The word noon is a palindrome: it is spelled the same in reverse. For Noon - the media company - it symbolises something greater: its audience is only at the halfway point of their lives but the second half promises just as much excitement as the first.
"It’s quite nice to feel that at 50, you’re sitting down to a boozy lunch," says Eleanor Mills, founder of Noon, and a media industry veteran who spent more than two decades with The Sunday Times in executive roles. She left the company in 2020 to start a media publication offering a more positive outlook for women entering their mid-life years.
"I was a bit lost and I felt that I had died in some strange way because my identity had been so tied up with the newspaper, being an executive and being there for 25 years," she describes on the Journalism.co.uk podcast.
"I went into that newspaper with no children and wasn’t married. I came out as a mum of two children. I was really institutionalised. I had to reinvent myself and when I tried to look around me for what to do next, I couldn’t find anything out there which pointed the way."
She says that her years as a columnist taught her that her own experiences are rarely just her own. Others in her position probably lacked a community to belong to. So she made one herself, and Noon was born.
It started out merely as a website posting inspirational articles about women who have pursued their dreams in mid-life. A third of its traffic comes from overseas, with key markets in the US, Spain, the Middle East and Australia.
It has since been dubbed the "Home of the Queenager", expanding into events, book clubs, courses, research and consultancy, and Mills even has a "best of Noon stories" book in the works.
What connects it all is its mission to flip narratives around its readership, stemming out of her own story and blossoming into other people's pursuits.
"We're seeing a renaissance of what older women can do," Mills says.
"We talk about 'Queenagers' as a rebrand of what is possible and what I see in my Noon community is this excitement about this second adolescence; this second chunk of life. So many have gone back to find their original dream, whatever they wanted to be, but life or raising kids got in the way."
She conducted research with the company Accentia, which revealed that more than half of 50-year-old women had been through five huge life events, known as "midlife maelstroms": divorce, bereavement, redundancy, teenager's independence, elderly parents' health, and menopause.
Surprisingly, inspirational stories about older women also resonate with younger women, who suddenly feel they have more time on their hands. It flips the narrative away from women always being told they are on a clock.
"There’s a sense that the runway for all women is extended. We don’t have a sell-by date or have to pack everything into your 30s. Seeing women doing fantastic things in their 50s, 60s or 70s makes everyone calm down a bit and think they have time.
"That’s such an important narrative in our society because women are so often sold this ridiculous narrative that women are like peaches - one wrinkle and they’re done - when men age like fine wine and all this silver fox nonsense."
Growing the community
Mills' is growing Noon mostly through her Substack newsletter which has 10,000 free subscribers and just under 1,000 paying subscribers at £6 a month. The newsletter attracts a 52 per cent open rate. Her personal LinkedIn account has become a powerful platform too, bringing in 1.2m post impressions - likes, views, engagements - over the past year.
Paying members get a host of perks, including discounts on special partnerships, exclusive access to in-person events and discounts on retreats and courses. All of that makes up a wider revenue picture.
The main value of the newsletter, Mills claims, is surfacing key concerns amongst readers. A major theme of late is about employment in later life, because older women are often ruled out of jobs by job application algorithms.
As a result, Noon developed its own jobs board with a company called 55/Redefined, which works with recruiters to actively consider older candidates for job listings. The publication also hosts retreats for its members, which are bucolic breaks to connect with fellow members.
Connecting data to consultancy
Consultancy has emerged as a real money spinner. Noon offers consultancy to the brands hoping to connect with its demographic. Its research has shown that midlife women outspend millennials by 250 per cent and they are behind 90 per cent of household spending decisions. Those who are university-educated are 63 more likely to buy from brands that represent them authentically.
Mills' own exclusive interview with Sheryl Sandberg, the former Meta executive, revealed that midlife women are the most underserved cohort in the marketing space. So brands are keen to know how they can unlock this spending potential.
That means working - carefully and selectively - with brands. Noon's award-winning partnership with Vision Express is an example of aligning values with women finding their purpose later in life.
Lucrative opportunities with cosmetic procedures and products are there for the taking but they go against the brand's values. Authenticity directly correlates with growth and it is not something you can sell out when trust underpins your business model.
"Commercially, it would probably make a lot of sense to get into bed with a lot of beauty brands flogging anti-ageing products, but in terms of my core belief for women, it’s not on brand.
"We did flirt with it for a bit, but I felt hugely relieved when we decided that wasn’t for us."
Noon also extends consultancy to companies that want to retain Queenager workers. This group wants autonomy, flexibility, purpose, trust and strong management - values that are also shared by younger generations.
"Our research shows that Queenagers are the canary in the coal mine for broader diversity, inclusivity and culture within companies. If they're managing to hold onto older women, then they're also setting their sails fair for retaining clever millennials or Gen Z."
Free daily newsletter
- Newsrewired throwback: What you learned at our previous digital journalism conference
- Tools, tactics, and success stories of newsroom innovation in 2023
- How news brands can win over young audiences, with Danuta Breguła
- Bundling up: The secret to subscriber success
- The Economist launches podcast-only news subscription