VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk branched out into the publishing world with the acquisition of women's lifestyle website PureWow this week and housed it in a newly created sister company, The Gallery. He plans to build out the new entity with future acquisitions of editorial and publishing companies that work with advertisers to develop content.
Vaynerchuk talked with PRWeek about the acquisition and what it means for PureWow and the agency world.
How did the acquisition come about?
For about two years, I had been plotting when and where our publishing expansion would be. We made a small acquisition for a site called Lost Letterman, which is a sports site. We were fooling around on a smaller level with some publishing platforms and the business was getting bigger. I realized I would be able to afford a bigger play. I started looking around in the millennial, Gen-X, female consumer [segments], which is really interesting and fascinating to me; they are such a major decision-maker in the things people buy.
I had invested in PureWow through our investment fund before. I had known [PureWow CEO Ryan Harwood] for five or six years on a personal front, as well. We were both at Sundance last year talking casually about business, and we went into a conversation of what would it look like for us if we went into business together. I knew the business was doing extremely well and I thought it would be too big for me, but luckily, it wasn't, and Vayner got bigger and stronger and Steven Ross and Matt Higgins, my business partners, both agreed with my path.
It's been in our strategy for two to three years to expand into publishing. Obviously we knew that publishing was expanding into creative, and if I wanted to compete at the biggest macro levels I had to be there too. PureWow was the most attractive demographic with that millennial and Gen-X mom-type. It just so happened that somebody I knew was in control of what I think is one of the major three or four players in that space.
Are you planning to make changes to how PureWow delivers content?
I do think that video, influencer marketing, and social media marketing for the PureWow brand has a lot of upside. When you look at the competitive landscape for PureWow, the modern media companies have done a better job of Facebook and Instagram arbitrage. When you think about how much traffic on the web comes from Facebook, PureWow is still not a major player [on Facebook]. As you can imagine, that excited me because it’s something I can bring to the table.
Hopefully we can bring some new things to PureWow, whether that’s video or social media or influencer marketing on that platform. Then a year or two from now, as we get more confidence that we’ve built that infrastructure and capitalized on the opportunities, we can start looking at maybe a men’s vertical, a youth or millennials vertical, wherever it may take us.
What’s something that drew you to PureWow?
[Harwood] is an interesting part of this story. He’s a Goldman Sachs banker that comes into the female millennial market. In a world where Elite Daily was written off by the Daily Mail and we’ve seen other publishing traffic companies not do well, PureWow went out and built an organic, creative, editorial platform. That this unique character pulled that off, I think, it's funny and interesting. That's one part of the story that I’m fascinated by: who actually made that happen. I don’t think he looks the part, but he did it in a short period of time and built up real traffic and revenue.
What is your ultimate goal as you move into publishing?
If you go to garyvaynercuck.com, it says, "I day trade attention." My number one asset that I follow is attention. I do believe that social networks on mobile devices are one of the great attention assets in the world. However, an enormous amount of attention is deployed against publishing sites, television shows, movies, and books. Anywhere I think there is attention I’m going be fascinated by, and that’ll never stop. My ambition is to build an extremely successful company, The Gallery, with step one being PureWow. As an entrepreneur, I think it would be crazy not to shoot for the moon.
Do you think other agencies will follow this path into publishing, too?
I do. I think it's potentially going to happen. The economics of buying a media company are aggressive, so I don’t think many independents can and will. There is no question that media properties [like The New York Times and Vice] have created some internal creative capabilities that mirror agencies.
It was far more interesting to be the guy who did it first, rather than waking up this morning and figuring out that two of my major agency competitors did it. That's what makes the world so interesting: the continuous evolution of the marketplace.