Moms have taken over Face­book

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Caitlin Dewey

Youhaveprob­a­blyn­ever heard of the Lit­tleThings .com— and Lit­tleThings is re­ally proud of that. They’ve only been around 15 months, too short a time to be a house­hold name just yet. And still, some­how, this un­re­mark­able, freshly dug well of “in­spir­ing, up­lift­ing, and en­gag­ing con­tent” pulls in some­thing like 1.7 mil­lion unique vis­i­tors a day.

In fact, on Jan. 21, theWeb an­a­lyt­ics firm Sim­i­larWeb de­clared it the fastest­grow­ing news site of 2015. It started the year ranked 6.7 mil­lionth of all sites in the “news and me­dia” cat­e­gory; it’s now, be­tween Vox and Sa­lon, No. 9.

How has Lit­tle Things done it? It’s not magic or bril­liance pump­ing those num­bers up. Nope, Lit­tle Things— like Up­wor­thy and ViralNova and all their other iden­ti­cal ilk— rely on moms, the not-so-se­cret weapons con­quer­ing the vi­ral In­ter­net.

“All of our writ­ers have sources, of course,” Lit­tle Things’s con­tent di­rec­tor, Ma­iaMcCann, said with a sigh like the ver­bal equiv­a­lent of a shrug. “But I al­ways tell writ­ers to go on Face­book and, you know — look at their moms.”

McCann’s writ­ers are not the only ones fol­low­ing this di­rec­tive. At ViralNova, the con­tent farm that sold last July for $100 mil­lion, founder Scott DeLong coaches his writ­ers to think like “40- or 45-year-old women.” At Up­wor­thy, a site that over the sum­mer promised to in­cor­po­rate more de­mo­graphic data into its story se­lec­tion process, the au­di­ence skews both fe­male and 40+.

A sur­vey of the top vi­ral con­tent mills shows, in fact, that all lean older, and heav­ily fe­male. You’ve heard, per­haps, that mil­len­ni­als cre­ated this va­pid vir­tual cesspool of feel-good “vi­ral­ity.” But it’s not mil­len­ni­als: It’s their moth­ers.

If you ask Neet­zan Zimmerman, a sort of one- man, proto-ViralNova who de­fined the vi­ral news genre in the early days, he’ll tell you that the momi­fi­ca­tion of the In­ter­net is some­thing we should have seen com­ing a long way away. For one thing, moms own Face­book, sta­tis­ti­cally speak­ing, and Face­book owns the vi­ral news in­dus­try. (“Face­book was ob­vi­ously al­ways go­ing to be co-opted by moms,” Zimmerman said. “It’s all about gos­sip, baby pho­tos, schmaltzy stuff— it’s so mom al­ready.”) On top of that, mar­keters and ad­ver­tis­ers adore moth­ers, the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for most house­hold spend­ing.

Moms are the mother lode, so to speak.

“I don’t think we tar­geted this de­mo­graphic on pur­pose,” hedgedMcCann, Lit­tle Things’s con­tent di­rec­tor. “But ... (mid­dleaged women) are re­ally de­sir­able, be­cause they’re the most likely to share on Face­book. And ob­vi­ously, to a vi­ral site, that’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

Why, ex­actly, are our moth­ers prop­a­gat­ing this omg-you-won’t-be­lieve-it drivel about dogs and pub­lic pro­pos­als and ba­bies? Half of it is show­ing up, it would seem: Ac­cord­ing to eMar­keter, there are just a lot of women older than 45 on Face­book. The site skews fe­male any­way, and the gen­eral grey­ing of Face­book’s user base means that a third of all users are now well into middle-age.

On top of that, there seems to be some­thing unique about how women, and par­tic­u­larly moth­ers, use Face­book— some­thing rooted in the fun­da­men­tal, gen­dered com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles we’re taught since birth. Stud­ies — and, per­haps, your own list­less scrolling through other peo­ple’s baby pic­tures— sug­gest that ladies rely on the net­work to sup­port re­la­tion­ships in a way

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