As a supplement Chapter Three of “The Story So Far: What we know about the business of journalism,” released this week, assistant editor Lauren Kirchner spoke with Andrea Miller, founder and CEO of love and relationships magazine Tango, launched in 2005, about how local and niche sites can build loyal audiences. Miller’s time at the helm—which went online-only in 2007 and has been renamed YourTango—has taught Miller much about growing and holding on to an audience. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Why did you want to start YourTango?
Innocently enough, as a consumer, I happened to read a chapter of a book with my then-boyfriend, now husband, a book called Soul Mates, about love and relationships. It was so thoughtful and inspiring, I felt that if this was something that was resonating with us then it would resonate with others as well. I took stock in terms of where something like that might fit in an incredibly crowded women’s media landscape. I had the proverbial epiphany that there really wasn’t an appropriate outlet for that. And, of course, it was realizing we’re not talking about “fifty-nine ways to please your man” or “how to get the guy.” Not to knock that stuff, because it succeeds—and there’s a big market for it. But I also felt like there was a gap in the market that we could really exploit.
The vision has been to be the ESPN of love and relationships, to build the brand using content as a way to do it, to be the brand for love and relationships. In terms of voice, the goal has been to create something like Sex and the City meets Oprah. So we hit the range of notes from the real, relatable, inspirational notes, as well as the fun and sassier notes.
So when you were looking to build the website for YourTango, did you take cues from at other places like ESPN.com to figure out the format?
Definitely. And we’ve continued to. We’ve looked at all the successful sites to figure out what they’re doing that we can emulate. As an entrepreneur, that’s a given. If other people have figured out what’s working and they’re successful, you just feel like you can borrow from that pretty unapologetically.
Are there things that you’ve learned about advertising in general and what a website’s relationship with an advertiser should be since you’ve started? Is there anything that has surprised you about that?
I feel like the big one for us has been realizing that we can do branded content in a way that is beneficial to the advertiser, as well as being high-quality content that is every bit as good as non-branded content. It’s not just repurposing some company’s marketing material but, instead, really being thoughtful about it, whether it’s a movie or a product. We ask, how that movie or product can be part of the conversation and have content that’s relevant or related to it that people will actually want to read. I think our team has done a good job of figuring out how to do that.
I guess what’s a little surprising is that, in the last year or two, there even more of a demand from advertisers. That’s what they want—it’s not just us—that’s where the entire market is going. Banners are there as well, but the integrated content is really an important aspect of the media landscape that, thankfully, we do really well.
Are there any downsides to that? Do you ever get any negative feedback from readers about branded content?
We haven’t. I can say categorically that nothing has surfaced to my level and I think the reason is at least a couple-fold. One is that our content isn’t dominated by branded content. We’re posting hundreds of posts of month—if a handful of those are branded then no one feels like, “Oh my gosh, you guys have sold out.”