business news in context, analysis with attitude

Fascinating piece in The New York Times yesterday about a website called UrbanBaby.com, which essentially serves as a kind of electronic replacement for the back fence over which previous generations shared wisdom and experience.

"UrbanBaby began quietly in New York five years ago as a reference bank for parents seeking information on pediatricians, child care, baby gear and other necessities," the NYT writes. "Championed as an invaluable resource, it has also emerged as the city's most compelling window into the miseries, joys, obsessions and paranoias of modern family life." And, according to the paper, "in any given hour, a query about colic, gastric tube defect, Pedialyte, flying with an infant, a sullen husband or a certain play group in Brooklyn Heights will be met almost immediately by a string of helpful answers from other mothers."

Having conquered New York with 7,000 to 8,000 postings a day, UrbanBaby also has created online communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Austin, Tex.
KC's View:
Years ago, we went on a website for moms, and watched as a bunch of chat room participants argued about fashion or some such subject. Because we were curious, we typed in, "I can't get my kids to eat their vegetables. Any ideas?"

And we got a torrent of suggestions - about veggies, fruit, and assorted other meal-oriented subjects.

Creating this kind of community is a key, we think, to a successful retail business. Too few (which is to say, almost none) retailers take advantage of the technology to do so, which is a damned shame.

We happen to be passionate on the subject of building community, because that, in essence, is what we've done here at MNB - taking the ruins of a failed former website business and creating something that, for whatever reason, has transcended that old business in terms of usership, traffic and the commitment of the MNB community.

That's something that we think more retailers need to do.