Trailing Baby Boomer explores a new learning curve by developing media and content for Empty Questers
EmptyQuester.com was conceived out of personal need to explore a life stage that Donna Korren entered when her youngest daughter went off to college. Writing has always been therapeutic for Donna and she began to write her thoughts down on paper exploring how positive and generative her kid free life stage could be. Through her online subscriber based blog and website, this FLOBEL advisor and former Vogue Advertising Manager conducts research and shares appealing content with parents whose children have left the nest. Through media, content sharing, speaking engagements and brand collaborations, Donna is engaging with a worldwide audience sparking conversation about what it means to be an “Empty Quester” rather than an empty nester. Nectar News sat down with Donna to learn more about the development of her website and how publishing has changed over the past decade.
NN: How did you come up with the name Empty Quester™?
DK: My children are my think tank as I develop Empty Quester and they coined the term. I had a problem with the phrase empty nest as the word “empty” constitutes vacancy while “nest” is something we hold dear to our hearts. Pairing something positive like “nest” with a word like “empty” immediately puts you into a negative mindset. At first, I thought maybe I wanted to be an empty “zester” but my children said, “No mom, you want to be an Empty Quester”.
NN: Do you imagine scaling Empty Quester or do you want to keep the initiative close to home?
DK: I am really excited to scale the project. I worked at Vogue for many years in sales and advertising. When I had my children, I moved to Time Inc.’s Parenting Group. Both of these magazines had large target audiences. Then, when I moved to Long Island, I partnered with two gentlemen and together we launched Elements, a regional publication for savvy suburbanites. It had a smaller scale than a national magazine but it was quite powerful in our market. Empty Quester is definitely scalable because the conversation about the long and rewarding next chapter for Baby Boomers and advancing GenXers will resonate with a huge segment of the population, not only in this country but across the world. Globally, the population is aging and this will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of society including the work force, economics, culture and media. For me, it’s just about finding ways to scale the valuable messages to a larger audience.
NN: You have worked in marketing and advertising for several companies, what do you think it takes to scale journalism ventures? What are some of the factors that you need to focus on for scaling Empty Quester in particular?
DK: I think this conversation is very relevant to the mission of the Florence Belsky Charitable Foundation. Technology and communication changed in the ten years that I stepped away from publishing and returned. Sometimes I feel like I’ve arrived on a different planet. In the past, you determined your niche audience, created content that appealed to it and brought a more intimate experience to your readers through live local events. These were all things I could do in my sleep. When I came back to the industry with this concept of Empty Quester I realized that everything was different and my learning curve was going to be very steep.
The digital era dictates that if you want to scale your business, you have to be on social media. You have to be able to promote your message on Instagram or gather a community on Facebook. The saddest thing is looking at what has happened to magazines in the midst of the transition. I recently picked up a copy of Vogue and it was 1000 pages smaller than the issues we were publishing when I worked there.
I’m a passionate public speaker and hope to share Empty Quester through speaking engagements, but if my concept is going to be successful I have to speak to a larger audience. Social media has to be a component of how I deliver my message.
I also believe that in order to scale you have to be disruptive. You’re not going to scale if you are out there with the same message that others have delivered before. One of Anna Wintour’s first Vogue covers featured a model in a pair of Guess jeans with a $10,000 bejeweled couture top. She disrupted the industry by saying fashion could be a melding of high end and accessible. When we launched Elements on Long Island, there had never been a high end luxury goods magazine on the North Shore, even though that part of Long Island has a lot of wealth. We created a magazine that became regarded as the “Town & Country” or the baby “Vogue” of the Gold Coast. So I think to scale Empty Quester, I have to communicate a very clear point of difference.
NN: What is Empty Quester’s point of difference?
DK: My point of difference is it’s time to stop talking to ourselves. To stop talking about being “invisible” or to complain about ageism, because the “isms” don’t go away. They were here before we got here and will be here when we’re gone. The point is to use our voices, skills and sheer heft to influence marketers and employers, to direct their energies to our segment of the population. The great news is that so many powerful companies have already begun to do this through hiring programs like returnships and advertising campaigns that speak to our audience. Our job is to seize the opportunities and build upon them.
NN: How has utilizing social media been treating you?
DK: When I decided I wanted to start a website I literally had no technological experience. My millennial niece and nephew encouraged me to try out Square Space for a DIY website experience. Square Space’s helpline is all live chat and I was looking for the 800 number to call because I’m an “in person- person”. That’s what many of us Baby Boomers and advancing GenXers are all about. I ended up giving up because there was no person to talk to. Then, GoDaddy reached out with a mass message offering their website builder services and they had a 24/7 help number. Being able to call-in, I built an entire website which is functional and allows me to embed my videos. I’m growing my follower base after taking an Instagram course and I’m starting a podcast on Anchor, where I can actually record podcasts on my iPhone. Weeks at the Apple Genius Bar taught me how to shoot videos on my iPhone. I hired an intern who is 20 years old and I engage every social media influencer who will talk to me about how to deliver my message. I’m definitely moving slower than I’d like but I’m learning all of this technology and that’s what matters.
NN: Do you feel that you work with Empty Quester is goal oriented or has it been very therapeutic?
DK: The natural offshoot of being able to read and talk about the things that I like is that it becomes super therapeutic. That said, I’m very goal oriented and I recognize I will need to put together a team and likely find an investor if I’m going to get this off the ground the way that I’d like to.
NN: Do you feel like you are competing with other Baby Boomer organizations?
DK: Earlier in my career, I was accustomed to competition. There was this finite pool of advertisers and we all competed for our share of their media budget. Interestingly, when I came back to the industry, I learned that much of it is now collaborative. There is a different paradigm and it’s thrilling. The ability to reach out to someone who is a content provider in my same space and talk about collaborations and content sharing is really rewarding. The more that I reach out to other organizations in my space, the more I further my own business. That’s a real shift in comparison to just a decade ago.
NN: How do you hope to recruit members for Empty Quester? Tell us more about the functionality of the subscription services.
DK: Visitors to the website become a subscriber via the entrance page. I would like to be able to offer my members access to useful products and services that I have vetted and curated. For example, Vertellis is a company with a card game that encourages inspirational conversation between family members and other groups of people. It appeals to me and I think it would appeal to my audience. I would love to do collaborations with brands that specifically value the empty quester demographic. I want to introduce my followers to ideas, products and companies that warrant our attention.
Subscribe to Empty Quester by visiting emptyquester.com