- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2000

First-time fathers tend to make a big production of the blessed event passing around cigars to celebrate their new parental status. When reality hits, though, those cigar-chomping pals often are less willing to share problems with each other.
Helping out those flummoxed fathers is www.DadsWorld.com, a new site purporting to be a one-stop resource for the modern dad.
"Being a father is still a private thing for dads," says Shaun Budka, group publisher and chief executive of DadsWorld.com. "We love being dads, but it's … a personal thing."
Surfing for fatherly facts on line eliminates the social shyness some men may have, Mr. Budka contends.
"It's a private resource," he says. "You're not going to be reading it on the train."
It also fills a nagging hole in on-line content. "There was nothing for dads on line in a large-scale way," Mr. Budka says. Some sites offer sports information; others, such as www.fathersworld.com, provide more general bulletins through cartoonish icons. He couldn't find one that answered key questions most fathers would like answered.
For example, his Web site explores dealing with a mother's postpartum depression, reversing a vasectomy and grappling with the nuances of Little League Baseball, all written in accessible prose. The site currently offers more than 200 articles on fatherhood.
Mr. Budka brings a traditional magazine background to his task, having published Modern Dad from 1995 to 1997.
"They weren't comfortable with a newsstand magazine," he says of a percentage of his demographic audience. "With the Web site, they could download it, read it, then move on."
He hasn't abandoned the magazine format, however.
The new Web site is offering free quarterly magazine subscriptions to registered dads, to either FirstTime Dad or Modern Dad. Three million copies of the former are distributed through childbirth-education sessions, obstetricians and nurses and midwives.
The New York-based site, which held a mid-May launch, registered 2,000 new users in its first four weeks. Mr. Budka anticipates having 100,000 new users registered by September.
The site, with content supplied by 45 staff writers, is meant to offer quick, fix-it style answers to nagging questions.
"A dad goes on line with only one purpose in mind. He wants a solution for something, then he leaves," Mr. Budka says. "A mom will surf for a while. It's the same with shopping."
Part of the site allows space where dads can post birth announcements, vacation photos and other memorabilia. E-mail newsletters provide registered users with more information and links to relevant Web sites.
The site isn't the only realm in cyberspace reserved for fathers. An e-mail group-communications platform dubbed E-Groups is highlighting several ongoing cyber-chats aimed at devoted dads in honor of Father's Day.
Through Sunday, chats dedicated to dads and daughters, stay-at-home fathers and gay single parents can be found by visiting egroups.com.
Mr. Budka is surprised at the "depth and passion" of the e-mail responses to DadsWorld.com so far, many of which simply have thanked him for creating such a site, he says.
"Thank God, something for us," he says one person wrote.
Most inquiries have centered around a predictable theme. Many have asked when are the safe times to have sex with a pregnant spouse and when after delivery marital intimacies can resume.
Fathers also ask more pragmatic, less selfish questions.
For example, "Dads are concerned about the medicine that moms can take," he says.
Mr. Budka, 32, says his generation grew up with fathers who preferred a hearty slap on the back as opposed to an open dialogue with their children.
"They were good fathers, but we weren't emotionally attached to them," he says. "Dad doesn't want to seem soft, but a strong leader. Yet he wants a real, genuine emotional attachment with kids."
Patrick Callinan, an analyst with Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., says today's on-line dad has less time to find the information he needs on the Web.
"When junior arrives, everything changes. Daddy has to think about career and family and has 30 hours less a week to play with," Mr. Callinan says. The average dad will spend 2.6 hours a week on line, skipping chat rooms and other sites that gobble up time and surf over to sports sites, primarily.
Forrester, an Internet tracking and research firm, reports that men age 25 through 49 without children have 68 non-work hours a week available to them. That number plummets to 38 hours when children enter the picture.
"But dads are finding time to go on line," he says. In the 25-to-49 age bracket, 55 percent of dads are on line, while a similar 53 percent of childless men in that age bracket have Internet access.
Not everyone shares Mr. Budka's enthusiasm for his business model.
Dr. Daniel Lieberman, director of outpatient psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center, agrees that men often feel uncomfortable talking to their male friends about minor parental crises. But, Dr. Lieberman predicts, many won't turn to the Web for such information, despite its sheen of anonymity.
"Men, when they have a problem, will not tell a buddy," Dr. Lieberman says. "I don't think they'll go to a Web site, either. They'll rely on themselves to figure things out."
He sees the Web's audience as similar to that of the off-line world. Women's magazines offer advice on all manner of relationships, as do the sites dedicated to women. Men's periodicals, from GQ to Maxim, publish updates on sports, money and hobbies.
"The on-line world is very much the same," says Dr. Lieberman, an Internet enthusiast who operates a Web site that helps people cope with jet lag.
"Finance sites have been successful" in attracting male surfers, he says, as have, sadly enough, pornographic sites.
But he says an audience for father-friendly advice exists, even if it is rather modest in scope.
"One of the benefits of the Web is it's so inexpensive to put information out there. You can go to a narrow niche," he says. For a Web site catering to fathers to succeed, it must effectively target this small group of men, who in general are more educated, he says, than their peers.
"It's men who have learned other people know more than they do, and they can learn from them," Dr. Lieberman says.
Sites catering to dads should try for name recognition to hammer home the authenticity of their tips, he advises.
"When I look for information, I want something that's authoritative," he says.
But the immediacy of the Web, he says, may overshadow his nagging doubts about the site's long-term prospects.
"The Web is much more accessible than any other medium," he says. "By lowering the barrier, even though it won't approach a mass audience, it will appeal to a greater audience [than a magazine]."
Looking ahead, Mr. Budka says his site will be adding more information on men's health, such as prostate cancer updates and news while zeroing in on education and technology.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide