January Memo: UP in 2018

January Memo: UP in 2018

Maxwell Ryan
Jan 12, 2018
(Image credit: Clipart Library)
A snapshot of our audience growth since 2010. The ups and downs of Google, Pinterest and Facebook changes are all visible here, but our current path is up.
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

Dear Team,

My last memo came on October first. It was the kickoff to this past quarter. It highlighted many remarkable achievements already achieved and set a clear focus - with OKRs - for what needed to happen over the last three months of 2017 in which we had a HUGE mountain to climb. The final details are below, and the overall picture is very good. When faced with a steep climb you all pulled together, took more risks, pushed harder and we moved the needle close enough to where it needed to be. We scored a respectable 7.75 out of our possible 10. When you aim really high, this is what success can look like.

With this first memo of the new year, I want to briefly review what we've all done and then move swiftly to giving you all a picture of this year.


We had one very clear Objective for our year end:

Crush the Quarter!

Record Breaking Top Performances & Effort from Everyone

We measured this with three KRs:

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
  • Revenue
    Our goal for Q4 was incredibly high at $7M and we ended at $6.35M, which was 90% of our goal. However, we made it to 95% of our annual goal at just under $20M and achieved our two year goal of doubling our revenue in 24 months! Year over year we grew revenues by over 40%. Amazing.
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
  • Pageviews
    Here we set ridiculously high goals and due to a lot of work by Product, Editorial and Aud Dev we got closer than expected. More than anything we proved to ourselves that when we want to move this needle, we can do it.
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
  • Shoutouts
    This was the first time we ever did this, and while it's impossible to compare, I think we did very well in terms of raising the general standard and responding when the chips were down. We recorded 126 shoutouts within the three months and three Oscar Level shoutouts for work that was above and beyond. I would have liked more Oscars, and one from each department, but it was an excellent start.

All in all, we scored a very respectable 7.75 .

We did good, and everyone deserved the rousing Sprint week of work, drinks, panels and dinners that unfolded last week.

Now the question is where do we go from here?

This Year: 2018

As I said last Friday after a long week (drawing on the board), our Objective for the year is:

(Image credit: Clipart Library)

This to me means UP, fly and soar. And I like the arrow so much, we're going to (like Prince) adopt it for the year.

How did I get here?

Because of all the words that came out of your OKRs:

delight our readers, be first-class, bespoke & perfectly targeted, amazingly fast, catapult Kitchn, push creative boundaries, and launch a transformative experience.

So I think we're good to go. When in doubt, look for the....

(Image credit: Clipart Library)

As for the year in general, I originally thought that we were building our dream team in 2016 to perform in 2017. While we did perform in 2017, we have been building and reshuffling for a full two years and the movement has been, at times, dizzying. This year will not be dizzying in terms of hiring and reorganizing. This year we're going to turn hiring WAY down, contain our expenses more while we grow revenue and see what we can do when we're all focused and aiming to do our very best.

The Three Fronts

In the next few years our task is to get better at serving and growing our audiences and our clients, while we ruthlessly look to create greater efficiency, communication and cost controls on the operations side. Digital editorial businesses only grow and thrive when they plug smart new content verticals into a humming back-end engine. When we get our operations right, we will scale easily.

This gives us three broad fronts to battle on. We will team up every quarter around these fronts:

    AUDIENCE: Grow authority, engagement and audience through
    • Memorable Content - Editorial
    • New Verticals - Editorial
    • Sharp Targeting - Aud Dev
    • Reader-First Platform - Product
    PARTNERS: Grow revenue on the back of #1 through
    • Better Use of Data in Reporting & Pitching
    • Innovative Campaigns - IM, CS, ED, Art & video, Product
    • Smart Vertical Selling
    • Scale: Site Rollups & Launches
    OPERATIONS: Create greater efficiency and consolidation of tasks
    • CMS Content Creation - Product
    • Streamlined Sales & Finance - Ops
    • Streamlined Production - Video & Art
    • Streamlined Client Production - Creative Services
    • Strong & Clear HR Culture - HR

2018 will require first step objectives from each department. Each Dept Lead needs to keep focused on simple, clear projects. There is a lot of improved blocking and tackling here, but it will be exciting, essential work when we succeed.

While you are all working towards these projects and strengthening our core, I will be watching finances, networking and working ahead on potential strategic partnerships so that we can move powerfully into the second and third years of a larger plan. One big task I have this first quarter is to put together a three year plan to follow on the previous two year plan. This will include revenue and audience goals as well as a road-map for how we are going to get there.

The bigger objective? To become THE leading digital media company for people who want to live well at home.

This means dealing with Scripps, Conde Nast, Meredith, Fexy and sites like Hunker and Houzz.

In the meantime, let these be our mantras this year for each department:

HR, Ops, Finance - Operations Excellence

Product - Speed & Engagement Inside & Outside Sites

Editorial & Aud Dev - Authority & Excellence with our Audience

Homemade Studios - Visual & Video Leadership for Audience & Clients

Direct Sales - Authority & Excellence in the Marketplace

Revenue Operations - Smart & On Brand Diversification

This First Quarter: Get Ahead Fast

Inspired by our Sprint Week last week and the tremendous ambition for the year, the best, most important thing we could focus on this quarter is to Get Ahead Fast so that we control the momentum of the year.

We're ready for this.

As I mentioned earlier, we've grown a lot in the past year, we're now over 100 strong, and it's time to see what we can do while the year is fresh.

As you contemplate your priorities each week and keep your departmental OKRs front and center, I urge you all to remember this approach, borrowed from Amazon and which we will make our own this year:

Bias for Action.
We believe in moving quickly, making the best decisions we can, and not getting stuck in perfect. Most decisions are reversible and our business moves fast. Time is our most precious commodity and we learn from our mistakes.

I look forward to seeing you all Monday morning for our first FULL week together this year.

Best, M


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