when the WowOWow authors seem not to be paying attention to the convos?
Mugsy Peabody: For starts, the authors aren't necessarily the most interesting women on www.wowowow.com. (And I think that really surprised them!) So we're not really talking with them alone.  Certainly if they want to join in, fine. Second, I'm honing my "voice" for my own web efforts, retrieving my humor writing skills.  I must say, I've been really touched and gratified by the reception I've received in this community. And, third, who knows?  The WowOWow women might just learn something from the rest of us.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advice would you give people building communities who would die for peeps like you who organically take an active role in the conversation?
Mugsy Peabody: Make it really interesting for us.  For example, we loved Joan Julia Buck's piece on Ms. Streep.  And Jane Wagner's Care-Toons on the earth were so fabulous.  Women over the age of 40 are some of the most experienced, inciteful, "smart" folks on the planet.  Even though retired "soccer  moms" are routinely ignored as being an interesting demographic, that is a serious error, a blind spot on the radar, because those women are the best organizers we have, and they determine where the household dollars get spent.

I know Ms. Tomlin can get down with "just folks," but I seriously wonder how many of these people are democrats with a small 'd'. And, P.S., for godzakes, don't try to BS us, because we have BS radar for days.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What one piece of advice would you give to the founders?
Mugsy Peabody: Hire me to help them get on track. Just one example: Whoopi Goldberg is the only women of color on the masthead, and she hasn't bothered to fill in her profile. Of course, that gets "read" as them saying, at the last minute, "Oh, we'd better get Whoopi, cause we'll drop a big piece of the audience if we're all white." (Well, guess what, ladies?  The whole dern rest of the country is actually serious about pluralism!  [Ms. Tomlin's support of Richard Prior earns her a lifetime street cred on this issue.]) 

And of course, they've already dropped the Asian demo -- and trust me, that's where their lack of inclusion will hurt them, cause my Asian-American friends drop more cash at Tiffany's and on designer bling bling than anyone else I know.  As to today's blunder of talking about how they "confuse" their "hired help" with "friends," oh, well, where do you even start with that? Hire me. I'm worth my weight in gold.

A little about Mugsy Peabody

I'm 61 years old, and live in Oakland, California. I've lived in the Bay Area since I came here with flowers in my hair, 38 years ago, and used to play pass tag on the Golden Gate Bridge with Janis Joplin.  While I may walk a little slow, I still have god's own rock and roll in my soul. I don't disclose much personal information on the net, since what I have to offer here is my written stuff, and you've already got that. My beta blog site, Mugsy Peabody Online, first posting.
Sidebar: Mugsy's writing is absolutely as refreshing, funny and as smart as you would expect!

Iris_odonata Iris Odonata

Greetings Miss Toby:

Where to start, where to start. Saw Mary, Leslie, Liz and Joni interviewed by Diane Sawyer on GMA at very beginning of site launch. Decided to visit and see what was up. Had only posted infrequently on a couple of other sites. Got drawn in by the idea of us vintage vixens having a forum for our voices. I have been awaiting this source of energy finally finding it's spark ...

Toby/Diva Marketing: What attracted you to read WoWoWow on a continuous basis? 

Iris Odonata: You have and you must admit there are some of the most erudite contributors. Smart, funny, irreverent, brilliant, giving, educational and generous. Paying it forward and helping each other evolve. I am not speaking just of the Masthead Mavens.  I am speaking of us just regular folks.  This is Upstairs/Downstairs, Gosford Park stuff. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: What do you like best about the site?   
Iris Odonata: Same reason I read on continuous basis. Plus, if I can get to half of Suzanne de or Mugsy or The Old Crone's brain power.  These women are mentors in a way I could never have dreamed possible.  I always knew I would be late bloomer.  These AMAZING! woman are a gift. 

