Publishing is not the easiest industry to succeed nowadays, but Greg Mason, CEO of Purch, an New York City-based company that publishes technology and science-related titles, may just have the magic touch.
Since Mason took over Purch in 2012, the company’s revenue has quadrupled, going from $25 million when he joined to about $130 million this year. The company has done this while maintaining profitability, becoming one of the top companies in the tech vertical over that period of time, and seeing the number of unique visitors to their sites skyrocket.
Mason spoke with Chief Executive about this growth and his strategies behind it, succeeding in the publishing industry, and how the company has maintained its culture as its grown. Below are excerpts from that interview.
Talk to me about your role as a growth CEO. What in particular have been some of your initiatives to really spur this growth?
Well, I think it starts with a method to the madness from an operating plan perspective. What’s your structure to sort of manage growth and be thoughtful about thinking about the long-term opportunities that you have in light of what’s happening in the broader marketplace? And so we have a relatively formatted approach that we go through on an annualized basis…we do long-range strategic planning and that long-range strategic planning leads into a budgeting and an operating plan cycle. We do very regular check-ins to assure that we’re sort of making progress against the goals that we set out to achieve, making progress against key initiatives, monitoring key KPIs in the business. So, it’s a little bit of what’s the method to the madness with respect to how you manage the development of the business and what’s the sort of cycle you develop that everyone gets accustomed to operating within.
So, that’s one facet of things. Also be very open minded with respect to the classic SWOT analysis of a business and regularly checking in on that and not taking anything for granted with respect to your current strengths, whatever they might be, your current weaknesses, those opportunities that you see in the marketplace and also being very much eyes wide open when it comes to fundamental threats that you might be facing in the market. And so we put a really big effort into the annual strategic planning process to help guide our planning…we’re less prone to what I think a lot of businesses are prone to, which is kind of blowing with the wind of strategy based on very recent events.
In our case, we pick a couple of big themes and we really try to make sure that the business is aligned around the development of itself around those themes. I can provide examples of that if you’d like. And then finally, I would say, and this can sound very much like a cliché, but having a rigorous approach to your customer value proposition I think is hugely important, right? So, recognizing the fact that whatever value you offer today to customers, chances are there’s someone that’s nipping at your heels or maybe even offering a value proposition that is superior to what you’re offering.
Any business needs to be really disciplined about that approach of monitoring value. What is the fundamental value proposition? Why do you have customers? How’s the market changing in such a way that you’re evolving your value proposition? How are you constantly thinking about expanding your value proposition and improving upon that value proposition? That’s one thing in all my experience of, whether it’s in big companies running divisions or running companies within companies or now running Purch. I’ve seen time and time again that in companies, especially when they get bigger, they have a hard time keeping that focus on that underlying value proposition for customers.
What has been your strategy to find success in publishing in 2018 when it’s not as easy to come by?
Strategically, I think our success…the foundation of our success started with observations we had about where the market was headed. The publishing business is a two-sided model, right? You have users that are readers of your brands or services and then you, of course, have your marketing partners. And I would say that from…we thought a lot about how we thought we could differentiate our editorial product in such a way that we could differentiate ourselves from the whole crowd of publishers that are out there just sort of broadly chasing eyeballs and page views and those kinds of things. And we decided that we were going to really focus in on helping people buy smarter, buy products smarter. And so from that standpoint, we’ve really honed in on what we thought would be necessary within the context of our brands to be that place that consumers could make complicated decisions about products that they wanted to do research on and to do that super easily and with trust.