I’ve raised $6.5 million to build and grow my new company: Bustle.com
During the last decade, many popular new media properties have launched, most aiming to attract men, like Politico, Bleacher Report, TechCrunch, Business Insider, Mashable, Grantland, TheVerge, Break, College Humor, IGN, Thrillist, and Gawker. (Audience Demographic data via Quantcast)
But with few exceptions (Jezebel, Refinery29, and PopSugar come to mind), the number of high-revenue publications aimed at women is much smaller.*
Women’s publishing has long served as a symbol of "old media" stagnancy. Most of these publications, including the likes of Vogue and Glamour, have under-invested in digital. Their online audiences are far smaller than one would imagine, given their dominance in print. Vogue had fewer than 1 million unique visitors in June, an absolutely disgraceful number, given their brand efficacy. (Source: Comscore Total Internet)
Furthermore, women’s publishers have completely lost sight of which decade their readers are living in. This is a country where women out-graduate men. They are also closing the "income gap" quickly, and in many cities, they out-earn their male counterparts. But magazines like UsWeekly talk to women as though they were children, and they fail to connect popular culture with any form of social commentary.
And it’s getting worse. This summer, there was a media feeding frenzy over the integrity of women’s publishing, and whether it could be taken seriously at all.
Isn’t it time for a women’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips? What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it? How about a site that offers career advice and book reviews, while also reporting on fashion trends and popular memes?
Maybe we need a destination that is powered by the young women who currently occupy the bottom floors at major publishing houses.
We have an opportunity to completely transform women’s publishing, and today I’m announcing my new company -- Bustle.com -- which aims to do just that.
And today we are also announcing a capital raise of over $6.5 million, split across Seed and Series A rounds of funding.
The Bustle team is partnering with two outstanding lead investors -- the Social+Capital Partnership and Time Warner Investments. Also joining us on this adventure are Google Ventures, 500 Startups, Rothenberg Ventures, and many friends and family.
And, now, watch as this fundraise announcement turns into a (way too) long FAQ...
So, who is behind Bustle? Hopefully not a loud, opinionated, poorly dressed, third-person-using square like you, Bryan...
The good news is that I am neither the face nor the voice of Bustle.
I have hired talented women with experience at Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Daily Beast, TheStir, Seventeen, and other top publications to lead our editorial. And I am in the process of hiring many more. They have crafted our mission, and they are building the product that they, as female readers, want.
We have a large roster of writers out of top-ranked colleges -- all of them are paid. Most of them are finding it very difficult to get jobs in editorial, because their parents’ generation completely destroyed the publishing industry.
But we’re not just a publication; we also are investing heavily in technology. We have a team of engineers in New York and San Francisco, and they have built us a custom CMS that ties seamlessly to our responsive design.
My job, as CEO, is to hire the right people. My job is to know a lot of engineers, editors, venture capitalists, and salespeople -- and to bring them together. Knowing the difference between mascara, concealer, and eye-liner is not my job.
Seriously, who’s ever heard of a content website raising $6.5 million pre-launch? What the hell is going on? This is unreal...
What’s unreal is how neglected and underserved the women’s publishing business has become -- especially relative to the market opportunity.
When we launched Bleacher Report, we competed with some outstanding websites, including ESPN.com. There is no such titan within the women’s publishing landscape. There isn’t even a SportsIllustrated or FoxSports.
But, guess what does exist?
A lot of very wealthy advertisers who care about reaching young women. If we can become the largest website in the Female 18 - 34 category, then we can become a billion dollar company.
That sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it?
But it’s not as ridiculous as that story about four high school friends who started a sports website together... that is now worth more than The Washington Post.
So how is Bustle really different from Glamour, Cosmo, or Vogue? It can’t be that different, can it?
We’re different, because we recognize how many diverse interests are shared amongst the next generation of women.
And, more importantly, we are pulling it into one place.
Creating an amazing blend of content -- one that puts news and politics right beside fashion tips is what will set us apart. It will also help that we are fast... very fast. When a big event transpires, I expect us to offer original commentary on it within the hour. Sometimes that event will be an Egyptian revolution; sometimes it will be the next "Bachelorette" selection.
Yes, we believe that a partner-track attorney can be passionate about world affairs and celebrity gossip. On the same day. During the same coffee break. And there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the year 2013.
And we expect the content to change a lot. A day is an eternity. If a woman visits Bustle during breakfast, and then again at night, we expect the entire front page to have changed completely. Because the world has changed in those twelve hours.
How different will this be from your last company, Bleacher Report?
This is a totally different company. But it will benefit a lot from my experience starting Bleacher Report.
We made mistakes at Bleacher Report that will not be repeated. When we launched Bleacher Report, we did not screen our writers, nor did we pay them. At Bustle, we thoroughly recruit and review prospective writers, and we pay them. Today, Bleacher Report employs both of those practices, but it didn’t do it early enough.
Fortunately, I have also learned from the things that Bleacher Report did well. And we did a lot of things well. There is no website or app on the planet that aggregates content better than TeamStream, and providing a great blend of original/aggregated content is a long-term goal for Bustle.
Bleacher Report was also innovative with advertising, and I hope that when we get big enough, Bustle will do the same.
I am incredibly proud of what my co-founders and I achieved at Bleacher Report, and would be thrilled to see similar growth and revenue at Bustle. This time, though, I want to approach things differently. Matching (or exceeding) that success will be hard to do, which is why I have raised this capital... to put us in the best possible position to win.
Is this a feminist publication?
You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.
And here is what the editors at Bustle are going to do about it -- they’re going to let the writers cover the stories that they find interesting. And we are going to assume that millions of readers will mirror those interests on an amplified scale.
Are two of our 50 writers passionate about the Middle East peace process? Good, then I imagine that a lot of other 20-something readers will be too. Are six of our 50 writers excited about "Real Housewives of New Jersey"? Good, then millions of readers will be too.
No judgments. In fact, we don’t even use the term "guilty pleasures," because there is no topic that someone should feel ashamed to write about. Most of our writers have degrees from schools that you and I could not get into. They are smart, and they write about their favorite topics. It’s as simple as that.
Can men read Bustle too?
Yes. And they secretly will.
*[Editor's notes: In Bryan's final version of this story, he included shout outs to other major women's sites he admires. We mistakenly uploaded the wrong version of the story and have added it back in since. We apologize to Bryan for grabbing the wrong version.]