Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Interview with Lolita Carrico, Gloss Network
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Our interview this morning is with Lolita Carrico, founder of Gloss Network for Women (www.mygloss.com), an online network of sites focused on women. Lolita was founder of ModernMom.com, which she sold to Lisa Rosenblatt, wife of Demand Media's Richard Rosenblatt last year. We caught up with Lolita to learn more about her newest venture.
What is Gloss Network?
Lolita Carrico: After I sold ModernMom last year to Lisa Rosenblatt, which she merged into Brook Burke's company, BabooshBaby.com, I stayed with them through the transition. I started looking to sell ModernMom and do something strategic a few years ago when I saw that there was a shift in the mom space, where advertisers and brand partners were moving from targeting mass numbers of people, towards niche sites. I was working with sponsors and partners, and finding that they were interested in identifying smaller markets where they could hone in on an audience, versus buying ads on something like iVillage with millions of eyeballs. That's where the initial idea came for Gloss Network. It's still rooted in a lot of the motherhood market, which is a big market online, but we have broken up the site into specific verticals like beauty, style, fitness and health, cooking, green living, and various different sites. Working with brand partners and viewers, they find that we're providing the content they need in terms of readers and brand partners, such as getting to moms interested in the green movement, moms specifically interested in beauty products, etc--where they can create a more intimate relationship with readers.
Are sponsors interested in such highly targeted sites, rather than the broad reach?
Lolita Carrico: I think so. We find that advertisers run campaigns which are a hybrid, where they both buy CPM-based ad units across the network of sites, but also do something very targeted, such as sponsorship on a specific vertical, such as moms, or beauty, or food. Those are our three biggest categories as far as sponsorship and readership.
Do you find it's been more difficult to build up traffic for a more targeted site, or easier?
Lolita Carrico: As far of traffic, we launched in August, and we've already surpassed the traffic levels which took us more than eight year to reach at ModernMom. Obviously, some of this is just about technology--such as search engine optimization--and I think lots of readers are initially finding us through social media and search--but I also think that as the find a channel they are most interested in, they are coming back. MyGloss.com is our home page, and we also aggregate across our network, and that's definitely a popular destination.
Is this competitive with Modern Mom?
Lolita Carrico: I don't think it's competitive. ModernMom is a well established brand, which we created in 2001 very focused on moms. From my perspective, after we merged with Brook Burke's brand, it has become very focused on celebrity. Gloss is really very focused on motherhood, but also specifically on verticals like style and beauty. We're finding that our most popular areas are cooking, fitness, beauty and fashion, because women want to figure out , in their hectic lives, how to stay in shape, how to have healthy meals, how to get their hair done quickly. We're targeting different positioning, but I've always felt the women's space is crowded and we're sort of competing for eyeballs. But, women aren't online on one site, they are various sites, so we're sharing the same readers.
You mentioned earlier that you've grown quite quickly, why the faster growth with this new venture?
Lolita Carrico: Social media had a lot to do with it, for sure. We're doing a lot in social media with Twitter, Facebook, and contributors to our site, and figuring out how they are promoting articles and content through social media. That definitely has something to do with it. Also, we have lots of content. Whereas, when I was running ModernMom, we were putting out two or three articles a day, here we're now pushing out 20 to 30 articles on average a day. It's a lot of content, but then again we have lots of sites.
How's this new venture funded--and actually, how was ModernMom funded?
Lolita Carrico: Both have been on my own. I was very lucky. When ModernMom started in 2001, it was very much a home-grown business that took off. When ModernMom was launched, we were one of the first three properties for moms. Now, it's obviously scarier, because the space is so crowded. However, even before we launched Gloss, we already had General Mills as a big partner. We were supposed to launch in October, but because they were so excited about the new concept, we launched a campaign in August. We've been profitable from day one.
It seems like your experience and history in the space is important--it seems unlikely someone without your track record would be able to sign someone like General Mills out of the gate. Is that the case?
Lolita Carrico: Yes, the history in the space has to do with it, absolutely. Being one of the first in the mom media area has helped. I definitely think that having been in the industry so long, I've really been able to figure out the best way to capture the attention of women online, ahead of the trends. I've been on the forefront so long, that lots of them trust me in what I'm doing. That helps, and continues to bolster the success of Gloss. Another part, in addition to good SEO and social media, and good traffic--is we've also be able to have huge brands since day one, since they trust me and what I'm doing.
Are brands putting real money now online in this sector?
Lolita Carrico: Brands are definitely putting their money behind it. I was reading yesterday that there is now more spending online than in any other kind of media. Brands are definitely investing it in the women and mom's space. However, I also think there is a lot of a wild west mentality right now, particularly with the mommy bloggers, where brands have been trying to figure out how best to work with them. We don't think of ourselves as mommy bloggers, Gloss is not a blog but really an online magazine and community. However, I think some of the revenues got diluted by that wild west mentality, mommy bloggers, and all of that. I think as they figure that out, there will be significant revenue spend in the space.
Finally, what's next for Gloss?
Lolita Carrico: We're in startup mode, since we only launched 7/8 months ago. We're now increasing awareness with readers and partners, and raising some money is also a priority. We're also investing a lot in video. We're going to be building out the Gloss TV channel, which we just started with maybe a dozen videos, and will be creating original content on a weekly basis too. Brands are very interested in video, which is a trend everyone is seeing. They are interested in more high quality online video, rather than user-generated. We're getting a good response with video.