This is accelerated, cut-the-crap, no nonsense practical and pragmatic information on just about any subject you could possibly want. Suzanne de may just single-handedly jump start activism again. That woman is one force to be reckoned with. Plus, there is "culture" being discussed. Gaudi/Gehry. Feadships? Learned something new on that one. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why the active, very consistent participation in not only adding comments but engaging other women in conversation?
Iris Odonata:  Learning, teaching, being. Nice to be asked to the table. We've discussed the disappearing bees.  Me thinks they are in our bonnets.  This site is thought provoking and endearing, humbling and hubris busting.  X marks the spot.  X chromosome that is and this site will not only earn gadzillions, it'll let the boys in power know (who might be trying to learn their opponents weaknesses) swarm behavior is unpredictable.  Swarm goes where the queen goes and each of us is a queen.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The big question .. why do it when the WowOWow authors seem not to be paying attention to the convos?
Iris Odonata: Yes that is a big question.  Do they care? Don't they?  Set the cat among the pigeons, eh?  I think they'll end up with the precise focus group they want as us "first posters" start make off-line contact. We may become more watchdoggish ourselves. 

The Ladies who started this aren't really in control of it. They just own it and it's going to go where it goes.

I e-mailed Mugsy this a.m. and said this site is deliciously layered, just like Baklava. There are many many threads in this web. The convo twixt the foursome yesterday, will be read much differently "those" of their "echelon."  Made me think of the famous Cavafy poem, "Barbarians At The Gate."

I don't want anyone dying to get a peep like me active in convo. This site has taught me that 54 years on the planet now comes with a users fee.  So yeah, make it worth my while.  Either compensate me financially or engage me emotionally. If it ain't got heart, I ain't interested.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What one piece of advice would you give to the founders?
Iris Odonata: Get this thing more organized ASAP.  We need a venue just for continual/ongoing conversation, seperate from the content exploration of daily question or brand promo.  I think they get that they are not dealing with dummies, irregardless of our educational/geographical backgrounds. They also need to be upfront as to why they want our input. You yourself are probably receiving scads of useful information here so you can advise your clients as how to best capture their market share.

A little about Iris Odonata's

Iris Odonata's bio....I am writing her memoirs now. I let you know when they are ready for publication. Sidebar: Yes, Iris please let me know when your memoirs are ready for blogging! Love your phrase vintage vixens also!

Suzanne_de_cornelia Suzanne de Cornelia:

Toby/Diva Marketing: What attracted you to read WoWoWow on a continuous basis?
Suzanne de Cornelia: I admire the founders' highly successful media careers, and that now in their 50s-80s they are undertaking an entrepreneurial venture. I wanted to be at the party.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What do you like best about the site?
Suzanne de Cornelia: As a former designer I find the clean architectural look and white/black/red scheme appealing and snazzy. The content is well organized and runs the gamut of glitzy fun to topical and serious. It forces you to reexamine your beliefs.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why the active, very consistent participation in not only adding comments but engaging other women in conversation?
Suzanne de Cornelia: Three reasons really. 1) I'm very sporty and techy and just shattered my foot and am confined to bed-rest. So the chatty site is a godsend. 2) I've been an activist and involved in major projects my
entire life, and like to help grow things and to support and also challenge other women. 3) Because my novel "French Heart" will be out the end of the year and I'm also relocating to France I want to develop an online network. The women who've thus far emailed me from the site are Francophiles like me, including a writer who lives in Provence where I'm headed.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The big question .. why do it when the WowOWow authors seem not to be paying attention to the convos.
Suzanne de Cornelia: Theoretically, I'm partly using the site as a focus group for my book, and building word-of-mouth. In practice I wind up shooting myself in the foot by feeling obligated to respond to factually false responses on things like unregulated derivatives trading and how it propelled the foreclosure crisis,
then wind up pulling freight for free. The founders need to either become more involved in the conversations, or hire a moderator. When Mary Wells said on Charlie Rose that they are spending all their time on this, I thought, "Hello?!" I know nothing compels me to do it besides some feeling of responsibility in me when I see something posted that demands an affirmation, acknowledgement, or correction.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advice would you give people building communities who would die for peeps like you who organically take an active role in the conversation?
Suzanne de Cornelia: Match the site to a passionate market. The political, celebrity, society gossip, wine blogs, and other specialty sites from cats to Joan of Arc garner that kind of readership. Look at the Top 100 Blogs on Technorati and the Yahoo Groups for clues. Mainly I think it is something that you need a real passion for yourself otherwise you'll burn out.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What one piece of advice would you give to the founders?
Suzanne de Cornelia: The most popular class at Harvard today states the recipe for happiness is finding activity that is pleasurable and purposeful. From what I gather, WoW will be making some technical adjustment
to make maneuvering through the site more pleasurable, and will be developing the Change the World section in a manner that will make visitors feel more purposeful. Those two things will really add to the site. However, there's a certain dissonance the founders need to clarify: They write about their lives tooling around glitzy locales, attending First Nights with celebs, sponsors are high-end, and the weekly financial column is a summation of trends that would benefit those with hefty well-portfolios. But when hundreds of readers responded to an economy-related question they clearly wanted pragmatic advice.

