PureWow's audience of a million ladies think they love wine, but they really love tech

By Erin Griffith , written on October 18, 2012

From The News Desk

With a subscriber base of 1 million women, it's safe to say PureWow knows ladies. The company launched two years ago as a sort of Daily Candy for women over 30. PureWow figured out then that there's not much in the way of quality Web content that treats women over 30 as just that -- women over 30.

Once women outgrow Cosmo, Jezebel, and celebrity blogs, they're funneled into the mommy blog ghetto, or the career blog channel, or the wedding blog channel. PureWow has amassed a rabid following by just writing about the things women want to read about.

Which, surprisingly, is not what they say they want to read about.

In an early survey of PureWow readers, women overwhelmingly said they wanted to learn about wine: 60 percent of respondents said they were "interested" or "very interested" in the topic. Only 26 percent said they were interested in learning about tech gadgets and apps. And yet! PureWow's coverage of wine was a dud -- no one read or shared it. Meanwhile engagement and response to its coverage of gadgets and apps has made it PureWow's hottest topic. See this story about an app that locates one's housekeys, which has been pinned 166,000 times on Pinterest.

The feminist in me hates the idea of a woman saying she wants one thing when she means another. LOL What Women Want, amirite? It reminds me of the stereotype of the passive-aggressive woman who curtly answers "nothing" when asked what is the matter. Don't tell us you know us better than we know ourselves, lady magazine!

But then I realize I should probably lighten up, because it'd be just as amusing if it were about men. It's not just a woman thing -- everyone lies to themselves about their Web habits to some extent. This is why, if you go by any advertising survey, nobody in the history of the Web has ever clicked on, engaged with, or been influenced by an ad. According to them. But the actual results (clicks, engagement, brand recall, sales) tell another story.

PureWow offers content on categories like recipes, books, home decor, and gardening, but tech remains one of the strongest. This is huge for PureWow because, unsurprisingly, it's women that often make gadget purchasing decisions, too. (Down with the "moms are tech nitwits" myth!)

PureWow is run by a dude -- Ryan Harwood -- who is friends with a dude running a very similar business, for dudes -- Thrillist's Ben Lerer. Harwood does not purport to know a damn thing about what women want, which is why he's hired 19 ladies to run the show, editorially. He comes from the finance world, but he's taken notes from Lerer and Thrillist on how to build a successful media business. Now, with loyal following in tow, he's starting to turn the revenue levers.

As most ambitious digital media companies have realized, page view-driven ads do not make a sustainable business. The Buzzfeeds, Thrillists, Daily Candies, Refinery29s, and Urban Daddies of the world know its all about customized, high-touch campaigns, where the publisher acts almost as a creative agency for the brand. PureWow has done editorial-driven campaigns with Panasonic (thanks to his audience's unlikely obsession with tech coverage), Bailey's, and Starbucks, Harwood says.

The company has one other thing in common with Thrillist and Daily Candy, too: Like its email startup predecessors, PureWow is backed by Bob Pittman's Pilot Group.