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IMama.tv is a different type of parenting site. Not only does it provide parenting tips and information mainly through video clips, but it is also run as a cooperative.
The idea for the site came from iMama’s creative director Dee Smith around three years ago. She was on maternity leave from her job as a tv producer [she had worked for Discovery Channel and set up her own production company, Futureproof Productions] and thought there would be lots of expert advice on bringing up children available on video on the net. She discovered there was hardly any and started organising meetings around her kitchen table with like-minded people.
“We felt strongly that there was a gap in the market,” says Libby Rowley [pictured], the site’s marketing and communications director manager. “My daughter is four now and I would certainly have used something like this when she was born,” she says. The site provides parenting advice both from parents themselves and from experts so they get both ends of the spectrum.
“There are lots of expert parenting books around,” says Libby, “but many new parents don’t have the time to read them. If you have a new baby and have been through a hard labour it’s a big ask to concentrate on anything for longer than two minutes.”
Fortuitously Dee met someone at Glyndebourne who was filming and streaming video online. His organisation, Videojuicer, is now iMama’s main technical partner. “We share the same objectives and they are part of the cooperative,” says Libby.
Over the last three years and before the site’s official launch in November, the members of the team have amassed adn created 4,032 parenting-related videos, ranging from interviews with a top obstetrician [“it’s like having a private consultation”, says Libby] to chats with mums. “We want people to feel like they are hanging out somewhere with people they would like to be friends with,” says Libby.
There are three main channels on the site – a magazine, including Tickled [entertaining parent-related clips found on the internet]; Know Kids – which provides information on every stage of children’s lives; and Grown-up World which includes information on things like relationships, work and travel. “The last channel is about the world outside black lycra,” laughs Libby.
The magazine has new content every day and the video viewsletter goes live once a week on a Wednesday. There is also an expert of the week and the site encourages debates. As they have such a back catalogue of video material the team embed a relevant video in new material. They also have a production schedule to produce new video material, for instance, they attended Workingmums LIVE and have recently uploaded video coverage of the event.
Content can easily be shared with other sites and embedded on social networking. The team have worked with organisations like the charity Tommy’s, for women who have suffered pregnancy complications, for which they have filmed a whole series of videos.
Libby works on the site three days a week while her daughter is at pre-school, but says she is more or less always online. “It’s very flexible and everyone can name their own terms,” she says. “It runs on trust and helping each other out.” The iMama cooperative has around 10 directors who have been working for free to build up and promote the site in return for a share in the company.
They have editorial meetings in the evenings on Skype, says Libby, and a management meeting once a week by phone. “There is a great sense of camaraderie and we can cover for each other if, for instance, one of us has a sick child. It is very beneficial,” says Libby.
She adds that it can be lonely running your own business and iMama has recently interviewed a mumpreneur who had a nervous breakdown from the strain of working on her own. “A cooperative is a good business model for mums who want to set up a business. You speak regularly to people and share the load,” she says. Some of the editorial team do other work, for instance, community moderation work can be done in the evenings freeing up the day for other jobs.
The team also work with student interns, who are the only people paid to work on the site. “We don’t believe in slave labour,” says Libby. “We want to give them the skills and equipment to get on.”
The site has plans to keep on developing and would eventually like to have more advice for parents of teenagers, for instance. “We are like every newborn now, though,” says Libby. “We have to learn to walk before we can run.”