MindBodyGreen launches video courses to extend its everyman health and wellness empire

By Michael Carney , written on August 8, 2013

From The News Desk

With health and wellness having gone mainstream, it’s little surprise there's a substantial business in making them accessible and approachable to the average consumer. That's what digital publisher MindBodyGreen has done, and is reaping the benefits. The site says it has quintupled traffic over the last 18 months – and tripling over the first seven months of this year – swelling to 4.2 million monthly unique visitors as of July. The four-year-old site’s audience appears highly engaged, with more than 625,000 visiting the site more than 50 times per month, and 365,000 visiting 101 or more times monthly, according to the company's founder Jason Wachob.

MindBodyGreen is a lean company with seven full-time staff along with 1,400 global contributors, including best-selling authors, doctors, celebrities, and everyday wellness enthusiasts, all of whom write for free. The company is tapping into a $635,000 seed round it raised in December 2012 to expand into video education and help users put into practice what they learn.

“We’ve been getting people hooked on this great lifestyle, then sort of leaving them hanging,” Wachob says. “If you read a great article on meditation, great courses aren’t always readily accessible everywhere in the world. With our video courses from master instructors, that’s no longer the case.”

The initial three instructors are among the biggest in the industry including: Tara Stiles, yoga teacher to Deepak Chopra; Rich Roll, best-selling author and plant-based endurance athlete; and Charlie Knoles, meditation teacher to celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs. Each video course costs $99 for lifetime access and includes multiple modules and sessions. For example, “The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Nutrition With Rich Roll [and featuring Julie Piatt]” includes six modules and 34 sessions, with a total duration of 3 hours and 27 minutes.

Once a user purchases access to the course they can stream and view it an unlimited number of times. And through the “Discussions" section, users can ask questions of the instructor and other participants.

Video can be a difficult and expensive proposition for an editorial publication and has sunk many better-funded and more well established businesses than MindBodyGreen. Wachob concedes this risk, but points to the guidance of his investor, Emmy-nominated producer Gus Roxburgh as a big reason he’s not terribly concerned. More importantly, the founder says, the video content has been live for nearly a week and is already selling better than expected.

It’s wise for a publisher to seek multiple revenue streams. If MindBodyGreen is able to continue monetizing its video it could be a windfall for the business. But one week of sale does not a juggernaut make. We’ll reserve judgement on the strategy until more data is available.

Wachob, a self-described “former college basketball player and all around ‘guy,’” arrived at wellness following a back injury resulting from a particularly punishing year of corporate travel. As a equities trader, launching a publication was never about creating a business, but rather about spreading the word about a lifestyle that had changed his life. Nonetheless, his timing couldn’t have been better.

“We’re pleased with our progress, but we’re not there yet,” Wachob says. “When everyone in America is eating healthy and taking care of the planet, then we’ll be satisfied, but that’s not happening today.”

MindBodyGreen’s audience is 80 percent female, skews slightly younger than that typical of the category, and is heavily metropolitan. The ongoing challenge is to continue to broaden this base beyond the stereotypical gender, age, and socioeconomic barriers.

According to Wachob, the traditional wellness enthusiast market tops out around 600,000 unique viewers per month. This figure seems to bear out for the majority of niche publishers in the space, including Yoga Journal, for Yoga, Treehugger, for green living, and Beliefnet, for spirituality. The fact that the MindBodyGreen has already surpassed that figure eight-fold is a good sign, but it remains a cautionary statistic. As quickly as the health and wellness trend arrived, there’s some concern that it could fade just as quickly.

Wachob, though, isn’t buying that theory.

“Think that the healthcare problem is so big that this isn’t going to cycle out – the economic forces are too big,” he says. “Plus I don’t think its a trend. I think that it is a shift in awareness and education levels, that once it takes place, will not be undone.”

MindBodyGreen’s success is far from assured, but if Wachob is right about the category’s continued popularity, the site is well positioned to take full advantage.