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AdExchanger | The Sell Sider

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

After this exclusive first look for subscribers, the story by AdExchanger’s Sarah Sluis will be published in full on AdExchanger.com on Friday.

Trusted Media Brands is continuing its turnaround and building a revenue team to take advantage of its digital audience growth.

Over the past year, the company, formerly known as the Reader’s Digest Association, grew readership on RD.com 76% to 8.3 million unique visitors. Taste of Home’s audience grew 39% to 12.7 million unique visitors. Overall visitors across all sites increased by 10 million to 56.6 million, a 20% increase.

“Our traffic has really blossomed and responded to the TLC and attention we gave our sites,” said Chief Digital Officer Vince Errico.

Sixty digital staffers joined in the past year to create editorial, video and social media content. The sites started publishing more articles tailored for a digital audience rather than print. On the product side, the company unified all sites on a single back-end platform, making the company nimbler.

“When I got here, I felt like our brands were underrepresented online,” Errico said. “By making these changes, we were able to reach our audience, which was probably looking for us but not really finding us.”

Taste of Home, for example, features recipes submitted by readers, such as a great-grandma’s chocolate cake recipe that uses honey as its secret ingredient, which the company fondly refers to as the “original” user-generated content before social media.

Today, Taste of Home has evolved into more of a food lifestyle brand to better serve its digital readers. That chocolate cake recipe may be packaged to appeal to millennials who like nostalgic recipes and also presented as a healthy chocolate cake recipe to older readers who wants to cut back on sugar. And other content about the culture and lifestyle of food was added, too.

Building revenue

Trusted Media Brands created a new revenue team to connect advertisers to its growing audience. In the past year, digital revenue grew 13%. Its audience is expanding faster than revenue.

“These brands have seen so much growth, and we have an opportunity to capitalize on that,” said Chief Revenue Officer Zach Friedman, who joined four months ago.

Trusted Media Brands hired Scott Mulqueen as VP of programmatic and data product operations to update the company’s programmatic ad stack and figure out a premium programmatic strategy, Friedman said.

Larry Mlawski left LinkedIn to become VP of revenue operations in July.

“Data is going to be a huge piece of our digital sales,” Friedman said. “We wanted to hire someone with extensive experience to strategize about how we can take that data to the market.”

For example, Trusted Media Brands wants to share data with advertisers about how their customers eat and prepare food.

“We know what recipes are more popular on Monday than on Wednesday,” Friedman said. “We can go out and tell a story about the types of ingredients that are more popular when you are trying to reach our readers.”

On the Family Handyman site, for example, collecting data will enable it to connect advertisers to professionals, such as contractors, whom advertisers value more highly than casual fixer-uppers.

In the next year, Trusted Media Brands will make another 30 hires across content and sales.

As the publisher tries to monetize its increased readership, advertising isn’t the only revenue goal. Recipe books and magazine subscriptions have always been part of the revenue mix, and Trusted Media Brands plans to add more direct-to-consumer offerings and ecommerce. For example, Family Handyman launched DIY University, which offers paid courses on how to perform home repairs.

And there’s yet another end game.

Trusted Media Brands is engineering a turnaround amid a rapidly consolidating space in magazine media. Hearst completed its acquisition of Rodale this year, and Meredith bought Time Inc. Their economies of scale may threaten Trusted Media Brands – or make it an appealing acquisition target.

But in the meantime, Trusted Media Brands is focusing on serving readers and advertisers and differentiating itself with deep engagement, Errico said.

“Our readers are truly fans in terms of how long they stay with us,” he said, and they are asking for more opportunities to interact with us.”

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