October Memo: Eyes on the Prize for Q4

October Memo: Eyes on the Prize for Q4

Maxwell Ryan
Oct 1, 2017
This is how we looked in January 2017... Cute, promising, but not fully grown up.

On Monday morning I walked you all swiftly through a number of large and small changes, in addition to outlining our OKRs for these next three months. As I said then, our work for this quarter is singular, not only because it's always very super focused in Q4, but also because we're now at a stage, after nearly two full years of team building, where I'm looking for all of us to come together in our work in a way we've never seen before. This is the type of thing that we'll need, as well, to climb the very high challenge in front of us.

1. We're on a Roll This Year

Finishing off the last quarter I took a look at all of our departmental OKRs and the grades you gave yourselves at the finish. I think you were all very fair graders, and tough on yourselves in certain cases, which is also helpful as we had to find the learning in this.

Here is a visual of how we did:

The green here is as important as the red, and in all cases I was impressed by the learning that came out of all our people focusing on 36 important key results each week. This is a sea change from the way we worked last year.

And here's what that all averages out to:

If we are truly aspirational in our objectives, this is a great score as a perfect 10 should rarely be achieved.

2. Six Wins

While there were many wins over the past quarter and the two before it, I want to briefly shout out six that are the most important and signal real shifts in how we have worked this year.

Sales has blown it away this year so far. They are on an absolute roll with two quarters exceeding goal and setting record sales months. Year to date Direct Sales has made $11m, which is $2m higher than they made in all of 2016.

Our Product Team's experiments have cracked delivery to our readers. As the pace of optimizing has picked up and real time experiments have flowed we've seen REAL changes in performance on our sites. It is especially notable that session duration has risen 61% on Kitchn and 27% on AT. This is a beginning and, as you will see, they will be even more aggressive in Q4.

Social, with super strong showings by News & Culture, has taken off, propelling NEW pageviews upward after a year of stagnation. AD working closer with AT and K, or " The ADKAT Team," has punched up pageviews and been a huge hit with our readers. AT's news and culture content has exceeded goal by 132% this past month and Kitchn has exceeded goal by 112%, bringing a greater breadth of stories from cooking to travel. Additionally, EMAIL has been a huge win this whole year, arriving in the past few months with the highest click through rates we've ever seen in over a decade.

We've been winning awards for the first time in a big way. Seven awards and mentions in nine months make this the most winningest year we've ever had. Kudos to the Creative Services team. This is so pivotal as it means that our peers and clients are seeing more of us than they ever have before.

Apartment Therapy Studios finally opened! A dream for many years, we are now, almost unbelievably, in possession of a brand new studio wing with four studios, office and breakout rooms. The goal? AT Studios will be known in our industry as The Studio to work with, with all production under one roof. You can smell the cooking down the hall.

Infrastructure has grown and we're ON IT. With all the new hires and new spaces, Operations has been at a constant running pace keeping up with it all. Wonderfully, they've not only delivered, they've been able to inject the culture of learning and training into the company. We now have surveys, training and learning as a way of life, seeping deeper into our work flows so that we're all more aligned, connected and supported in our work.

3. Now This is Where We Need to Get To

See that mountain up there? That's the North Face of the Eiger. It's a hard climb, but it can be done. Our Objective for this quarter FEELS and SOUNDS like this:

You will notice that the emphasis here is on our performance and what we DO. This quarter it's all about how each and every one of you can exceed everything you've done this year to date.

This is what our Key Results actually are:

This is the biggest number we've ever had to make in one quarter. If and when we do it, we'll prove to ourselves that we truly are a next level company, capable of going even higher in 2018.

As you can see the goals for the next three months are high, BUT we've got good momentum going in. Sales has already booked 55% of the next three months. That last 45% is the prize, and it hinges not just on selling and creative, but also on reaching our audience at new levels.

Our second Key Result are our pageview goals. While these may not mean much to all of you now, they will by New Year's. Of note, just take a look at November. Those are some big, big jumps, particularly for AT, which doesn't have the food bump at Thanksgiving.

Apartment Therapy is going to really have to rise above the yearly trend to hit these goals, we we have a plan in place...

Kitchn is on track, but hitting Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas is going to be more intense this year than ever with so much pressure pushing down our SEO.

Finally, this is a new and really important Key Result: shout outs... Not just good work, but really over the top performances will be noted, shouted out and held up for all to see. I want to see this list grow to a number that we're all proud of (but I won't say what that number is right now. I think it will be clear, however).