There's a dichotomy between the demographic they want to attract, and the one that is showing up and demanding they be more diverse and inclusive.

Sidebar: The Change the World section launched on Thursday. It's my understanding this was one of the first times when the vintage vixens were asked their opinions about how a feature should be developed. The energy and excitement of helping to create the site comes through loud and clear in comments.

A little about Suzanne de Cornelia: I managed $1 billion in major design and construction for Fortune 100 firms and top universities. Then an accident cost me $700K and my 20-year career. I retrained in the UCLA writing
program, wrote my novel, and live in San Francisco where I belong to two Web 2.0 groups.
Sidebar: Suzanne authors a delightful site My French Heart.

Suzanne_conti Suzanne Conti

Toby/Diva Marketing: What attracted you to read WoWoWow on a continuous basis?
Suzanne Conti: The caliber of the women contributing their comments - they were well informed, witty and I felt similar enough in views and characteristics to mine that we could have a real discussion of kindred souls. I enjoyed the amount of differences and new aspects in thoughts presented that stimulated serious consideration on my part on the issues. There was enough common ground to relate to each other, but not so much as to be clones.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What do you like best about the site?
Suzanne Conti: That this site brought me together and allowed me to meet and have dialog with these fascinating accomplished blogging women who have and continue to make an impact on the world. I am not a “lunch” lady - I have been too busy working at a demanding career. But I do want to join with other women to make a difference.

The whole sexism issue coming back to light with Hillary’s campaign has raised my hopes that the activism of my generation of women would be reignited. Since I started my lawsuit against my employer in 2004 for glass ceiling, unequal pay I have been deeply disappointed (not surprised though)  in women’s lack of willingness to do anything about their oppression – other than whine. I have also witnessed women’s unwillingness to support other women, to unite for progress. I was hoping this Wow site would be a mechanism to unite women willing to finish the women’s liberation we started decades ago.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The big question .. why do it when the WowOWow authors seem not to be paying attention to the convos.
Suzanne Conti
:

I am not a celebrity chaser and really could care less if they join in the conversations. I am there to talk with other women of substance who log on. These women have renewed my faith in humanity. I had no idea such thinking witty women were out there since I have spent most of my life in a male world of work as well as at home – brothers, husbands, sons.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advice would you give people building communities who would die for peeps like you who organically take an active role in the conversation?
Suzanne Conti: It is all about the quality of the conversation, I am too busy to invest time reading and blogging back to small minded people and have no interest in just chatting – I am a doer- that is how I have achieved all that I have in my life I am not an idle chatter. 

My husband is highly accomplished and my sons – one got a full ride scholarship to University of Michigan’s medical school and the other got a major scholarship to an art college on the east coast and was honored at Carnegie Hall for winning art awards, he also won an award that sent him to France for 3 weeks to study art there. I do not want to discuss what I sleep in and how many people I have slept with - Career women concerned about their professional reputation do not discuss such crap.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What one piece of advice would you give to the founders?
Suzanne Conti: Reduce to a minimum - the gossip Cosmo type trivial articles or come out and tell the bloggers what your vision and mission statement is so we know if we are in line with your goals. Recently, I am beginning to feel WowOWow is an oxymoron – wanting intelligent, accomplished, women of substance to log in and then they present such trivial, gossip, superficial topics. In all honesty I had my concerns when I saw Liz Smith was one of the founders, but had no idea she was going to be the dominant celebrity contributor – and apparently nobody crosses Liz Smith!

