August Memo: Summer Heat for the Marketplace

published Aug 1, 2018
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(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

With 31 days in July and continued strength with our audiences, both sites rose again with AT nearly hitting a surprising 10% month over month rise. AT is powering on, while Kitchn is gaining steam once more. Combined, we are heading back to peaks not seen since 2016-17 when the Google/Facebook shifts first began to hit.

Q3: Create More Heat in the Marketplace!

Dear Team,

As you can see above, the work over the past six months is paying off handsomely and we are emerging from what I can only call a “web fog” that many boats have been wandering in over the last 24 months. Some did not make it. Some continue to struggle. Only a few have risen through it.

To give you some idea of where we are in relation to our competitors in both food and home, we achieved our highest ranks in Comscore as a company in June, with AT at #8 and Kitchn at #7.

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

Our combined AT Media rank is now #20, putting us ahead of HOUZZ and Hearst Digital, and only slightly behind XO Group and Refinery29. Not bad for ATMedia, a company that doesn’t have hundreds of millions in funding. I fully expect the July numbers to be even better.

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

But our goal this quarter is not just to watch our audience grow, it is to transform, translate and propel our strengths out into the MARKETPLACE so that we’re top of mind. The FOG that shifted our audiences also confused the digital advertising industry — never have they been as desperate to find clear paths back to audiences of folks who can connect with their services, products and ideas. We are one of those paths, but we have not been great at representing it in a unified fashion and our CLEAR OBJECTIVE right now is to beat the drum loudly.

This week the seven of us on the Executive Council took a day to step back and take a hard look at the second half of the year. We talked strategy. We reviewed the entire staff. We critiqued our work as a leadership team. Finally, we shared those sites or apps that were most notable and deserving of our shared attention as we think about improvements, changes and new services that we could get into. We talked, we argued, we laughed and we bought a lot of coffee. More importantly, we committed.

We will be doing this again every quarter going forward.

This work was particularly important right now as we work hard to complete the repairs on our Sales & Marketing engine which this year has gone through a punishing trial by fire. For me, personally, the drop in our sales revenue has created months of soul searching and the painful realization of what it takes to “fix our automobile while it’s moving.”

The core of what we discussed and agreed upon are seven revenue strategy pushes — think if them as leading edges in our race towards our Objective — which ladder up across all departments, move our Key Results and get us across the finish line.

The Seven Samurai

  1. GEN First – Tom
  2. Q4 Endemic Sales Drive – Carrie
  3. Double Down on Programmatic – Elise
  4. Productizing Commerce – Susan
  5. Build Insights Roadmap – Susan/Carrie
  6. Video Distribution – Annie
  7. Big Partnership Drive for 2019 – Carrie

The details of each of these I will let you discuss with your department heads. They represent our deep unity and commitment to one another as well as our teams to get this all done.

In addition, we’re resetting our revenue goal for the year to 24M or 20% growth, which brings it down 3M. This is a DOABLE and HONORABLE goal, and it will still demand incredible hard work.

Accordingly we will KEEP our company OKR right through to the end of the year but will grade ourselves and make department level working adjustments at the beginning of Q4. Report cards will be due, for sure!

Team health also came up. I am very aware of the high turnover we’ve had lately after years of happy growth. While turnover is often viewed as unhealthy, and I certainly don’t crave it, I’m okay with it right now. Our company, along with many others in our space are experiencing real turbulence, which is causing folks to try doing something totally different in their lives and/or jump to another company in order to gain more experience, and, hey, the grass is always greener on the other side. The other thing going on is that there is an incredible amount of poaching going on, ie. folks not really looking for a new job, but being tempted into one anyway. I’ve never seen so much. We’ve both been hit with it AND done it. Nevertheless, I am aware that it has been hard on morale, particularly for the sales and marketing teams, and I will seek to stabilize all this movement in the back half of the year.

2018 has been a trial by fire. This media business is not for the faint of heart.

Finally, we are not out of the woods yet, the stakes are high and we have a number of austere months still ahead, but we are agile and have a team in place with enough time to pull it off. By Christmas we will have effectively shed the skin of the old company and become a very new one — a company that delivers on its promise to truly be a multi-platform, multi-revenue media company devoted to helping a new generation make their homes.

I can’t wait to raise a glass with you all at the party.

Best, M