Chris Spagnuolo is the founder of Guyism.com.
When I first noticed a problem with men’s online media in 2006, I was fresh out of college working as a publicist for WWE. While looking to pitch the latest pop culture happenings in the world of pro wrestling to testosterone-juiced websites, I quickly realized I had nowhere to go.
GQ barely had an online presence. Same for Esquire and Maxim. Sites like Gawker and the Huffington Post were beginning to soar, but they, along with most online success stories, skewed heavily female. Reaching men online in a meaningful way was a pipe dream.
Today, online media for men—or “bro media”—is a massive industry. That wave started in 2009, the year I created Guyism, and since then, similar sites like Barstool Sports, the Chive, and BroBible have attracted tens of millions of young, male readers. At first, getting brands on board with our edgy, guy-centric content was difficult, but today, brands are getting more and more comfortable with aligning themselves with the big business of bro media. Some brands are even paying big bucks to create sponsored content that runs on those sites.
But considering how easy it was for sites like mine to build an audience, and the low barrier to entry for digital publishing, it’s hard not to wonder: Why don’t brands just invest a modest budget to become an awesome bro media publisher?
Now, there’s a huge difference between a brand that publishes and a brand that is a publisher. Few people online may be interested in reading an article about “7 Ways AXE Body Spray Will Make You the Coolest Guy in the Room.” But maybe their core demographic would be interested in reading about things relevant to them—like roundups of dating fails, or GIFs of awesome stunts—that doesn’t beat them over the head with brand messaging.
For brands currently looking to build a bro site, here are three primary advantages that could help them turn into publishing powerhouses:
Many mid-sized publishers with a great deal of influence wield annual budgets in the neighborhood of $300,000 to $500,000. That’s it. Two mid-sized RFPs from a brand can keep afloat a relatively robust publishing team. Rather than chasing users through paid media, brands could use a fraction of their budgets to launch a publication that cultivates an owned audience and keeps them engaged. (Not to mention receptive to what they’re selling.)
Building an audience for a publisher is much easier if you already have a large social media launching pad. And what do most male-centric brands have? Massive social media audiences. AXE, Jägermeister, and Captain Morgan all have more than 3 million Facebook likes. Many publishers send over 1 million visits to their publications each month with far less followers. A brand committed to creating an authentic publishing enterprise could yield immediate gains from their existing audience on social media.
To exist as a viable company, an independent website will need at least 500,000 unique visitors a month to monetize on even the most basic levels. When you’re not making much money, it’s hard to invest the time it takes to even reach that point. But brands don’t have that problem. That means they can invest the cash to create awesome content before they hit that critical scale, and crush the competition as a result. The bro media talent that it takes to do that is abundantly available, and they’re looking for gigs.
Without a doubt, brands becoming publishers is the next stage of the online media landscape. The tools and talent are there, the opportunity is massive, and the pathway to success is obvious. All it takes is an open mind, a strong content team, and the dare to be different. Such is the bro media way.
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