At ArcticStartup we like to cover scalable growth startups – the type of online companies that build one product and sell it hundreds of times over. In our experience, online media is not the most scalable product in the world. It takes huge resources ever day to pump out new content to keep ‘customers’ sold on your product.
That being said, Helsinki-based Re:fashion is a story about online entrepreneurship, and today the fashion blogging portal is grabbing huge pageviews in their demographic of 20-35 year old women, and is already counting some huge brands like Nokia Lumia, Olympus cameras, Onepiece, and others as customers. Today with their eight bloggers they count 60,000 uniques per week after launching in September of 2013.
“It started with a joke,” says Iina Moukola, co-founder and Editor in Chief of Re:fashion. “I was complaining that I had no power to decide cooperations or banners I could use on my blog [at my old blog portal].” At the time Moukola was consulting with Teppo Hudson and Rainer Gesellle, who were building The Fashion Mags, a tool for fashion bloggers to design more magazine-looking ‘spreads’ for their blogs, while also helping them plug into monetization features. Their response was that she should just start her own thing then.
So with their help, they built up a new portal and convinces seven other bloggers to come onboard.
To monetize, the portal uses a little affiliate marketing, but prefer to use ‘co-creations’ as their main tool. Here the bloggers interact with and personally tell their audience about product or events. “The reader feels like the blogger is your friend, and they tell you about something,” says Moukola. The result is a deeper connection between readers and the advertisements, and hopefully more sincere and rewarding for all the parties involved.
Additionally to activate their readers, Re:fashion bloggers encourage their readers to share pics on instagram and reach out to their readers at store-sponsored events, where one of the bloggers will go to a large department store for an event, meet their readers in person, and talk about their favorite type of lipstick at the store, for example.
These monetization models are industry practice for fashion bloggers, but absent are banner adds, which they find ugly and unrewarding for readers. The closest thing they’ll do is rebrand the top Re:fashion logo individually for brands, which provides a more seamless reader experience, as shown below.
There are some downsides to throwing away banners – the sales process for designing these custom campaigns takes a lot more brainpower and time than throwing up a banner from Tradedoubler, or another banner bidding platform.
Senni Niemi, Sales manager at Re:Fashion tells us that it gets easier to sales as the blog gets more established . Additionally she says even though they have a smaller blogger platform than some larger competitors, like Trendi, the Finnish fashion magazine that runs a blog portal, or Indiedays, but they’re strongly focused in the 20-35 year-old demographic, which is more ideal to advertisers than 15 year-olds with relatively no money.
For growth the company is planning on staying relatively small. They’re somewhat interested in getting more bloggers onboard, but they say it’s important to for new bloggers to fit into their demographic, and they want to grow by quality, not by grabbing anyone new onboard.
We at ArcticStartup share the same office as Re:fashion, and while I give them a hard time about taking pictures of their newly painted fingernails, I’m amazed at the amount of traffic they drive by talking about their trip to the spa, or how they’ve arranged flowers in their apartment. There’s huge consumer appeal to what they’re doing, and as trendsetters they have a stronger impact on consumers than I think the average 23 year-old male entrepreneur understands. We’ve covered startups like Helsinki-based Publishzer’s The Fasion Mags and Sweden’s BlogLovin, but I think there’s a lot more innovation that can be plugged into these portals for gain.
The moral of the story is that online media is a lot of work, and Re:fashion isn’t taking the easy way out with their monetization scheme, but Moukola says it’s been rewarding building a platform by bloggers for bloggers. With their ideals, you have to wish them luck.