December Memo: Final Lap of 2018

published Dec 1, 2018
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Our audiences rose nicely in November (Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

Dear Team,

It has been over a month since my last memo, and I’ve been holding out because there has been so much going on. I have been waiting for the dust to settle. With the close of Thanksgiving and our two shopping holidays, everyone deserves a little celebration and should appreciate the fact that hard work DOES pay off. With the close collaboration of Editorial, Aud Dev, Product, Art and Video we saw a beautiful lift over the last month across both sites and our Commerce team reported remarkable numbers as well, selling more “baby” Dyson vacuums than I ever knew existed. In addition, with the release of October’s Comscore numbers, Apartment Therapy rose to #7 – its highest ever – while Kitchn held steady at #8.

On the revenue side, we’ve begun to see our new team behind Riva gain momentum, putting up some impressive numbers for 2019, but we are far from in the clear and there is no doubt that it looks like we’re ending 2018 in a softer place than we had hoped. But who knows? There are still a good few hunting weeks in the year, and I’m very much looking for our strong team of AE’s to turn up a few surprises before the ball falls over Times Square.

In my last memo, I asked you all to dig deep, work harder than usual and heat up our sites and our sales efforts to close out the year. This was our confidence score card in October:

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

While this shows momentum, our overall Objective for the quarter has stubbornly remained low. We have one more month to take a swipe at the apple.

We’re still in Go Time, and, with only a few remaining weeks, I want to ask each and every one of you to continue to put in 110%, go the extra mile, and see if you can identify any opportunities at all that we may not have seen to move the needle before the year closes. Putting in extra time and effort takes energy, but it also creates energy, energy that I want us all to share in over this month.

We need this energy right now because I know this has been a hard year – perhaps the hardest in ten years since the recession. It has been difficult at times to feel like we’re moving the needle and rebuilding the Sales team has seriously delayed our revenue growth, which has put pressure on every department and forced us to make do with less.

Starting today, set your individual and dept goals very clearly for each week and see if you can crush your OKR, not simply get close to it. For those of you who need refreshing, they are all listed here in the last memo. Let’s chalk up some big wins that will usher us into a great retreat.


That is the real, everyday work for the weeks ahead, but I want to change the subject and give you all some different food for thought as we approach our retreat week together.

We are dealing with adversity because the entire eco system of digital content is dealing with adversity, and, in fact, so is the globe, both politically and economically. We have already entered into a very, very challenging time.

The good news is that we remain on the right side of history, and within this disrupted time, what we do and how we reach audience will continue to grow and be the future of how people see, understand and digest our world.

Our strength has always been in our singleminded focus on the home: food and interior design. Because we help people to solve their problems and improve their lives at home, we have been resilient. Our brands are loved and hold a special place in people’s lives. But this trust is not given blindly, nor is it given forever.

After two months of working together in our newly formed executive team, we’ve jumped ahead to identify our company Objective for 2019. It is very simple: Own The Home.

We have a tentative roadmap for how to achieve this in the next twelve months, and these details will be run by and added to by each department as we go through our year end OKR process, but before we get to that I’d like you all to take some time over the next week to think outside the box.

This is your preparation for retreat week.

When Netflix was founded in 1997, it send DVD films to customers through the mail, and it had a revolutionary concept: pay one monthly fee and see as many films as you like by exchanging the DVDs as often as you like. By 2007 it realized that while people still loved watching films at home, DVD rental was dying, so they took a big risk and transformed into a streaming company, still for one monthly fee. This was a huge change and it meant killing their old business model in favor of a new one. However, their mission was the same, only the strategy changed.

While I wouldn’t say that we are witnessing as big a seismic shift – mail to digital – in our business model, we are experiencing a tectonic shift that began a few years ago and continues to grow. Our audience has moved predominantly to their mobile phone, and they live more and more on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Flipboard. Their share of time on our sites has decreased, nevertheless, they continue to care about and desire help improving their lives at home.

How do we do the best job we possibly can given all these shifts?

How do we grow as THE most trusted destination for home inspiration, education and shopping guidance?

How do we own the home in people’s minds?

As I said, these are the questions we’ve been wrestling with and solving for as an executive team over the last two months, and next week it will be your turn. Each and every one of you is a perfect proxy for our audience – a new generation starting their own homes and building their own lives.

What do we do really well?

What should we do differently?

What would it look like to Own the Home by 2020?

Who else is doing it already?

Mull this over as you work through the week and then take your weekend. I’m going to arrange a few informal discussions to hear all your thoughts next week, and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Best, M