Glam’s Erin Matts: A Massive Audience Isn’t Enough

Glam Media recently welcomed Erin Matts, former Chief Digital Officer at OMD and Global Director of Digital Connections for Anheuser-Busch inBev, as its Chief Digital Marketing Officer. Matts believes that media companies should focus on developing sustainable growth, even when they’ve already built a massive audience.

The Makegood: So last week was your first at Glam Media. What are some of the challenges of managing strategy for a company with an audience in the hundreds of millions?
I have been fortunate to have been a lifelong agency person at small agencies, and very large agencies, like OMD. I gained an intimate knowledge of how the agency world works and how decisions are made. That helps me to better anticipate what an agency’s needs are. Glam Media’s growth has been exceptional, I’m amazed at how well and how fast that they’ve grown over the past 7 years. The most important thing for any company with a sizable audience is to make sure that growth is sustainable- that the drivers of growth are able to adapt and evolve as its audience does. That means that our commitment to editorial quality, to our relationships with our writers and our focus on engaging content has to be consistent, and it also has to be connected to a deep, data-driven understanding of our audience. At Glam, we have a carefully considered approach to growth but also we take pains to make sure that our content is continually engaging and relevant. That’s what creates sustainability. I’ve seen many companies adapt new technologies or approaches without thinking about what the impact on brand advertisers might be. It is tempting, but a mistake, to get seduced by the numbers and not get beyond them to the longer view.

The Makegood: A huge audience is a obviously great for brands, but doesn’t that also mean a different set of challenges in terms of content?
Yes. As an audience grows, it also becomes more diverse.Years ago, there was a tendency in the industry to want to be all things to all people. If your web property was growing at a rapid rate, there was a tendency for people to say “oh, we’ll just be a one-stop-shop.” But people aren’t segments, they are people. They have passions, interests, preferences and needs. They also want utility and entertainment from the Web. If you ignore that fact, or water it down in order to be all things to all people because its easier, then that’s not intelligent growth. And it won’t last.

The Makegood: So how does this idea of optimizing the diversity of a large audience translate into a growth strategy?
Because our background at Glam is in vertical properties, we have long experience in really connecting with people’s passions. We bring in the unique voices of bloggers, for example, who– when you gather them together on a large scale– become even more relevant to our audience. You have to focus on creating high quality content experiences that build audience confidence that you are the source for content that is based on an intimate knowledge of what the consumer’s world really looks like. Some companies focus on simply amassing an audience, chasing growth for growth’s sake, and that’s a mistake. You have to grow in a smart way, thinking always about the kind of audience that you are building. The diversity of large audiences means that you must continually find ways to deepen how well you know your audience and bring that knowledge into your strategy. That means the content has to not only be high quality, but it has to truly resonate on a personal level with the audience’s interests and passions- and the diversity within those interests and passions.

The Makegood: But there are some companies with big audiences that simply don’t have original or premium content- why do brand advertisers bite?
Every few years the pendulum swings. It goes from “content is king,” to “I just want the numbers.” During the last year it has really become apparent for most that the quality of content is what separates companies that skyrocket in their first few months and then plummet on comScore from those that maintain consistent growth. Content farms, a little while ago, were the darlings. They grew rapidly and that looked like performance to many advertisers. But it was performance without longevity. You will get a first chance with a consumer with that kind of content, but you won’t win them back consistently.

The Makegood: So what is Glam’s future growth strategy?
I can’t really talk about specifics of how we are going to grow, but we are developing our strategy based on that original vision of going after our audience’s passions on multiple fronts. We’re wholly committed to building that sustainable kind of growth. We know that it is incredibly important for brands to be able to command our kind of scale, but we also know that brands want to connect with an audience that is loyal because they are drawn to the content on a deep level. That’s what we are building from.

The Makegood: Thanks, Erin.