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Trouble in Electric Ladyland...
It's safe to say that author Francine Prose is not a fan of women's sites like and iVillage. The author's angry critique of e-commerce sites targeting women, which ran in the New York Times, caused a large angry blurp to appear on radar screens in offices on both coasts.

Prose pulled few punches in the article, attacking the standard of content on a number of major sites including Oprah-backed Oxygen as "far below whatever standard still prevails in the most dumbed down print magazines and with less attractive graphics than Martha Stewart Living."

Prose, the author of a number of fairly well-regarded novels that deal with women's issues ( Hunters & Gatherers, Bigfoot Dreams and most recently Blue Angel), made several criticisms about the way in which companies are selling themselves to American women, before departing from her central thesis - which can be summed up pretty quickly as...... web sites catering to women are basically.. er... shockingly stupid.

We're inclined to agree.

(Although we'd probably use slightly shorter adjectives and broaden our sights to include the vast majority of e-commerce sites on the web rather than singling out those that target a specific group.)

The fact is, for the most part, the people developing content for big e-commerce sites just don't get it.

And guess what?

They never will.

Not because they have a secret agenda and not because they're stupid (although we could name a couple that undoubtedly are) but because they don't really understand the basic premise that underlies the relationship between a web site and its visitors.

That premise is trust.

In the old days, businesses could often afford to piss off their customers.


The customers weren't going anywhere. They were stuck.

Countless observers have pointed out that the Net has irrevocably changed the balance of power.

It sounds like a cliche and it probably is. But it's also very true - if a web site annoys it's customers the odds are they'll take their business elsewhere.

It's the easiest thing in the world to market your web site as the answer to somebody's prayers. It doesn't take much effort and it doesn't take much sophistication. All it takes is an aggressive marketing department and the will to turn it loose on the world.

But in the long run, being less than forthright about who you are and what you do is likely to bite you where you don't want to be bit.

You don't want that.

Go see what all the fuss is about.

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