Lovin’ Life on Both Sides of 50? Eons Removes Age Limit in Bid to Spur Social Networking; More Big Changes Coming

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which I think is fantastic,” he says, presumably because it means people care deeply about the site. “There’s a passionate group that is angry. You can read the posts. And I think there’s general anxiety about change.”

Here’s a sampling:

“You’ve perpetrated a classic “bait and switch” scheme on all of us baby boomers … your dishonesty is disgusting.”

“Your members were lied to and no matter how you try to present this, it was insulting.”

“Nice try but, no dice. As they say down here in the south, ‘that dog won’t hunt.'”

More than a few were more kind though:

“Change is scary. We love eons and don’t want to be let down. Thanks for letting us know what’s happening.”

“I guess we will wait and see…Eons has been a great venue for Boomers and truly hope it stays that way.”

Despite the criticism, Taylor, a master of salesmanship, is persuasive in defending his cause. But before I dive into a bit more of his thinking, here’s some quick context. As we reported at the time, in September Eons laid off approximately one-third of its staff to focus better on the social networking part of its business.

More details emerged in late October, when I visited the company’s headquarters in the Charlestown Navy Yard for an interview with Taylor. He explained that the expensive original news and feature articles Eons had been producing hadn’t gotten a lot of traction, but that the company had seen phenomenal growth in its user groups, where people met around subjects like “50+ Singles,” “Bookoholics,” and “Growing Old is Mandatory; Growing Up is Optional.” To focus on what was working, he said that the company was spinning off its original bedrock Obits section (we didn’t talk about travel at the time, but it was also being spun off) as a new business—Tributes.com—and that the Eons site would relaunch in January as something like a Facebook or MySpace tailored for the baby boomer crowd. But he didn’t hint at all that the site would remove its age limit, which despite his intended ongoing focus on boomers means at least a partial departure from the core “over 50” premise behind its creation.

On Saturday, he elaborated further on the changes, saying that over 70 percent of activity on the site was now related to social networking. “The [original] idea that we would have content and portal-wide information really was eclipsed,” he says. Somewhat ironically, Taylors says he focus-grouped social networking before Eons launched—and it wasn’t popular. His theory is that boomers might have started slow, but they are moving quickly to the cutting edge of social networking, “kind of like India skips telephone poles and goes right to wireless.” In his view, there’s “much more awareness about social networks than there was, and it’s encouraged this generation to move faster.”

Unlike sites such as Facebook, which are popular among teens and those in their early 20s as gathering spots for groups who already know each other, Taylor says, “Most people that come to Eons don’t come with their friends.” By removing the age limit, he says, “What I’m trying to do is encourage people in larger groups.”

Taylor says that with some 7 million unique visitors last year, Eons is poised for future success, and that more big changes are afoot to help bring it about. “We have another huge release which is coming out, which is imminent, over the next couple weeks.” He would not elaborate much on the forthcoming changes, only to say that they involve “turning the entire business inside out, so that when you come to the door of Eons.com, you’re actually coming to a social network, and [we’re] delivering information about health, finance through the channel–basically through the social network.”

This change will likely be accompanied by the spinning off even more aspects of the original business. Taylor also says the revamping will include a new set of search tools and features designed to enhance social networking.

“The 78 million baby boomers have the ability to redefine social networking,” he says. To the extent that’s true, one looming unknown is whether they will try to do it under the Eons umbrella or somewhere else.

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Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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