Friday, July 23, 2010
Interview with Matt Edelman, ThisNext
This week, Santa Monica-based ThisNext (www.thisnext.com) said it has raised another round of funding for the firm's social shopping site. We thought it would be interesting to speak to the firm--which is now headed by Matt Edelman--to hear where it's headed nowadays.
How long have you been at the firm now?
Matt Edelman: It's been since April 1st.
And can you talk about your prior experience, for folks who aren't familiar with your background?
Matt Edelman: The last company I ran and co-founded PeopleJam, which was a social media business for people interested in self improvement. We started that in 2006, and sold it to Chicken Soup For The Soul in 2009.
So let's talk about ThisNext. What's the focus of the firm nowadays?
Matt Edelman: Before I started, the company had acquired a company called StyleHive, which also owns MyStyleDiary. That gave us the opportunity to re-orient our focus. First of all, we're entirely targeting women now. ThisNext.com has been a social shooping site, really for anyone and everyone, and for every product category. However, one of the challenges in that, it is has been difficult building a bigger and more loyal community. So, since ThisNext was already starting to target women, we've decided to align around females 25-44. That started in a very small way on ThisNext last month, when we started publishing our own content and editorial for the first time. That's available on our home page. That content reflects our focus towards women.
We're also launching new initiatives on StyleHive and within MyStyleDiary next month, which really brings editorial voice to those sites, and give it a more important place in the user experience. For StyleHive, in particular, we're adding a daily email newslette rprogram, and are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of email newsletter subscribers we have who have been underserved. We're also bringing back the founder of MyStyleDiary, to reinvigorate the company and site. MyStyleDiary was founder in 2004, and was the first site which allowed women to upload outfits of themselves, and get input on what they should wear, share how they felt about wearing those outfits, and what outfits go best together. There are a lot of other companies that have come out in the last several years, that have targeted that same experience for the user, but we think there's a great opportunity for MyStyleDiary to re-emerge as a leader of the pack. So, what we're really doing is pointing the orientation of the company much more aggressively towards women, and bringing forward strong editorial voice across all of our sites, which will distinguish from the other social shopping sites.
What was it that drove you to focus on developing your own content?
Matt Edelman: We had started to see, particularly with ThisNext, the success of members in the community when they were anointed by the community as a style maven or shopping maven, with taste worth following. There are many style and fashion blogs, and are in a space to become influencers for women, however, none of them as of yet have as much influence as people who actually influence those bloggers. There is still a layer of editorial influence and editorial opinions that comes from women's magazines, from the celebrity stylist world, and from television. Those, ultimately, still drive the creation of content across the category. We think we can play at a high er level, because we've seen what happens when the community follows someone they trust. By bringing in additional, high profile, and credible personalities in the women's shoppning/style world, we think we can build an even bigger audience and even additional followers.
There are alot of women's shopping sites, how do you get above all of that noise?
Matt Edelman: We're starting with a pretty nice base. We've got 3.5 million visitors a month. We also have half a million registered members across our sites. We also have some really interesting opportunities in the social web that the business has not previously pursued, which will actually let people in the social web know who we are. We also think that by adding the right elements into our user experience, we can help distinguish who we are. It's important to note that all of the other women's shopping sites of a somewhat meaningful size, do not have the enormous amount of user generated content we do.
All of our products on our site were uploaded by our users, which is very different that the content found in the majority of shopping sites focused women. We've also already proven that we can attract an audience that cares about products and want to have a dialog. We've learned a lot of the past four years on how to leverage that dialog into meaningful revenue and meaningful growth, and there are also some things I've identified in the last three months which will give us much more opportunity to grow aggressively and successfully.
Finally, how has the mix of your business changed--are you now more focused on the advertising end, or are you still doing the affiliate revenue ThisNext started out with?
Matt Edelman: It's fair to say we're really in both businesses. Our users are a highly desirable content for advertisers, and our brand advertising is growing quite well. Part of what we announced this week is a partnership with Federated Media. We're now working with companies like Macy's, Pantene, which is P&G brand, The Gap, and others. Our pipeline is really exciting in that area. At the same time, because we have so much rich information about things that user like, based on products that have been put there by our community, we can become much more effective in driving purchases.
It's a little bit of what drives purchases offline. If a woman is going shopping, she's usually going shopping with girlfriends, and the single biggest influence on whether she makes a purchase is their influence, and what they think about the product they're walking by and trying on. Ultimately, she makes the decision, but that's often socially validated by friends. Right now, the online experience doesn't quite deliver on that, so there's a really big opportunity for the social shopping category.