By Jason Del Rey
Contently, a New York City-based startup that runs an online marketplace for freelance writing and editing work, has closed a $2-million Series A financing round led by Lightbank of Chicago.
The round also includes investments from ff Venture Capital, Consigliere Brand Capital, Behance founder Scott Belsky and Hubspot founder Dharmesh Shah. Contently, which went through the TechStars program this summer, previously raised a $335,000 debt round that has now converted to equity.Though only a year old, the six-person startup has already shifted its focus a bit. The company launched with a platform that hoped to match journalists looking for work with media companies looking to assign freelance writing and editing work. Shane Snow, a Contently co-founder and journalist by training, said he had originally hoped that Contently could become something like “the freelancing software marketing arm of The New York Times. I was hoping to save journalism or something,” he said.
Contently has moved on from those aspirations — at least for now — focusing instead on pitching its journalist marketplace to brands looking to launch, or beef up, their content marketing programs:think industry-related blog posts on a brand’s site or reported articles for a specific audience, such as the work Contently is doing with Federated Media to write articles for the AmEx-owned small-business site Open Forum. That’s because Contently has found that there’s more demand for quality freelance content coming from brands-turned-publishers than traditional media companies.Contently’s marketplace lets journalists create online portfolios and profiles for free and provides tools to brands to find the right journalist for a project, and manage assignment workflow and payments. Contently pays journalists as soon as a completed assignment is approved — a rarity for freelance journalists who are used to waiting as long as 45 days for payment. The company takes a cut of what brands pay the writers or editors, with individual assignments usually ranging between $125 and $350, Mr. Snow said.
The company has worked with brands such as LinkedIn, Best Buy, Rackspace, American Express and Vault.com.
“The promise for the journalists now isn’t ‘Hey, you can write for the New York Times,’ it’s ‘Hey, you can write for AmEx,’ ” Mr. Snow said. “Not as glamorous, but it often pays better.”
Mr. Snow said the company would use the funds to hire three or four developers and a sales leader with experience closing deals with agencies and big brands. The company is also building out its analytics capabilities to give brands more metrics by which they can evaluate journalists as well as testing a self-serve platform to bring smaller brands into the fold.
“Right now we cater to brands with larger scale needs,” Mr. Snow wrote in a follow-up email. “But the future of our platform is a marketplace that allows smaller brands to easily commission one-off assignments or campaigns.”
Contently was originally looking for $3 million and got a term sheet for that amount, Mr. Snow said. But the founders decided to take less money to go with Lightbank, which has experience investing in and advising online marketplaces such as Zaarly and Betterfly.
Lightbank saw promise in Contently because of its of commitment to supporting quality online content amid industry pushback against content farms that can no longer game Google search as easily as they could before.
“What we know from our research is that good content can impact conversion by 25% to 50%,” said Paul Lee, a partner at Lightbank. “What we need to do over the next few years is more formally show that quality had a direct impact on ROI. Once that direct relationship is established, the coffers of media companies, in addition to brands and commerce companies, start opening up more.”
In addition to Mr. Snow, Contently co-founders include Joe Coleman and David Goldberg.
This post originally appeared on the website of Crain’s sister publication, Advertising Age.
By Tina Sharkey
Motherhood triggers big changes in how women spend their time, how they consume media. And how they shop.
In younger days, shopping meant getting together with girlfriends to indulge in shoes, party dresses and fun conversation. Motherhood puts an end to that, fast. Suddenly life’s all about buying school supplies and diapers in bulk, and then rushing home to the family.
Just how do moms shop? BabyCenter US wanted to find out. We also wanted to know how their shopping habits compare to the general internet-using population. Working with comScore, we produced the report, “2011 Shopping Rituals of the American Mom.” As the year closes down — along with the seemingly endless holiday shopping season — it seems apropos to look at the study’s striking results.
P.S: Marketers take note: this isn’t just about moms. They’re the leading indicator for shopping behaviors — what they’re doing today, every consumer will be doing tomorrow.
It’s true, as Matt Carmichael wrote in a recent post, “Kids Take All the Fun out of Shopping”: moms are often stressed-out, rushed, overwhelmed, cost-obsessed. But that’s far from the whole story. Here’s the rest of it.
They play to win.
Our study, based on surveys of more than 8,000 online moms visiting the BabyCenter US site in summer 2011, shows that moms treat shopping as a sport. After all, many elements are the same: developing strategies, rising to challenges, outperforming the competition, reveling in the big score. No wonder that 84% of moms in our study agreed with the statement that: “When I save money on a shopping trip by using coupons, sales or other deals, I feel like ‘I won.’ ”
Moms who shop use every available resource to gain an edge. Almost two-thirds have a bar code scanner app on their mobile device to help them zero in on deals — 30% more than the general population. Three in five moms belong to at least one group buying service.
They’re hardly alone.
Moms may not shop in packs, but that doesn’t mean they’re on their own. Instead of calling a girlfriend into the changing room for a second opinion, moms reach for the smartphone: 34% have texted a picture of a product before buying it (compared with 10% of the general internet population). And when they hit the retail trail, they take the entire social graph with them: 44% share deals and discount codes through social media, and 62% post online reviews. Shopping can be one of the most socially engaged parts of a mom’s day.
