Websites were quickly sprouting like grey hairs all over the place, but few, if any, were dedicated to the older generation.
“I noticed that my parents didn’t know where to go online to find a trusted source of information in one place,” Poole says.
“At the time, they were just learning about the internet, but there wasn’t really much out there for them.”
A marketer by trade, Poole saw an opportunity and quickly responded by starting the website Grownups along with entrepreneur Shane Bradley, who at the time was starting to generate some good momentum with his website Finder.
“We didn’t even look around the world to see what else was out there,” Poole says. “We just knew there isn’t anything like this in New Zealand.”
Over the next year, the pair worked together, building a website targeted specifically at the 50-plus market. Things started ticking along, but the entrepreneurial bug still had its teeth firmly wedged into Bradley and he moved onto other ventures, leaving Poole to steer the fledgling business into the future.
An early partnership
As any digital publisher will tell you, simply building something does not necessarily mean that the audience will come. And this was particularly true of an audience that was only just coming to grips with what the internet offered.
From the early days, Poole knew that he had to find an organisation that had a strong connection with the target market, as this would provide a means by which to increase awareness of GrownUps.
“We looked at organisations around the place who were in that kind of space and SeniorNet were teaching people, at that stage, how to turn on computers and where to go to from there. It was really basic stuff.”
Strong readership doesn’t always translate into commercial success. And in the early days, Poole quickly learned that ad agencies weren’t all that interested in running ads on a site targeted at the older generation.
“The advertising agencies were filled with people aged in their mid-20s and when we presented the concept, it was like, ‘Yeah, but people over 50 aren’t on the net and it’s just not that cool.’”
Sometimes GrownUps would squeeze into mainstream consumer campaigns by virtue of including readers on the cusp of the 25-54 demographic, but a significant portion of the ad business came from brands looking to specifically target older folks.
“We got a lot of interesting from companies selling incontinence pants,” Poole says.
“We needed the money so we took the campaigns, but soon we just had these ads all over the site.”
While profitable, this approach wasn’t great for readers or, for that matter, clients—especially given the vast majority of readers weren’t necessarily users of incontinence pants.
So instead, Poole switched the strategy and started developing content marketing campaigns with clients. Not only did this approach improve the overall appearance of the site, but it also meant those interested in incontinence pants could choose to access more information about the available products.
“Since then, content marketing has always played an important role as part of our overarching strategy at GrownUps.”