Moms have taken over Facebook
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