Their partner’s helping.
Even savvy marketers can fall into the trap of thinking of household shopping as strictly a mom’s job. Groceries, nursery supplies, kids’ clothes, school supplies — the poor woman, how does she get it all done? With help from her partner. One in four moms say their partner is somewhat or highly involved in the purchase of baby items; a similar number say that their spouse plays an equal or greater role in purchasing household groceries.
They’re not just buying small stuff.
Moms aren’t just buying wipes and pencils. They have influence over a wider range of categories than ever before, spending more than twice as much online on video games as the general internet population, and nearly as much on hardware and software. They’re 47% more likely to anticipate a major financial services purchase in the next 12 months and 25% more likely to purchase airfare or hotels. A full 99% of moms are involved in deciding on a vehicle purchase. Still, nearly 3 in 5 moms feel uncomfortable at auto dealerships, mainly because the dealer falsely assumes that they have little knowledge and a limited role in the buying decision.
They’ll pay for convenience.
Moms reward brands and retailers that simplify their lives, even if it costs a bit more. Nearly two in five moms are willing to pay for online shipping to save time and effort, and more than one in three agree that simplicity, multi-use and convenience are the biggest priorities in their technology purchases. Moms also demand a more seamless shopping experience, such as the ability to buy online and return in-store without a lot of extra hassle. Free shipping to the store makes moms feel rewarded, which is good news for big-box retailers in particular: 64% of moms will purchase household items and 46% will buy snacks when in the store.
At the end of the day, moms are masters at tallying their savings and bragging to their social graph about the day’s biggest scores. How many ways does she love to shop? Let me count the ways . . .
Tina Sharkey is global president and chairman of BabyCenter, a San Francisco-based operator of websites for parents with young children. Her post originally appeared on the website of Crain’s sister publication, Advertising Age.
By Ricardo Poupada
Admit it. When you think of coupons, you think of your mother. Or grandmother. The very terms we associate with saving money — coupon clipping, penny pinching — still sound vaguely dainty. Of course men have been doing their own shopping for some time now, and guys like saving money as much as anyone. Yet men’s relationship with coupons and deals remains ambiguous and largely unexplored.Getting a bead on that relationship requires empirical data. At Askmen, we regularly rake through that data with our annual Great Male Survey that studies the lifestyle and buying habits of thousands of men in Europe and North America. The knowledge we glean from that research allows us to design deals tailored to the buying habits of the modern-male consumer and what we’ve learned is that quality and brand fit are key. A quick glance at the leading online deal sites reveals that, despite the promise of male demographics, most deals are still aimed at women — think group spa treatments — and, indeed, in a recent Askmen poll, 27% of guys felt the products offered in online deals were too feminine. Even deals targeted at men tend to be highly metropolitan, leaving the majority of the male market underserved.
The research is still coming in in terms of how men and women pursue deals differently, but what we know already is that there are some basic, functional differences. For example, men are significantly more likely than women to use their smartphones and tablets to shop for deals online — 18% vs. 11%, according to BIGresearch. That’s yet another reason for online marketers to get off the spa wagon and take note of a highly mobile and discerning demographic.
But there’s more to it than functional differences in how men pursue traditional and online deals. There are more intangible elements at play. What we’ve noticed is that while men certainly want to save money, they’re also interested in a good story. When polled about online deals, 14% said they were more interested in buying experiences than products. And what makes for a good story is an experience that’s a briny cocktail of novelty and exclusivity. In short: bragging rights. For young guys today, fish tales are old hat; they’d rather talk about the time they went shark hunting; not the time they went surfing on Cape Cod but kite-surfing in southern Spain.
When we asked men where online deal sites were failing them, 24% said the quality of the product or service being offered wasn’t high enough, and a hefty 35% said they were eager for deals on more manly activities — i.e. fewer spa days and more rock climbing. That’s why, in general, with deals targeting men, the smart money is moving beyond product discounts to deals that offer novel experiences, with a focus on quality — a straight-razor shave or custom tailoring, for example; something exclusive that none of his friends know about. Better yet, marketers can fashion a deal that offers him not only insider status but that makes him a leader in his social circle — something men value deeply. For example, we recently offered a deal through our newsletter that gets our guy and his friends half off at a hot new sushi spot in Los Angeles. (True fact: saving 50% makes that spider roll 80% more delicious.) Since the deal is exclusive to recipients of our L.A. newsletter, he’ll know about it before all his friends, and since the offer is served up on a savory bed of editorial content in the form of an accompanying restaurant review, he knows it’ll be good.
This is where the intangibles in marketing to men become tangible. By giving men something to brag about and allowing them the opportunity to be leaders in their social circles, a brand can forge an emotional connection with its male customers. He’ll remember that cheap night out at that great new place, and his buddies will, too. He’ll feel good about it because he both saved money and tried something new and, in the process, subtly expanded the range of his tastes and experience. In other words, he’s been good to his bank account and to himself, and that, to men, is a good deal.
Ricardo Poupada is general manager and co-founder of AskMen, a Montreal-based lifestyle website for men. His post originally appeared on AdAgeStat, a statistics and demographics blog on the website of Crain’s sister publication, Advertising Age.
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