Yahoo Shine screen shotYahoo! recently launched a new social media portal called Shine aimed squarely at women. It’s a potentially brilliant move if it’s executed well. Women tend to be naturally more into the whole “social” aspect of social media than men on average. Even so, with a few notable exceptions, blogging and social media have been dominated by men to date.

However done poorly it could end up as nothing more than a footnote on the way to Yahoo! being bought out by a larger company such as Microsoft.

Promoting the Launch

To promote the launch of the site Yahoo hosted invitation-only events in Atlanta, Boston & Chicago. I’ve spoken with two ladies who were at the promotion events in different cities.

They said Yahoo wants Shine to accomplish three things.

  1. Provide timely information for women
  2. Have a place for women to comment
  3. Offer a platform for women to have their own blogs

Ultimately Yahoo would like to see an even distribution of content on the site from three different sources: Shine staff writers, members blogging on the site, and articles written for other Yahoo sites. As far as the topics of that content, here’s what the site’s About Us page says.

So what you won’t find on Shine: Advice on how to please your man and diets that urge you to “lose 10 pounds fast!” What you will find on Shine: Why buying an expensive “It Bag” is a waste of money; how to make a meal in 30 minutes; how to make a face mask out of last night’s 30-minute meal (okay not really but you get the idea), how to de-stress at your desk; sharp, opinionated takes on the news; and finally, that you aren’t alone in your “Dancing with the Stars” obsession. We get it.

So the question is how are they doing?

Good Points

  • Clean Design – The folks at Yahoo have designed a great looking site. At first glance the site is clean, easy to read with navigation that is easy to get around and appears to make sense. Each of the ten different content channels has a different color scheme to make it easy for users to know where they are on the site.
  • Prominent User Profile Space – The “hello, Chris Cree” touch is a smart move. The site recognized that I was logged into my Yahoo! profile and acknowledged me without my having to create yet another web site profile. Having user profiles with their avitars prominently displayed at the top of the side bar is a great idea. Helps them feel like they are looking at “their own” page.
  • Ads Not Overbearing – Obviously the revenue model for this site is advertising. So far the ads are tastefully restricted to the right sidebar with the largest I’ve seen so far a 300×250 pixel block. They don’t have any of the more obnoxious cover-the-content ad types that sites like the Weather Channel are known for.

Problem Points

  • Confusing Navigation – While the design generally looks good, the navigation is a little confusing, at least in one respect. When you click on a content channel like, say Healthy Living, a secondary navigation bar opens with Related Topics. The thing is when you click on one of them in any channel you are taken to a list of posts in that topic back on the front page design and the topic navigation goes away. Changing the design colors and taking users off channel might be a bit disorienting for some.
  • Search Not Working – Speaking to one of my friends who told me she posted on her Shine blog I wasn’t able to find that post via the Shine search box. I searched her name, her user name, the title of her post, and some of her keywords and none of them turned up her post or profile. Finally I had her IM me the URL of the post so I could take a look. Her post had been written nearly a day previously. If a search company like Yahoo can’t index one of their own web sites in 22 hours it’s no wonder Google is cleaning their clock in search!
  • No Way to Connect with Other Users – Yahoo has totally missed the boat in making Shine an interactive social media site. There is no way to have a list of friends on the site. You can’t message another user directly. When looking at a user profile the only thing you can do is subscribe to their blog & then leave them a blog comment. Trying to target women without providing them tons of different ways to interact is a little like building an aircraft carrier in a lake, not very effective. Providing them hardly any way to interact is like keeping the carrier in dry dock all the time. Mostly useless.
  • Not Much Traffic Yet – Now I know the site is less than a month old. Even so it has the backing of the # 1 most heavily trafficked web site in the world with yahoo.com. You’d think having a big brother like that would guarantee almost overwhelming traffic loads. Yet there is very little commenting happening on the site. One of the ladies I spoke with had a post promoted to the front page of the site. She had inserted a link back to her own web site at the bottom of the site and watched her web stats closely. She told me she did not see a single click through from the post. You’d think there’d be at least one if there was any traffic to speak of at the site.
  • Content Quality – Now I’m a guy so I’m going to tread lightly here. I’ll just refer you to the excerpt from the About Us page above. Compare what they say there about their content intentions against a list of the current & popular head lines on the site from the screen shot. Do the two match up?— Does your ex still want you?— Which celeb body shape do you prefer in clothes?

    — Would you stand by your man if he were busted with a prostitute?

    — I need advice: He wants a threesome!

    — Are you willing to give up diet soda?

    — Should we bail out homeowners with bad mortgage loans?

    –Would you want your man to take the male birth control pill?

Bottom Line

Now I’m a guy so I am completely not Yahoo Shine’s target market. I know that. Even so I can evaluate what I see. And here’s how it looks to me.

Taking a quick look around I see Yahoo Shine as a site with tremendous potential. Unfortunately it seems to have widely missed the mark. It seems to me like the site is targeting the bored stay at home housewife and not the busy professional woman out in the workplace.

Fair enough. It seems to me a different target then their about page indicates they are looking for. But to leave off the ability for their targeted audience to interact on the site is a huge omission.

If they need an example of a site that has got a good handle on this social media then Fast Company is a good example.

Of course it could be that Yahoo is just looking to build a big paddock in the hopes of corralling women readers that produce content on their site in the form of comments and blog posts so they have more text to sell ads around.

Either way if Yahoo is looking to Shine to be their panacea to heal what currently ails them they might be worse off than people think.

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