By Paula Lehman
How does a New York-based magazine like BusinessWeek spot a small but successful regional social network like Buzz-Oven.com? By reading Ypulse.com, a trendspotting blog updated daily by Current TV producer Anastasia Goodstein -- with help from a handful of teen contributors. Items like the entry about Buzz-Oven's partnership with Coca-Cola (KO ) have made Ypulse a must-read for corporate movers and shakers eager to gain an insight into the mercurial world of youth culture.
From her small San Francisco apartment, every morning Goodstein scrolls through hundreds of e-mails and dozens of blogs and news sites to pull together the most interesting insights into Generation Y. Since she began blogging news, commentary, and marketing buzz on pop culture and the teen scene in May, 2004, her project has amassed a small but influential cult following. Sure, Ypulse only has 1,000 actual subscribers, but the site averages nearly 62,000 hits a day.
More to the point, her subscribers include marketers from major consumer brands such as Procter & Gamble (PG ), magazine editors-in-chief such as Seventeen's Atoosa Rubenstein, and teens who lend the site credibility by contributing realistic reactions to marketing campaigns. "All the brands are clamoring to reach the teen market in an authentic way," says Goodstein.
Goodstein's expertise in youth media began when she worked for a Boston-based nonprofit magazine called Teen Voices, which publishes essays, art, and photographs from inner-city girls. After that she got a journalism degree and worked on teen media at several Internet companies, including About.com, Netscape, and AOL.
Today, she lives in San Francisco with her husband, a psychology student, and holds a job as a manager for Current TV, Al Gore's new project that airs viewer-created content. "I'm trying to use my experience," says Goodstein about her decision to start Ypulse. "I've also really met some amazing people who work for these marketing firms and brands and that really genuinely care about young people."
Goodstein, 34, started Ypulse because she missed keeping up with teen culture. But despite her loyal following, the site doesn't bring in enough money to live on. Still, her work at Current complements the site and gives her a steady stream of news and ideas. One concept she liked recently was a Levi Strauss & Co. campaign in Europe called Antidote. Last year, the jean company created a social network by identifying communities -- punk rockers in France, for example -- and paying to publish their Webzines, then distributing hard copies in Levi stores across Europe.
One day in late October, Goodstein got into viral video online, the latest trend among teens. These are quickie homemade videos, usually just a minute or two and mostly designed as humor, that kids pass around -- hence the term viral. There are even a handful of viral video sites, such as milkandcookies.com, ifilm.com (recently bought by MTV), and eBaumsworld.com, founded by 26-year-old Eric Bauman while he was still in high school.
Goodstein posted an interview she did with Bauman, who says his site gets more than a million hits a day -- more than mtv.com and comedycentral.com combined.
On another late fall day, Goodstein viewers could read an item in her Trend Alert section posted by Ypulsers Julia & Katie. They tell of Web sites such as toothpastefordinner.com, on which visitors create and post humorous, often racy or rude, cartoons and sayings that teens then slap on flyers, tote bags, buttons, and T-shirts. "The site even has its own book for sale on Amazon (AMZN )," say Julia & Katie.
This mix of new ideas, informed critiques, and vital tips is tantalizing to those trying to stay a step ahead of Gen @. "It brings what's going on in the youth world to one focal point, where I can find the hot buttons for the youth market and also start a dialogue with other marketers," says Dave Knox, P&G's teen external relations manager (yes, that's his real title).
Knox, who found Ypulse through a simple Google (GOOG ) search last winter, says he checks the discussions on the site daily to get a handle on how teens are reacting to various products. Now, if Goodstein could just figure out how to make a living out of all her handy advice.
Lehman is an intern at BusinessWeek