Lovin’ Life on Both Sides of 50? Eons Removes Age Limit in Bid to Spur Social Networking; More Big Changes Coming
Eons, the web portal for aging Baby Boomers with the famous slogan “Lovin’ Life on the Flip Side of 50,” removed its age limits last week as part of a bid to remake itself—and revitalize the business—by becoming a more general social networking site. It was a dramatic and controversial action for the company “as we turn the business inside out,” founder and CEO Jeff Taylor told me over the weekend. The new slogan reads simply, “Lovin’ Life on the Flip Side.”
Just what that means is a bit obscure without the “over 50″ part, but the over-arching question for Eons is whether the flip in its age policy will put the company on more solid footing or turn out to be a flop. Early observations have not been kind, with many user comments on our site, its site, and elsewhere running against the move, and the blog TechCrunch putting the Boston, MA-based Eons in its deadpool.
Taylor, who founded Monster.com and built Eons with $32 million in venture funding from giants such as Sequoia Capital and General Catalyst (most of it in a $22 million Series B financing that closed last March), says the change is needed because it reflects human nature. As the company shed its professional editorial content, obituary and travel sections, and other aspects of its resources-oriented origins and ramped up its social networking focus, which was increasingly driving its traffic, he says it made no sense to have an artificial age limit because people don’t set age limits on their friendships and interactions. “You have a 53-year-old person who’s in the social network, and their 48-year-old best friend can’t join,” he observes. “The idea of having a kind of invisible gate didn’t make sense.”
But despite the big turnaround—and despite being derided by some constituents and outside observers for ostensibly opening up the site to teenagers and other young people—-Taylor insists that the company will retain its focus on baby boomers. “Our brand positioning is not changing at all,” he told me. “I have no intention of marketing the site to teenagers or 20-something or 30-somethings.” He also maintains that the business is “solid and healthy.” The company is “adding to staff now,” he says. “We have at least two years of runway with our current cash, and that doesn’t count sales—and sales are good.” And he says that more big changes are imminent to position Eons even better in its transformation to a social networking site.
So far, most Eons users don’t seem to be buying it. Taylor says Eons dropped the age gate officially last Tuesday, but didn’t put up a notice about the move—here’s a letter he wrote—until the next day. “And we started getting the comments from people,” he says. That prompted a second notice, “A Message From the Eons Team,” which went up on Thursday. “I had more names called at me, directed toward me, in the last 72 hours than I’ve probably ever had in my life,” Taylor told me. Yet, he says, before the changeover, the “number one complaint at the help desk was ‘I’m a boomer, but you don’t let me in.'” (That from the big batch of boomers born between 1947 and 1964 who haven’t yet hit 50.)
Still, Eons’ two letters together had generated nearly 700 comments by Saturday afternoon. Many of them, Taylor acknowledges, were against the move. “There’s a spirited kind of massive pounding happening at the site right now, … Next Page »