Internet

Site for new parents debuts

BabyCenter, a Web site for new and expectant parents, is part of what some analysts say is a trend toward focusing on information instead of technology.

People who are undergoing times of trauma, whether it is the loss of a job or a frightening medical diagnosis, are increasingly turning to the Internet to find information, experts say.

Consumers who use the Internet as an information resource also seek out services that organize and prioritize the overwhelming amount of data available on the Internet.

That is exactly what BabyCenter.com is banking on. The site, aiming to be a comprehensive resource for new and expectant parents, launches on Monday, and is hoping to offer information to people in one of the most turbulent periods of life.

BabyCenter offers users a baby name finder, interactive tools to calculate the baby's due date, financial advice for college savings and budgeting, expert child-care advice, an online baby store, custom pages for expectant mothers that cover each week of pregnancy and infancy, and discussion groups for all topics.

Cofounder and CEO Matt Glickman, himself an expectant father, came up with the idea last year. "The number of questions I had was immense. I saw how the Internet could be a great way to provide up-to-the-minute information."

BabyCenter faces competition from established sites such as ParentSoup. But analyst Chris Shipley with market research newsletter DemoLetter says that no other site in the market is filling the niche that BabyCenter is going after.

Shipley believes that BabyCenter is indicative of the future of Internet-based businesses because it is more focused on the services it can provide to new parents, rather than the technology that it uses. She pointed out that sites like BabyCenter that offer people services they can't find as immediately offline will draw people to the Internet.

"It represents a fundamental shift," Shipley said. "I like the way they think: here's a life need, how do we serve it through technology? This is the sort of thing that gives the Internet meaning and value to people."

BabyCenter already has lined up sponsorships from heavy-hitters such as Johnson & Johnson, Charles Schwab, and Clorox, looking to leverage their brand names among Internet users.

"There is still a lot of interest from major brands in understanding how to bring their name to the Internet," Shipley said. "What BabyCenter did that was really smart was to align themselves with the people who knew the kind of content that they want to develop."

Bill Bass, a market analyst with Forrester Research, says that advertisers are attracted to the site because of the targeted audience. It's an audience that is "very tightly defined, that advertisers love to reach. It's not a mass market, but because of that advertisers love them," Bass said.

Bass is enthusiastic about the prospects of the business, because the service it offers is of importance to the technologically knowledgeable as well as those who are logging on for the first time.

"If you're a geek and you have a baby, or if you're not a geek and you have a baby," the information is still relevant, Bass said.