Happy Halloween Memo

Happy Halloween Memo

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Maxwell Ryan
Oct 31, 2015

October 2015 Stats

The Kitchn

- 18,934,817
- Month Over Month: + 7% from September
- Year Over Year: + 35% from September 2014
- Comscore rank: 9 of all Food Sites

Apartment Therapy

- 10,123,605
- Month Over Month: + 6% from September
- Year Over Year: + 28% from September 2014
- Comscore rank: 9 of all Home Sites

With Halloween, the NY Marathon and The World Series over it couldn't be a better time to gather for our first Town Hall Meeting this afternoon to get some perspective on where we stand as we hit the rapids of the holiday season.

Many of you are brand new, many of you have just moved to a whole new office and ALL of you have been having your departments completely overhauled since the spring. Right now the Council is engaged in working this summer's Tune Up process into a 2016 Strategic Planning Process with detailed budgets, titles, positions and timelines ultimately attached.

This is a good time to give you all an overview of what we've got planned for the next twelve months and answer a few questions that have already come forward for today's meeting. Behind all of this is an irresistible urge to grow, because our staff, our readers and the business climate demand it, AND because there is a huge open playing field in front of us that wants to be taken.

What Is The Big Mission for 2016-17?

After a lot of thinking about the variety of missions we might have in the next year and the importance of any one of them, I've decided that the simplest way to plan our way forward at this point is to stick with the simplest and most punishing metrics we have: page views and dollars.

I intend to double our revenue in the next 12-24 months.

To do this we need to grow our pageviews 40%, which should well support doubling our overall revenue to $20M. There is also a tipping point in crossing the $10M mark that will require more "growing up" than we've ever seen and transform us in many ways, along with the fact that we will no longer be a small company. Getting from $10M to $20M will be extremely hard; it is a rite of passage, but we will then be well on our way to being a dominant player in our space on all levels — safer from the ups and downs of the market and much more empowered to create great content in all forms for any channel.

How Does Tune Up Fit Into This?

Taking on the sort of growth and responsibility that this kind of a push will require would not be possible without organized departments, efficient processes and great communication from top to bottom and back up to top. The restructuring of your departments has been and will continue to be a collaborative effort where best practices will be sought after wherever they come from. Tune Up began this process and it will be ongoing.

In addition, Tune Up set the stage for two very essential changes to our culture that will also be ongoing:

1. Setting tangible goals and measuring our progress towards them. We've been working with individual goals for a few years, but we're now moving to much more specific, analytic goals with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that will hold us much more accountable as well as help us to hold focus. There is no way to get beyond where we are right now without measuring our success or failure and adjusting accordingly.

As we go into the new year, every department and every team will have monthly goals that they will be working towards and reporting on.

2. Tune Up set a precedent by asking everyone to have an opinion and to critique the ways in which they worked and challenged us all to see if we could do better. This will continue. It is super important that HOW we all fulfill our mission is a group effort in a very real sense, and that if there's a better, safer or quicker way of getting to our destination we hear it and implement it. Everyone can help in this.

What is also important is that everyone is clear about the mission and that there is no doubt, second guessing or questioning of it. The power of the Leader/Leader structure is that after the Captain gives the crew the mission and timeline — the What — in the service of defending the Country (Top Down), the crew then kicks in to make it happen in an excellent fashion, constantly optimizing and troubleshooting HOW they are going to get it done (Bottom Up).

Therefore, if you have any issues or problems with the Mission, you shouldn't be on the boat!

The same goes for our company. Tune Up and all of the things that I am working on bringing into the company are intended to empower each and every one of us, but the roles of all us should be very clear, our area of expertise is THE place we should feel empowered because that is the place we know the best.

For myself, my role is to lay out a clear mission, provide insight and direction for the work and connect what is going on within our departments with information that may be coming in from the outside. In this way, good reporting processes are going to be essential and I am looking forward to hearing from all of you in many efficient ways.

Are There Any Big Mission Details for 2016-17?

Yes, and I'll spell them out and open it up for questions this afternoon. This is where it gets interesting.

In going after the doubling of our revenue, I want to spell out a handful of what I am calling Mission Pillars — big targets — that will require a lot of work, really move our needle and be easy to remember as we get into it:

1. New Premium Site Designs, Especially On Mobile

Our sites are in need of a site redesign for many reasons, and this process will achieve many goals, but one of the biggest missions of the year is to give both sites a much more aspirational and up-market appearance. I believe our readers are aspirational and achieving a Good Life is certainly a jewel that deserves a beautiful setting, but beyond that our ad sales team could sell a lot more and higher quality adverts if we teased our clients with a much nicer environment.

Additionally, we will be designing from a mobile-first perspective in recognition of our huge growth in that area as well as the fact that our page view consumption and general experience on mobile currently is not as good as it could be. We lose readers sticking around on mobile.

2. Ubiquitous Video

I have a dream that we grow our video to tell as many stories and help as many people as we do in print and photography. I see a future where we ARE the equivalent of what was HGTV and The Food Network, where all network television disappears, sucked into the maw of the web and media brands like ours create the weekly content that people watch and talk about at the office.

And quite simply we're getting good at making video, but we are terrible at showing it off, and if we don't show it off no one sees it and we can't pay for more.

I intend to double down on our video production, growing the number of monthly videos and plays significantly, and have already asked the Product team to come back in the next three weeks with a temporary plan to make our current archive visible on every page of our sites.

3. No More Niche — Expanded Content

While Ad Sales would like to broaden the kind of advertisers that they sell to, I am looking forward to the true broadening of our content. We've talked about being two "lifestyle" sites rather than a "design" and a "cooking" site, but we haven't done it yet.

We will be adding at least two new fully formed departments on each site in the new year and the front pages should look significantly different by this time next year - indicating that we are not simply niche sites where you only come to buy milk and then leave.

4. Double Social & Email Distribution

Both Janel and Faith feel that there's much more opportunity in our main forms of distribution than we're currently seeing, so we're going to beef up our teams around both these areas and aim to double the referral traffic coming from each.

5. Better Comments, More Personalization and Dedicated Community Moderation

Community engagement is at the heart of what we do and what readers do when they stick around, but we're far behind in building out this experience. While the details will be worked out, I want to see a number of improvements that will keep people coming back, connect to one another better, create more useful comments and make us proud.

(Image credit: Mary Meeker)

6. Focus on The Millennial

Finally, I want the company to keep its sights squarely on building an audience with the rising tide of millennials (18-35) that are swiftly overtaking the national discourse and commercial culture of our country. Therefore, we will be setting our editorial voice and agenda to aim right for the upper end of this generation (25-40). While we've been pulled in this direction for a few years, it's never been a conscious choice, and it should be now.

As we move forward we need to get to know this demographic intimately and not worry about losing other, mainly older, readers.

Speak to you all this afternoon and please feel free to fire away.

Best, M

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