Mumsnet Ltd., a U.K. online forum to allow mothers to discuss issues from diapers to government policy, is starting Gransnet, a website for the nation’s 14 million grandparents to engage with each other.
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet’s chief executive officer and co- founder, hopes Gransnet will have the same influence as the parenting site, which has hosted live webchats from Prime Minister David Cameron and former premier Gordon Brown, as well as celebrities such as chef Jamie Oliver.
“Mumsnet has proved to be a godsend to parents by allowing them to pool advice and information to make their lives easier,” said Roberts, 43. “We’d like to do the same for an older demographic, which arguably is even more isolated and unheard.”
Gransnet will be a forum-based social networking site giving grandparents access to advice and friendship. The number of Britons of 65 and over is projected to increase from 16 percent in 2008 to 23 percent by 2033, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics.
“We know they are heavily involved with their grandchildren’s lives and that longer, healthier lifespans are changing the nature of the second half of life,” said Roberts, a mother of four. One in three working mothers relies on childcare provided by grandparents, she said.
Half of grandparents in the U.K. look after grandchildren and help around the house while their parents work, according to a study conducted by Aviva Plc, an insurer. About 99.5 percent of grandparents who help out do it without payment, saving parents more than 33 billion pounds ($53 billion) a year in child-care costs, the study showed.
The Mumsnet team, with headquarters in north London, has recruited a group of grandparents to test the Gransnet site, starting today. Several advertisers will work with the team to generate content for the site, Roberts said, without disclosing names. Gransnet will be officially introduced on May 4.
Last year, one advertising pound in every four was spent online, according to a study from the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Display advertising for social media tripled. Mumsnet has more than 1.3 million separate visitors a month and 25,000 posts daily.
The site started a Family Friendly campaign last month to lobby companies for more flexible working hours for parents. It will work with companies including BT Group Plc (BT/A) to improve customer services and workplace practices.
“There is a disconnect between companies’ official policy towards flexible working and what is culturally acceptable,” Roberts said. “If men started doing flexible hours, people would feel less negative about women doing it too.”
Mumsnet, which gets its revenue from advertising, has doubled in size in the past year and expects to generate revenue of 3 million pounds this year, Roberts said. While the site is starting to make a profit, it rejects ads from companies and for products it doesn’t approve of, she said.
Nestle SA (NESN), the world’s biggest food company, won’t be allowed to advertise because it sells formula milk in developing nations, said Roberts, who has been a sports journalist and an economist at SG Warburg.
“Nestle is our big bugbear,” Roberts said. “We believe their practices in developing countries, where they encourage women to formula feed, make them an inappropriate company to work with. We have invited them for a webchat but they say they not ready to come to talk.”
The Vevey, Switzerland-based foodmaker had “discussions with Mumsnet in the past and will continue to talk to them,” Ferhat Soygenis, a company spokesman, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg.
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s biggest restaurant chain, may gain entry to Mumsnet’s advertisers list, as it has improved its business practices, Roberts said.
McDonald’s said it has yet to advertise on Mumsnet, although it may consider the site for future campaigns.
“Previously, we’d had them on our ‘We won’t take ads from you’ list, but our members seem to think they have improved in the way they do business, so we are open to discussions with them,” Roberts said. “We are, I suppose, a kind of bellwether for companies that are making progress on their practices and corporate image.”
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