For over the past year, Comcast/NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) Universal’s iVillage has been overhauling its sites and expanding its international presence. Now it is moving more forcefully into mobile with the launch of its app network. As part of its push into mobile, the company has named former Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) digital exec Douglas Gottlieb as VP for “User Experience.”
The hiring of Gottlieb represents something of a reunion for the former VP of Digital Products at BN.com, as he joins Mike Skagerlind, iVillage’s SVP/GM arrived at the company last June after serving as VP, head of content at B&N.
By the end of this year, the iVillage mobile network will include between a half-dozen and a dozen apps. The first one, Red Carpet Fever, was released over a week ago to capitalize on the Academy Awards. The app will continue to evolve into a general celebrity events offering photo galleries, real-time chats and connections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools.
The start of the rollout reflects the added emphasis iVillage has placed on entertainment as part of its vast restructuring that began a year-and-a-half ago.
“We did a lot of rebuilding last year and that has strengthened the relationship with our users,” said Skagerlind in an interview with paidContent. The PC-based site network already claims a reach of 30-plus million users a month. “While the mobile wap site has been around for some time. It was our plan to do a more extensive mobile strategy after that was set.”
Later this month, the company will launch its “main” iVillage app. Other apps to follow include the mom-aimed My Pregnancy and Newborn Milestones apps. The initial phase will be rounded out by apps for Health & Fitness are also set to roll out, which will center around iVillage’s successful ‘Community Challenge’ franchise
While iVillage’s site network has some experiments in paid content, the company has no plans to charge for its mobile apps. As Gottlieb told us, the focus right now is on building community and the “user experience.” There is some excitement within the company around iVillage’s work with iPad — they’re exploring the advancements associated with the second version of that device — as well as Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android in addition to the iPhone. Doing it all simultaneously is a big part of the effort, along with finding multiple ways to pay for it all.
“We’re looking at a variety of revenue models,” Skagerlind said.”We like the ‘freemium’ model, which could include enhancements you’ll be able to buy. But we believe in advertising.”
While it makes sense that iVillage didn’t want to take on too much and roll out its apps earlier, as it unveiled its various sites and channels over the past year. But you can’t help but wonder, what took so long. Skagerlind has an answer: “We are doing this as early as we could. You only have to look around at how suddenly impactful the mobile revolution has been from a user and advertising vantage — but it’s all still very early for most people. Certainly within a year or two, the amount of broadband access and the number of women using smartphones to access our content will grow tremendously. But we’re not abandoning the web, of course, we’re looking for ways we can be original and complementary at the same time.”
Lauren Zalaznick, Chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks & Integrated Media, will be speaking this morning, March 3rd, the paidContent 2011 conference at The Times Center in New York City