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Thrillist Hires New Head of Sales, Forms Thrillist Media Group

New Structure Unites Media, E-Commerce and Deals Businesses

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Thrillist, the media company-slash-e-commerce site for urban guys is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts: It's adding a sales chief and reorganizing into a new structure, Thrillist Media Group.

Adam Chandler
Adam Chandler

Coming in is Adam Chandler, a former Yahoo exec who becomes chief revenue officer and president-media sales. Thrillist is also creating a new parent company to unite the separate media, e-commerce and deals businesses.

"In everything we do, we're trying to think with both sides of our brains," said Thrillist Media Group CEO Ben Lerer. "We love email, but we're not just an email company anymore."

Mr. Lerer hopes the new parent company Thrillist Media Group, or TMG, will send the message to both his employees and national brands that the company's three core businesses - Thrillist, JackThreads, and the deal site Thrillist Rewards - will now operate as one.

And to help spur internal buy-in, all senior managers in all divisions will now have a portion of their compensation packages tied to media-sales goals, Mr. Lerer said.

To make that happen, Thrillist is adding Mr. Chandler, most recently chief revenue officer of ad network Martini Media. Mr. Chandler worked for eight years at yahoo, where he ran ad-sales partnerships in which Yahoo sold ad space on third-party sites such as eBay, AT&T and Walmart Stores and ran a joint venture with Telemundo in which Yahoo helped sell both television and digital advertising.

When Mr. Lerer acquired Columbus-based men's flash-sales website JackThreads in 2010, he saw the potential to build a business that could grow way faster than any ad-supported media business could, complementing his stable, but limited e-mail content business with a fast-growing e-commerce site.

But Mr. Lerer also imagined a day in which the combined operations would begin fulfilling the promise of what he thought the next generation of digital-media companies would look like: ones that married content and commerce seamlessly and integrated their sales offerings to sell brand advertisers on campaigns that touched multiple properties all in one shot.

In 2011, the combined businesses brought in between $30 million and $40 million in revenue, he said, as the company began to experiment with pitching national brands on interacting with more than one of its properties on a campaign.

In one campaign for McDonald's, Thrillist delivered sponsored email posts announcing the return of the McRib sandwich. Readers were told of a Twitter sweepstakes contest in which they could win vintage-style McRib T-shirts. Those very T-shirts were actually manufactured by JackThreads, which in turn sold a limited edition of 500 of the shirts on its flash-sale site with all proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Mr. Lerer said his sales team is working on bigger campaigns that extend beyond these two properties to include sponsorships of events on Thrillist Rewards as well. "I'd be lying if I said we had all the answers," Mr. Lerer said. "But we have the assets to find the answers."

Mr. Lerer said he will look for opportunities to acquire both another content business and another commerce business in the next year, assuming they both target a similar audience of young, male professionals with discretionary spending.

He said that the company is profitable and has taken on less than $2 million in funding since its launch in 2005.

For his part, Mr. Chandler said he is confident that TMG, with its varied properties and consumer experiences, can be a new home for brand advertisers that want a digital alternative to banner ads. He also said he will consider the possibility of eventually using TMG's data to help marketers reach the TMG audience, and similar audiences, elsewhere on the web.

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