New York City’s media industry is the largest and most vibrant in the world. The city has more billion-dollar plus media companies and employs more people than any other metropolis. But as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) pointed out in a study earlier this year, there are steps that the city needs to take to maintain its leadership position. Silicon Valley-based companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have eclipsed New York over the past decade, at least in terms of digital media. Because of this, most of the steps recommended by the NYCEDC involve spurring entrepreneurship and helping founders to build next generation media and technology companies.
While the city has put a smart program in place, creating successful media companies will ultimately fall on founders and their networks. Perhaps the most successful recent example has been The Huffington Post, the New York-based news site and content aggregator that was founded in 2005 and acquired six years later by AOL for $315 million.
One of the founders of The Huffington Post, Ken Lerer, has subsequently launched an early stage venture fund, Lerer Ventures, that has invested dozens of startups including New York ad tech firm Moat, online eyewear company Warby Parker and product discovery service BirchBox. Lerer Ventures also has a stake in NYC media company PureWow, a daily email and web site that serves women 30-54 years old.
Since launching two years ago, the media company has seen impressive growth. CEO Ryan Harwood reports that PureWow has amassed over 750,000 email subscriptions and has over 160,000 Facebook fans. In addition to their national audience, local editions are available for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and The Hamptons with expansion plans for San Francisco later this year.
In addition to Lerer Ventures and Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group, PureWow was funded by a consortium of powerful women including Whoopi Goldberg, Joni Evans, Candice Bergin, Lesley Stahl and Lily Tomlin. This high profile support helped to jumpstart PureWow and the site now has top tier advertisers like Panasonic, Cartier, Starbucks and Unilever on board.
As a result, the company is hiring at a rapid pace and now has 20 employees with multiple openings for salespeople and content creators. Creating original content, both editorial and branded, is a particular strength of PureWow. The company recently had an article pinned nearly 100,000 times on Pinterest—the highest number ever recorded for a single piece of edit. This is an audience that loves to share.
Perhaps the most surprising part of PureWow’s success is that nobody had thought of it before. When Harwood realized that women over 30 represented 35% of the US population, he knew there was a strong business case for starting the company. “Women over 30 are making 70 percent of the total online purchases and are the fastest growing demographic on the web,” he says.
The future of New York’s media industry is not guaranteed. Silicon Valley has created larger, more successful digital platforms over the past decade. But entrepreneurs like Harwood and his team are keeping New York in the game.