A little about Suzanne Conti: At a time when women were traditionally in administrative positions Suzanne  spent the majority of her career in a management positions in the male dominated auto industry. True to her husband's assessment of her as triple A type personality Suzanne was even the youngest buyer at a major Big 3 company .

Pink_boa In this world of social media we continue to learn together. Toss of a pink boa to Mugsy, Iris, Suzanne and Suzanne!

Liz Smith, Lesley Stahl, Peggy Noonan, Mary Wells and Joni Evans .. here's the secret .. you may have jump started the convos but you are not the heart of your own community.

My advise .. hire these amazing women to continue doing what they have been doing  .. building community. Let the vintage vixens know that you are listening and involve the community in the creation process. It might be nice if you reached out in the digital world and in the offline world. However, a bit sadly, that's not really necessary.

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Comments

Thank you Toby for seeking out and sharing these women's voices with us. I'm in the WowOWow demographic but I find the site a complete turnoff. I think if the founders listen to these women (and hire them, hint, hint) they'll attract a much wider and active community.

Posted by: Maria Niles on Apr 18, 2008 3:53:52 PM

Toby, this is a very insightful piece and if I pick out certain nuggets, it gives me a treasure trove of information to incorporate in my own endeavors. Thanks for the energy you expended doing this interview. I would love to conversation managers such as this wonderful group of women.

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel on Apr 18, 2008 10:03:46 PM

Toby, wonderful interviews and outstanding insight from the commenters of the wowowow site.

The sadness is in realizing these wonderfully funny, smart and talented ladies found their way to the wowowow site... where their voices are heard but not acknowledged, when they might have (still could) join US - you, me, Michele Miller, Andrea Learned, Mary Hunt, Ann Handley, etc. - as we talk women and women's issues.

And, by golly, they'll get a response!

I respect their reasons for raising their voices at the wowowow site, and I certainly don't fault them for it (hope they don't think I do!) but...

my hope would be to have them become part of the women's voices on blogs like Diva Marketing and Lipsticking ... and the new blog soon to be launched by the Simon Graduate School of business, for women entrepreneurs.

These are the voices of all women... these are the voices of women in conversation... the give and take of exchanging ideas and sharing stories. Wow is just a broadcast medium IMHO... even though the gals you've showcased here are talking to each other.

True social media is just that, and it includes the "presenters" at conferences, the planners at meetings, the keynote speakers, and the audience.

I've gone on far too long... sorry. Maybe I'll post on it...

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Apr 20, 2008 11:48:05 AM

Toby, unbelievably insightful post. Thanks for sharing these rich perspectives, and confirming how much opportunity still exists to develop and nurture communities that truly give back.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Apr 20, 2008 9:43:00 PM

@maria and @yvonne - received a nice email from Joni Evans. They believe that they are interacting; but perception is reality and the 'vintage vixens' don't seem to agree. I've offered Joni an opportunity to tell her story on Diva. I hope she agrees.

@susan - yes! Iris, Suzanne, Mugsy and Suzanne would make awesome community managers.

@C.B. - yes. well put. looking forward to the next community .. wonder what it will be and how "social" it will be.

Posted by: Toby on Apr 21, 2008 1:12:08 AM

It's true -- ALL women have something valuable to share, not just published authors or experts. The key is to provide a platform that makes it easy for them to spread their voice. I hope WowOWow will partner with my site DivineCaroline.com since we have similar missions.

Posted by: Rebecca on Apr 22, 2008 4:04:45 PM

Being 33 and male, I'm not even remotely close to this demographic, but as someone steeped in online community I love love love to see communities developed around the reality rather than the stereotype. Good for the wowOWwow team for putting something so cool together!

Posted by: Jake McKee on Apr 26, 2008 8:20:13 PM

my hope would be to have them become part of the women's voices on blogs like Diva Marketing and Lipsticking ... and the new blog soon to be launched by the Simon Graduate School of business, for women entrepreneurs.

Posted by: ersin on May 7, 2008 4:24:08 PM

Ersin - would be great .. but if I were a betting diva I wouldn't put up a cosmo on that one.

Posted by: Toby on May 9, 2008 10:17:25 AM

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