I have been arguing for as long as anyone would listen that the future of media is less about products and more about networks. It’s so nice to be proven right.
Recently, Samir Arora, CEO of Glam, visited to talk about his success story as a network and a platform. As he flipped through a PowerPoint spiel, he said excitedly that I’d really like this slide. I did. I dined out on it in London all last week.
The chart requires some explanation. Bear with me; it’s worth it.
The yellow circle on the right represents iVillage, which had been the largest women’s site in the U.S. After only a year and a half, Glam has overtaken it as the new No. 1 with 23 million uniques (vs 18m for iVillage) and 600 million monthly pageviews.
iVillage was our deadly competitor when I worked at CondeNet and we often sniped that much of its traffic was junk. This illustrates that: The largest circle inside iVillage is astrology traffic and the dark circle in that represents people who come to iVillage for horoscopes and nothing else. That may bulk up your traffic numbers, but it’s not saleable to advertisers. iVillage is built in the Yahoo model of sites it owns or controls; it tries to lure people in and then bombards them with ads.
Glam, represented by the larger circle on the left, is a network. You’ll see clusters made up of smaller circles, representing their content areas: fashion, beauty, fashion, lifestyle, celebrity, teen. Inside each of those clusters, if you squint, you’ll see a small yellow circle. Those are Glam’s O&O (owned and operated) sites. All the many purple circles around those in each cluster represent outside, independent blogs and sites in Glam’s network. That is the secret to Glam’s quick growth without the cost and risk of doing everything itself.
Glam finds the good blogs and creates a relationship. It features good content from them on Glam and also sells ads on the blogs, sharing revenue with and supporting those bloggers. It now has about 400 publishers creating about 600 sites and Arora said that some make multiple six figures a year. They’ve fired only one.
Glam exploded by being a network. It asked the question, WWGD? What would Google do? Google, by the way, earns about 30 percent of its revenue through its O&O properties, Arora said. [LATER: See Capn Ken in the comments for more complete figures.] Glam earns 20-25 percent through its O&Os. Arora claims an advertising CPM of $15-35 for the O&Os and $8-15 for the network ($50-120 for the dreaded advertorial). Arora brags that they are “100 percent transparent” in their ad network, unlike someone else we know.
So Glam is a content network. But they don’t create all the content. They curate it. So we should curate more as we create less. That’s another way to say what I’ve said other ways: Do what we do best and link to the rest. Also: We need to gather more and produce less, so we also need to encourage others to produce more so we can gather it. That’s a festival of PowerPoint lines there.
Glam is also and advertising network that supports the creation of content. That’s how you encourage others to produce more.
So in the end, Glam is really a platform. That’s the key.
Glam is a rare example of that and I say other media companies would be wise to follow suit. A few days after meeting Arora, I also met Adam Bly of Seed magazine and ScienceBlogs. It’s a bit different, in that they curate the best science bloggers but then put them wholly on the ScienceBlogs platform. They sell ads and some of the science bloggers can make good money (not as good as those Glam figures but still good for a science academic; high fashion pays better than high science). And this allows Bly to build more around that (more on that later).
So in addition to asking what would Google do, I say that media companies should be asking what Glam would do. WWGD, the sequel.
: LATER: A platform, indeed.
I’d been sitting on this post, not quite done with it, and it so happens I published it coincidentally with previously embargoed news that Glam is starting a network for Lifetime. From the press release:
The new Lifetime Glam network will expand upon each company’s position as #1 for women — in TV and online, respectively. Today’s announcement is part of Lifetime’s broader expansion of its digital business including the relaunch of its website as www.myLifetime.com. As part of the agreement, both companies will also syndicate content – including a Glam-powered Beauty & Style channel on Lifetime’s website and Lifetime’s broadband video, games and other original content on Glam.com. . . .
The Lifetime Glam distributed media network will be built on the new Glam Managed Vertical Network platform -designed to manage display advertising and content distribution for media companies. Glam’s new platform offering enables large media companies like Lifetime to rapidly create their own vertical distributed media networks in collaboration with Glam.
That’s thinking like a network. That’s smart for both.
: LATER: Michael Arrington argues with my argument. More on that above.
: UPDATE: Glam just sent me better figures on them v. Google: “30-40% of Glam’s revenue is O&O, and 20-30% of Glam’s impressions are O&O . . . . 30-35% of Google’s Impressions are on Google.com, 60-50% of Revenue is Google.com vs its network.”