Special Report: TeenScreen: SmartGirl Web site in the know about teenage girls

'Smart girls decide for themselves.' That's the motto for a unique company dedicated to becoming 'the number one source in the world of information on what teenage girls want.' The SmartGirl Web site, located at, is at the core of...
April 1, 1998

‘Smart girls decide for themselves.’ That’s the motto for a unique company dedicated to becoming ‘the number one source in the world of information on what teenage girls want.’ The SmartGirl Web site, located at, is at the core of SmartGirl Internette Inc., a New York-based company that earns revenue through custom market research and data analysis on the teenage girl audience.

On the SmartGirl Web site-which is almost 100 percent written by girls and accepts no advertising-girls review movies and videos, music, books, magazines, Web sites and computer games. They can also visit the Love Affairs section on the site, where they might post love letters, read other people’s love letters or get advice on their romantic dilemmas. And they can fill out surveys on topics ranging from music, television, movies and computers games, to fashion, sports and gynecology.

‘There’s a place on SmartGirl for different kinds of girls,’ says company president and founder Isabel Walcott. ‘There might be girls who aren’t necessarily filling out reviews, . . . but they’re reading `Ask Arielle’ [the romantic advice column] every week and posting up their love letters. Plenty of girls come to the site and they just like to fill out the surveys.’ She states that the site is visited ‘by thousands of girls aged 12 to 18 every day.’ Several other existing Web sites cater to teenage girls, such as Bust and Maxi, and other market research companies do on-line research among families with teens, but according to Walcott, SmartGirl ‘is the only one that’s in the cross-section of teenage girls and on-line research.’

SmartGirl went live on January 1, 1997. The idea for the site was born after Walcott posted a survey on the Internet in 1996, asking teenage girls about their activities in and out of school, how they felt about computer games, and other questions. She learned that ‘girls were really excited by computers and were . . . looking for entertainment on-line, but that companies that created computer software and computer games weren’t aware of that fact.’ In addition, Walcott’s background in market research led her to identify the on-line arena as an efficient vehicle for collecting marketing data. ‘So I was just struck by the fact that I saw two market openings at once,’ she says.

SmartGirl Internette’s research clients tend to be ad agencies and companies that target teenage girls or girls and women specifically. However, Walcott says the company is also looking to broaden its horizons by having market research firms become clients or partners and by undertaking long-term initiatives with companies that don’t specifically target teenage girls, but where girls influence the purchase decisions. ‘Those girls turn into women and women are influencing or making most of the buying decisions . . . often now,’ she says.

SmartGirl surveys conducted so far have involved between 50 and 500 teenage girl respondents from across North America (85 percent from the U.S. and 15 percent from Canada) and results can be obtained in time frames ranging from 48 hours to several weeks.

Future initiatives planned for SmartGirl Internette include the addition of on-line discussion groups, as well as the development of a membership-based panel, suitable for more in-depth, confidential client surveys. Also in the works are packaged research reports, which would be distributed to paying subscribers on an ongoing basis. In the longer term, Walcott sees the company maximizing the commercial revenue opportunities offered by the Web, providing girls the opportunity to order entertainment products reviewed on the site by direct links, or by forwarding orders to distributors in exchange for a commission. Such an arrangement with Amazon Books already provides revenues for the company.

In this report:

- SmartGirl Web site in the know about teenage girls

- NBA Inside Stuff gets the inside edge on teen boys

- AOL creates area for teens

- How AOL’s Teen Channel stacks up

- Teen horror movies slash their way to a comeback

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