Recently Caring.com (targeting family caregivers) acquired Gilbert Guide (a senior care directory, also aimed at family caregivers) -- combined firm gets more critical mass and content than either had separately. What happens now and is it significant? I talked with Caring.com's CEO Andy Cohen and Gilbert Guide's CEO Jill Gilbert to try to figure it out.
Add the market of each -- you get a bigger market. Caring.com, founded and VC-funded (DCM and Split Rock Partners) in 2007, had reached 550,000 unique visits per month -- adding Gilbert Guide's 100,000 will, according to Andy Cohen, reach 1 million direct visitors by the end of the year. In addition, Caring.com's content has already been syndicated out to MSN in this Alzheimer's example and AOL. But as Andy pointed out, his biggest competition is lack of awareness: "1 million is a small penetration of the 34 million caregivers for parents or spouses."
Andy Cohen would like to enhance its community aspect. Caring.com today offers forums for people to share their experiences: "We should connect people more -- it's a lonely time. How do you provide a place where they can obtain emotional support and share ideas? He also sees the site as an "interesting channel for applications, services, and devices trying to reach the caregiver market." For example, in the combined Caring.com, the Alzheimer's section of the site offers advice to caregivers, referrals to services, and helpful products.
Jill Gilbert is excited about the combination's consolidation of information. Gilbert Guide was founded in 2004 as a printed directory of senior housing and home care. Jason Gilbert and Jill Gilbert join the combined company as vice presidents. Since 2008, Caring.com had featured Gilbert Guide's directory on its site. Now Jill Gilbert will now be focused on "expanding and providing an integrated user experience, delivering beneficial and unique tools, product, people and services -- integrated into areas of need -- this is not a store. When people need help, we will be there with a comprehensive view of what they need."
Okay -- what's the big deal about this? In most respects, the consolidation is an obvious one (they were already partnered companies). But there are many possibilities: let's imagine a few:
- Caregivers now, aging in place themselves? Caregivers are a stressed group -- the phrase 'hair on fire' has often been described as the catalyst for finding sites like Caring.com. But caregivers are people too -- in fact a large number of them are baby boomers. So baby boomers have perspectives about themselves as well -- for example, for boomer women, Gilbert Guide's Daily Wrinkle has tried to get at these multiple perspectives -- helping them sort through their own life changes.
- Hub for technology vendors to place their products in context? Consolidation of multiple types of information into single sites creates a consolidated channel for vendors -- the aging in place technology industry has lacked such a channel. The Center for Aging Services (CAST) is a clearinghouse of such technologies (including never-marketed research projects), but doesn't enable viewers to buy them. AARP has the viewers, but check it out -- it's not much of a channel for home technology.
- Influence of large vendors that there is a 'there' there. The large vendors seem to be, for the most part, are doing little today, presumably waiting for the baby boomers to become senior, taking their iPhone-carrying, tech literate, computer-buying habits with them as they age. But perhaps a consolidated Caring.com will look interesting to them as the audience hits its 1 million mark later this year.
Hubs make a lot of things happen... Let's look at another hub to help see the possibilities. Ten years ago many, many small companies wanted to be a WebMD -- competition was fierce (remember Healtheon) and companies sprang up like weeds. No way, we said many times at Forrester, could all survive and by the way, consumers didn't necessarily trust them: This quote is from a 2001 Forrester survey, when WebMD was already one of the top 3 sites: "While traffic and reach of commercial health content sites are growing, 79 percent of consumers nevertheless express reservations about the trustworthiness of existing online health content."
...What a difference a decade makes. WebMD bought up or merged with many of the startups from that era, has been public for the past six years -- and has a complex 'web' of sponsorships (with detailed transparency explanations to viewers), partnerships, and advertising make them public, profitable, and growing, with advertising revenue up 18% as of July, and a growing reach as a platform for health and benefits portals. It's hard to remember that at one time, large players in the health industry didn't necessarily see a health-related portal as the way to go to market. Now, just look up 'blood pressure cuffs' on WebMD or remember that both Microsoft (HealthVault) and Google see WebMD's market as attractive. [Note to Caring.com: all three are in the 'platform' market - one way or the other.]
As the 2009 Technology Market Overview Report about the market for technology for aging in place made clear, role and need-based hubs are the way products and services find a market online -- and online is the market to reach. We're all searching, all the time -- finding what we need represents the potential for consolidations like Caring.com/Gilbert Guide.