4. How Will We Get There?

  • We are reorganizing for greater efficiency: those affected already know this, but we're moving Anna's team out of Sales and into Annie's department, which will all comprise our new Studios. Sales will keep the Presale team, headed up by Chris, and Studios will now cover video, art, photography and post sale branded content. Other reorgs like this will be looked at throughout the quarter as necessary.
  • We're resetting our weekly meetings exclusively around OKR's. The goal here is to reduce time in meetings, but maintain important touchpoints for all of us to remain focused on our collective Objective.

Company Standup - 15 min

Executive Council Tactical - 1.5 hrs

WINS - 45 min
13 Status Emails - each dept

  • New OKRs for Q4:

Apartment Therapy Studios


Objective: Craft a video experience that elicits binge-watching

  • KR: 5% Completion rate on site
  • KR: 15% Completion rate on social
  • KR: 30% increase in videos viewed in a playlist

2. ART

Objective: Achieve an instantly recognizable visual brand identity

  • KR: 100% Employees can recognize our work from competitors
  • KR: 90% of the visuals on the homepage and email are on-brand


Objective: Produce industry-leading and efficient creative

  • KR: Three mentions of outstanding creative work in trade pubs like Brand Tale, Overlap League
  • KR: Keep cost of production at 7.5% of IO amount or below, tracked monthly in Q4. (Must work closely with Aud Dev and Finance to track costs of sale.)

The Content Engines


Objective: Increase new content pageviews and put our archive to work

  • KR: Increase new content pageviews 10% each month
  • KR: Increase archive content pageviews 10% each month


Objective: Publish a goal-busting, reader-centered fourth quarter.

  • KR: Exceed new content page view goals by 5% MOM over the quarter.
  • KR: Reach 100% of archive content page view goals.


Objective: Own our platforms and diversify our portfolio.

KR: Pageviews

Apartment Therapy

October 26m
November 28m
December 26m


October 43m
November 46m
December 44m


Objective: Relentless experimentation to drive engagement.

KR: Increase PPS

  • Kitchn - 1.32 >> 1.43 (8.3%)
  • AT - 1.74 >> 2.3 (32%)

KR: Increase organic search sessions by 10% compared to Q4 2016


Q4 2016 - Sessions from Organic Search

  • AT: 15M
  • K: 77M

TARGET (+10%)

Q4 2017 - Sessions from Organic Search

  • AT: 16.5M
  • K: 83M

Finance & Operations


Objective: Recreate finance process to make things run smoother than ever before

  • KR – 50% of Expenses to move off credit card and to normal invoicing
  • KR - 100% Customer invoices processed in finance
  • KR - Collection days to 75

9. HR

Objective: Ensure all departments are fully staffed (all open positions are filled) to ensure a record breaking quarter

  • KR: 30 days opened job postings to signed job offer letter
  • KR: 100% Job descriptions fully reviewed and signed by manager for all new hires


Objective: Revamp the IO Process from top to bottom for ultimate efficiency and cost effectiveness in all departments.

  • KR - 100% department stakeholder satisfaction in process collaboration for every Q4 signed IO (based on survey)
  • KR- 100% IOs are signed before campaign/media plan goes live
  • KR - 100% IOs and Revised IOs saved in central location that ALL collaborating parties can access

The Revenue Engines


Objective: Deliver record direct sales

  • KR: Record repeat customers - maintain 50% rate
  • KR: 30 new accounts - earned out in q4
  • KR: Sell 20 sponsored posts on the Kitchn to earn in q4
  • KR: Land 70 RFPs for 2018


Objective: Leave no dollar behind

  • KR: 100% earn out every campaign
  • KR: 3 direct affiliate relationships
  • KR: $500,000 in PMP revenue
  • KR: 10 PMP deals sourced from direct revenue relationships


Objective: Shake the money makers!

  • KR: (Re)launch five new high margin, light creative lift products resulting in $250,000 booked for Q4 & $125,000 booked for Q1 (Sponsored Giveaway, Kitchn Craves/Retail Therapy, Sponsored Gift Guide, Gallery End Slide)
  • KR: $250k; Launch MVP1 versions of Real Estate and Wellness verticals in partnership with Editorial

Our work together begins today in a new way. It will be done on December 31st, where we know we will now have transformed into this:

And to celebrate and share our learnings, we'll regroup on January 11th, here in NYC.

For the next three months we need everyone in total alignment, and in January we will all rise to toast the new Gamechangers of this year.

Finally, I leave you with three thoughts to hold close as we climb this mountain together. They are taken from Amazon's leadership principles. They have many principles, but these three are particularly relevant to us right now.

(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)


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