Ryan Harwood is the CEO of PureWow, a premiere lifestyle email publication and website for women. We recently spoke with Ryan about his experience founding PureWow and what they are currently working on.
The Makegood: Ryan, you started you career in banking working at Goldman Sachs before launching Purewow.com, a lifestyle email publication and website for women, in 2010. What motivated you to make such a change in your career?
RH: It wasn’t an easy decision and it was somewhat of the “perfect storm” that made me comfortable with jumping ship from a stable career to a more risk-reward type path. I can attribute it to a few deciding factors; I was a competitive athlete my whole life including four yrs of D1 collegiate tennis. When I left that all behind for the working world, I felt a serious void for a while. I missed waking up in the morning with a strong desire to succeed with a defined, clear goal where I felt in control of my own destiny. As much as I enjoyed working at Goldman, (and learned many invaluable lessons – especially from a cultural and managerial perspective) Corporate America didn’t allow me to spread my wings. I was searching for something to fill the void that competitive tennis left behind, something I could call my own and give it everything I had.
At the same time I realized all of this, I was watching my best friend, Ben Lerer, have a tremendous amount of success building his start-up, Thrillist. For lack of better words, I was jealous and I got the “entrepreneurial bug.” The business model made complete sense to me and after speaking with the Pilot Group (the lead investors behind PureWow and Thrillist) it was clear there was a lack of digital lifestyle content for women in the Gen X and Baby Boomer Generation. Women 30+ were the fastest growing demographic on the web and it was evident that besides for the mommy blogs nobody was speaking to them. Advertisers wanted to reach this audience and consumers needed a new digital voice to trust. The stars aligned and there was not a doubt in my mind I had to take this calculated risk, so I made the move and starting working on PureWow in March 2010 and we launched 6 months later in September 2010.
The Makegood: PureWow has been successful since its launch, reaching a subscriber base of 500,000+ in New York and Los Angeles. What is your main focus now?
RH: We reach a total of 550,000 subs across all of our editions; National, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, & a Recipes Edition. This June we’re launching a much anticipated seasonal Hamptons Edition from June through August, along with PureWow Dallas in August. We’re still very much in growth mode, so our focus is still heavily on quality subscriber acquisition – we want to reach 1 million subs by the end of the year. We’re focusing a lot on talent acquisition as well, since we’re growing so quickly. Hiring good people is everything, it’s going to determine when and how we take PureWow to the next level.
The Makegood: PureWow works with many different types of advertisers. Which types of advertisers can gain the most benefits from programs on PureWow?
RH: Coming from a completely different industry, navigating the agency and client landscape was a fascinating experience. There are some agencies and clients that truly understand digital and the power of custom content programs that can live beyond traditional media. That’s when the advertising side gets really fun. In an ideal world, all clients would trust you to activate your audience in a way you know will perform and engage them really well. Advertisers that can gain the most fromPureWow, are clients that allow us to run with the ball and utilize our full suite of assets – Dedicated Email Advertorials, Custom Web Pages and Custom Ad Creative, Content Guides, Social Integration, Custom Facebook Apps, Pinterest Programs, and Buzzworthy Events.
The beauty of being small is that we’re creative and nimble, there isn’t a lot of red tape to get things done. We understand that in this day and age, a publisher can’t just provide content. We essentially act as a mini advertising agency as well – providing strategy, big ideas/execution, and creative expertise. That’s how we set ourselves apart from other digital publications out there, especially in the women’s lifestyle space. For instance; we’re about to launch a really innovative program with a top Consumer Electronics brand where we are integrating two social media powerhouses (Facebook and Pinterest) to make a highly visual campaign go viral. It will all start with the PureWow email publication’s engaged audience and directing them to a custom webpage on PureWow.com that has a strong call to action to engage with a new product launch on both facebook and pinterest. We developed a new Facebook app that is going to make a big splash to activate not only the PureWow Facebook fans, but the brands fans as well. So many brands have huge Facebook fan bases but have no idea how to activate them in an interesting way, we can always include that as added value in our media campaigns.
The Makegood: What can PureWow.com subscribers expect to see in the next year?
RH: More local editions (Hamptons, Dallas, San Fran, potentially DC) and perhaps more vertical editions like Recipes. We’re currently doing a lot of market research before we dive into mobile as well. We don’t want to simply repurpose our content in an app, that doesn’t make much sense to us. We are in the process of mobile optimizing our site and emails but we want our apps to have a true utility. The PureWow audience consists of a special type of woman where if you give her something that truly makes her life better, more efficient, less busy – she will be as loyal as they get, a cult-like following. So hopefully the ideas we have brewing will be effective in both the mobile and tablet space. We’re also intrigued with commerce which is a natural fit for a business like ours. We have this consumer base that spends more money on online purchases than any other demographic on the web and they trust our brand and voice… eventually the stars will align there too.
The Makegood: Thanks, Ryan.