Thrillist takes relationships to new heights

A redesigned look and offline events are two factors helping the Web site bolster its brand

A man who opts to take his meat home can “gnash a dripping pig haunch in the comfort of his cavernous junior one bedroom.” So noted the e-mail sent to Thrillist.com's New York subscribers on November 7 discussing the recent opening of Salumeria Rosi, a restaurant doubling as a “premium deli counter.”

Thrillist is a three-year-old “e-mail lifestyle guide for guys,” delivering its e-newsletters – which contain information about fashion, restaurants, sports, and other topics – directly to the in-boxes of 400,000 largely urban subscribers. The site has e-mails targeting seven major US cities, including New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, as well as the nation as a whole. From the outset, the goal of the site's founders, CEO Ben Lerer and editor-in-chief Adam Rich, was to be a resource specifically for their demographic.

“We were both guys living in the city, just out of school, looking for restaurant information,” recalls Rich. “Instead of cross-referencing to get an overall picture of whether [what they found was] something we could agree with, we realized there was something to being that trusted voice. The people writing for [Thrillist.com] are in the [reader] demographic, so when we think something is cool, it's something the reader thinks is cool.”

Now, Thrillist is looking to further build its brand. One step the site has taken to achieve that goal is the introduction of a redesigned look on November 6. It seeks to further engage with its audience with features like a “My Thrillist” tool that allows readers to create – and eventually share – their favorite pages.

“Every page is [now] a landing page,” says Lerer. “Every article has a description of what Thrillist is [and] opportunities to... go a little deeper and see more content. This will lead to people developing a stronger relationship with the brand.”

Thrillist has also recently expanded into new cities: Miami and Boston earlier this year and San Francisco nearly a year ago. Generating interesting content for readers, establishing partnerships, and hosting offline events are the main forces behind PR efforts.

“[Our editors] are paving the ground,” says Flavie Bagnol, New York-based director of communications for Thrillist. “They are the ones finding whatever's going on in that city, so very often they are the ones talking to the PR agencies.”

Getting good pitches leads to good content. Bagnol wants Thrillist to be at the top of the media outreach list and works to drive interest from PR agencies.

“Sometimes PR firms overlook us because they think of the big outlets,” she notes. “They want the front-page story of The New York Times, USA Today, [etc.]. They forget that very often we are the bridge to these big publications.”

Thrillist will also work with other outlets to run content outside of its own Web site, including a monthly column on AskMen.com and another in San Francisco-based 7x7 magazine. Forming partnerships with other companies looking to reach the Thrillist reader is also key, particularly in those new cities where the site is still trying to get a foothold.

“A big part of building Thrillist as a brand is to get our content in other channels,” says John Wiseman, director of marketing and partnerships. “It's definitely helpful to have existing partners with complementary audiences. We can drive people to their events and they can help people to know what Thrillist is.”

The events created with the help of partners give everyone – Thrillist, the readers, other media, and sponsors – a chance to mingle.

“It's a well-oiled machine, where everyone has their goals,” says Bagnol, who adds that the word-of mouth nature of the events helps bring them to fruition.

Because of men's diverse interests, Rich sees potential for more partnerships everywhere.

“We see the potential for synergies all over the place,” he says. “There are so many things that guys are interested in – hygiene, liquor, razors, [etc.] – and they all have an interest in getting in front of our readership.”

At a glance

Company: Thrillist.com

Co-founders: Ben Lerer, CEO; Adam Rich, editor-in-chief

Headquarters: New York

Key titles: Business Week, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, morning TV shows, and blogs

Revenue: $5 million to $10 million

Communications team: Flavie Bagnol, director of comms; John Wiseman, director of marketing and partnerships

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