SheKnowsMedia is the No. 1 women’s lifestyle digital media company. In April its properties racked up nearly 81 million unique visitors per month and 162 million social media fans and followers, according to ComScore Media Metrix. Key to the company’s success: Samantha Skey, chief revenue and marketing officer. Here, she spoke with me about her dual role, penchant for startups, the company’s new #Femvertising awards for pro-female advertising excellence, and goals for the business.
CMO.com: Tell us about the SheKnowsMedia—its mission and brands.
Skey: Our mission is to inspire women and change the publishing industry by offering a platform that integrates users, editors, and content creators, and is designed to empower women to discover, share, and create.
We have three major brands: BlogHer.com; StyleCaster Media Group, which consists of BeautyHigh.com and DailyMakeover; and SheKnowsMedia, our flagship. StyleCaster is our edgy, Millennial-targeted brand. SheKnows is the mom site targeting women who are 25 to 49, many of whom have kids. Our biggest content assets there are focused on parenting, food, beauty, home, health, and entertainment.
Then we have 2,000 bloggers on BlogHer, which we’re relaunching as Momentum this summer. Momentum will serve as the bridge between all of our assets–it’s for content creators to make and share content with any of our sites.
CMO.com: What insights can you share about marketing to Millennial women? What are you doing to result in such impressive traffic?
Skey: Millennials are mobile-first, and our products follow this guidance. We have embraced social and social media content creators, in particular. We recently launched a Creators Group under the StyleCaster brand, and this platform puts our best social and creative collaborators in the spotlight. Our commitment to mentoring and promoting the social makers has helped build our Millennial audience.
Secondly, our focus on “smart service” has helped to build relevance with the Millennial audience. We try to provide true utility throughout our platforms. Our increased focus on content creation tools has made our products more useful.
Finally, Millennials care about social impact. Our commitment to “women inspiring women” resonates with Millennials as content creators, consumers, and employees.
CMO.com: You have a dual role—why do you have it and how does it work?
Skey: My history is that I’ve usually been a chief revenue officer or head of sales, usually for startups that get beyond the startup phase–and sometimes don’t. With startups, the CRO role is very much involved in the creation of the product that’s going to market. I think it’s a function of the stage the company is in.
Two years ago, as I began brainstorming with our CEO, Philippe Guelton, who came from Thrillist and Hachette, we started to envision a platform of experts. They are women who want to make and share content, who have some degree of expertise, but want editorial mentorship.
We were designing the product as we were taking it to market. Because we’re in the process of producing our differentiation and unique value proposition almost at the same time as we’re taking it to market, the two areas of focus become inherently intertwined. The dual role is efficient when you’re designing new products and services for a market while you’re simultaneously trying to monetize them—I don’t want to sell something that doesn’t work for the user.
In digital, it’s pretty conspicuous if you’re producing sponsorships, ad packages, or ad products that don’t engage the user. The interests within digital of the user and the advertiser are inherently aligned. If the experience sucks for the user, it’s not going to produce results for the advertiser. We melded the two positions at first organically and then formally as we continue on the path of producing the largest place for women to make and share lifestyle content on the Web.
CMO.com: What do you like best about the combination of roles?
Skey: I don’t like the old-school tension between editorial and sales that exists within traditional media. It’s not efficient, and I don’t see that kind of tension in the new tech platforms that have emerged within the past 10 to 15 years. You focus on the user and what works for the user. You can produce good ad products and good products at scale.
As CRO and CMO, I’m responsible for the brand, the audience, and the revenue simultaneously. It eliminates conflict. It makes us focus on the user and what works for the user.
It’s a pretty natural pairing of roles. It’s advantageous for advertisers because we’re not taking packages to advertisers that don’t work for consumers. There’s a dual accountability on me.
CMO.om: What makes SheKnowsMedia unique among all the other content for women that’s out there?
Skey: There is a ton of content for women. But there’s no de facto leader in the women’s lifestyle space considering what a huge category it is for advertisers and consumers. I think what makes us truly unique is our dedication to enabling and empowering our users to create beautiful content that they’re proud of and then find an audience for that content. … The way that we integrate advertisers is intuitive to users, and it’s a clean, safe, and premium environment for the brand advertisers that work with us.
CMO.com: Can you elaborate on how you integrate advertising—banners, native, etc.?
Skey: As a lifestyle network, we have more flexibility in producing and distributing native and branded content than, for example, a news or a serious health site. Our ability to flow native advertising into our main content feed has helped us build far stronger engagement between our audience and advertisers. Likewise, our ability to target ads both by audience data and subject matter adjacency has allowed us to scale native quickly. We distribute our native and branded content to users who have indicated interest in the subject matter, which increases engagement.
We have the largest organized network of lifestyle bloggers, and social content producers. We bring this influence to bear for advertisers. To ensure authentic advocacy, we insist on matching brands to the influencers who love them. This relevance mapping engenders true brand endorsement at scale.
CMO.com: Different advertisers want different things. What are advertisers looking for from SheKnowsMedia in terms of measuring ad effectiveness?
Skey: Advertisers are looking for authentic and high-impact engagement. “Engagement” is way overused, and we are looking at the true customer value of each type of engagement to ensure that we are designing effective programs for advertisers based on their key objectives. Different types of engagement mean different things in terms of marketing value. This is an area we are automating through our forthcoming Momentum platform.
CMO.com: SheKnowsMedia recently launched the #Femvertising Awards. What is the goal there?
Skey: The goal of the #Femvertising Awards is to salute brands that are challenging gender stereotypes by building awareness-generating, pro-female messages, and images into ads that target women.
In our SheKnows Media Femvertising Survey [in September 2014], we found that 52% of women bought a product because they liked the way the brand and its advertising portrays females. … Campaigns like Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, the now 10-year-old Real Beauty Campaign by Dove, as well as the Lean In and 3% Conference movements are all contributing to a profound shift in the way that advertisers market to women.
We invited brands and agencies of all sizes and across all industries to submit entries. The public will be able to vote on their favorite pro-female campaigns from among the finalists starting May 27. Winners will be announced at the #Blogher15: Experts Among Us conference [in New York City, July 16-18].
CMO.com: What are your top three priorities in the next year to 18 months?
Skey: To meet my revenue targets, to launch our Momentum platform this summer, and to see our BlogHer event platform scale to a glorious place where it’s accommodating and informing millions of women. BlogHer is currently a content platform. Our goal is to make it the best place for smart content online and at the event—kind of like a lifestyle version of TedTALKS. We also want to scale the BlogHer Experts Among Us platform and our Hatch Labs for kids.