Refinery29, Focused on Global Expansion, Hits Germany

Female-Focused Digital Media Company Is Eyeing Additional Markets

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Refinery29's German-edition team
Refinery29's German-edition team Credit: EyeCandyBerlin

Refinery29 co-CEO Philippe von Borries, a native of Cologne, thinks Germany is ready for what the female-focused digital media site has to offer.

As far as fashion and lifestyle-focused publications targeting young women are concerned, "it's still very much a print market," Mr. von Borries said. "It's sort of a throwback to where we were here four or five years ago. ... There aren't really scale players."

Enter Refinery29, which on Monday launched a German edition, at The New York-based company has hired a German team to lead the site, which will run both original, locally-produced content and translated content from

Refinery29 launched a U.K. edition in November 2015. Mr. von Borries said the company is pondering new markets, but wants to nail Europe first, so as to be able to have "a regional proposition" for brand partners.

New advertising opportunities, of course, are a huge boon for any company that enters new markets and can reach new customers. Germany has the world's fourth biggest economy, but Mr. von Borries said it's dominated by programmatic advertising. He sees an opportunity for Refinery29-produced custom content to take the country by storm.

"Our global expansion is a critical piece of our overall strategy," Mr. von Borries told Ad Age. "We can build global audiences very quickly, and we want to be able to leverage that momentum."

Refinery29, of course, is not the first U.S. digital media company to pursue new markets. In November, Business Insider, which is owned by the German publisher Axel Springer, launched a German edition. But, Mr. von Borries contrasted his company's approach with that of bigger competitors like BuzzFeed and Vice, which he said have created translation-based, global products.

"We just want to get the nuances of each market right and make sure that we're launching something that actually feels like it connects with the audience there," he said, making a pitch for a more "localized" product.

Mr. von Borries acknowleged the challenges of being the new kid on the block in an established media market, even if the company he co-founded can offer a new voice. "I'm going into this ... knowing we've got an uphill battle to climb, in terms of cutting through the noise," he said.

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