Good Men Media, founded by Lisa Hickey, is a company that is creating new platforms for people to talk about what it means to be a good man. The most successful manifestation is an online magazine that is driving one million monthly page views after launching just six months ago.
Take a scan of the online magazine at goodmenproject.com and you’ll find articles like Manhood in 4 Moments, The Science of Kissing, Dear Elmo, I Hate Your F#$%ing Guts, and Undercover at a Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camp.
This magazine has no arbiter, no code of what’s right and wrong. It’s neither conservative nor feminist. It’s simply a place where men and women can read stories about men grappling with life’s challenging moments through honesty and a lot of humor.
What is the Good Men Project?
The Good Men Project is asking the question “what does it mean to be a good man” in all forms of media—online, books, movies, plays. It all started as a book written by Tom Matlack called The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood featuring defining moments in the lives of men. Tom was met with a lot of skepticism from publishers. They assumed men don’t read and would definitely not be interested in an anthology of stories about other men. So Tom decided to publish the book himself and hired me to build a social media platform to promote it.
We sold about 3,000 copies of the book but more importantly we created a really vibrant network of people who were engaged in a discussion around what it means to be a “good man.” So we decided to explore how we could monetize this network and create a sustainable business. Tom, who is also a venture capitalist, gave me some seed money and I became the founder and sole owner of Good Men Media, Inc. Right now we’re an online magazine but we will grow into much more.
I know you’re trying to brand the word “good.” What is “good” all about?
We want to brand the word but we also don’t want to define it for people. We want the conversation to really be about how men have reached moments of goodness in their life and when they have been confused. We don’t want to play god, we’re not the architects of moral decision making. We also don’t think that “good” needs to be boring; we can talk about good and we can talk about bad and the juxtaposition of those two things. It’s about tackling really hard, provocative questions and decisions. (Check out this candid account of a dad who talks about why he started blow drying his first grade son’s hair and what he has to say to anyone who thinks that’s “weird” or “unmanly.”)
How do you source your content?
We have a paid editorial staff of three people right now who curate, reach out to writers and sometimes develop original content. We have a 70-20-10 model where about 70% of our content is generated for free by people who want to distribute their articles and stories through our large platform so they can become well known, kind of like Huffington Post. Another 20% is content we buy from well known writers and then our staff writes less than 10%.
When did you launch and how far have you come?
We launched the magazine June 1st of 2010. We got 200,000 page views in the first month of operation. In six months we’re up to almost one million page views a month and almost 250,000 unique visitors a month.
How did you drive high volumes of traffic so quickly?
It’s about having content that’s really valuable and then promoting it in a variety of ways. So we promote our content through several social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and StumbleUpon. And then we have blogs and online publications post our content on their platforms and link back to us. That’s how we drive traffic, it’s a cycle. Our social media network grows, so our traffic grows. Our outreach to other blogs and publications grows, so our traffic grows.
Which monetization strategies are working well for the Good Men Project?
We had a monetization plan from day one:
- Ad revenue is how we plan to get to breakeven. We’re operating on a pretty lean monthly budget and raising money through traditional CPM based ad revenue generated from Google and vertical ad networks. Initially we reached out to brands and they told us they wouldn’t really be interested in working with us directly until we had 500,000 page views a month. Now that we’re there, we’re beginning to work with some companies directly. We’re also selling sponsorship packages in which brands get opportunities to use real estate to share something more unique and interesting with our readers beyond display ads.
- Affiliate relationships are a big part of our monetization plan going forward and the way we think the online world is going to work in the future. It’s about becoming a distribution channel for smaller, cooler products that don’t have strong distribution networks of their own in place. We’ve included a shopping cart feature on our site so people can make purchases and that way we’re in control of the sale; on the back-end we split the revenue with the producer.
- Additional revenue streams including a second book in the works about teenage boys and their coming of age stories. We also have a play in production with a New York City theater company that we hope will eventually run on Broadway.
What is your advice to content creators and online entrepreneurs in terms of how to drive traffic?
The thing people should realize about social media is that it’s not just about additional channels through which you promote yourself. You need to become helpful to different communities. So whenever we build up a community, we spend a lot of time listening to what they want. It’s not just about “Hey, buy my content!”…it’s more about “How can we engage you in what we’re doing?”
Was this your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
I have owned an ad agency, a social media company and 25 years ago I started a limousine company. It was how I first learned about the money, marketing, and management of a business.
What were some of the greatest lessons learned as you’ve started various ventures?
- Don’t assume that what you’re doing is right
- Get out there and make mistakes
- Find what works and then do more of that and stop doing what doesn’t work
Visit the Good Men Project Magazine: goodmenproject.com