Reflections on Refinery 29

When InPublishing commissioned me to write an article on Refinery29 (UK), I have to admit I was curious. Could this American platform make the leap from stateside to a global brand?

Turns out it could.

Three years on from its 2015 UK launch Refinery29 has achieved a strong grip on the market and built a solid reputation for relevant, engaging editorial. Overall, in terms of brand reach, it has grown exponentially and now has a global audience of 550 million and more than 450 employees across its American, UK and European platforms.

But like any global brand, there has to be a sufficient differential across the platforms to capture those cultural, economic and social demographics unique to each country. This requires in-depth research, innovation plus attention to detail – get it wrong and the brand will be unlikely to survive.

When developing the UK platform one of editorial director, Sarah Raphael’s first tasks was to come up with a raison d’être, then decide how the site’s content could be differentiated from its US counterpart.

Sarah reveals that her starting point was two key questions: who did they want to be and what did they want to say?   Once these answers were established, core pillars that the brand would be dedicated to reporting could then be identified. Only then could the UK platform begin to evolve.

Fast forward to 2018 and the brand has firmly established itself in the UK market. An eclectic editorial mix is, in my opinion, a core strength of Refinery29. Such attention to detail, journalistic rigor plus a clear understanding of its audience makes it likely to succeed in the long term.

Therefore, I’ve identified five reasons why it will not only survive but thrive. These are:

  1. A strong, global and localised brand identity
  2. The rigorous approach taken to the research and testing of new platforms
  3. A relevant and engaging approach to content
  4. Continual evolution in terms of its value proposition
  5. Innovative leadership which understands the need to invest in people

Moving forward Sarah says her long-term vision is “to be the brand women turn to and trust for opinion, education, advice, inspiration, understanding and entertainment,” while continuing to offer a platform for marginalised voices.


Digital publishers can draw many lessons from this brand but perhaps the most important one is that creating engaging, valuable and relevant content should be at the heart of all you do. To read my InPublishing article in full click on Refinery29 for the millennial-minded woman


Membership article - WNIPA while ago I was asked to write an article on membership models for What’s New In Publishing. The brief was to include a case study and focus on how this business strategy might work for magazine publishers. Having written about this in my latest book, Business Strategies for Magazine Publishing, and advised a few of my clients to take this route, I had plenty of material to draw on.

While my article, When should a publisher adopt a membership model, mostly focuses on successful examples, this post will outline why the membership model is unlikely to work in the lifestyle sector. Continue reading


Photo credit: Time Inc.

Sadly, it is the end of an era – NME aka New Musical Express has finally decided to cease its weekly print edition from today after 66 years.

While the magazine spent most of those years on the newsstands, in 2015 with circulation at an all-time low of 15,000, Time Inc. decided to move NME to a freemium model – an ad-funded free title. Although pitched as a strategy to widen audience participation, essentially the rationale was to cut newsstand distribution costs and boost ad revenue.

According to the BBC’s report, publishers Time Inc. said the decision to stop its print edition is “due to rising production costs and a tough advertising market”. Instead, it will be “focusing investment on further expanding NME’s digital audience”.

While the move did indeed expand distribution to 300,000 – it seems both core and potential new readers weren’t so keen to engage. Continue reading

Coming to a Small Screen Near You…

Look around you, right now. You may be sat at your desk, slouched on the couch, or en-route to somewhere special but the chances are you’re probably ‘consuming content’ on your smart phone, tablet or some such device. And those around you are probably at it as well. On my own daily grind I very rarely see anyone struggling with a broadsheet or flicking through a red-top any longer as the only papers commuters appear to read are Metro in the morning and The Standard in the evening. The common denominator is they’re both free.


So, it’ll come as no great Usain Bolt outta the blue, that newspaper circulation is plummeting. I’m sure we’re all aware of the sad demise of The Independent earlier this year and even Dear Rupert’s managing to only flog just over a million and a half daily copies of the builders’ favourite, The Sun, from a 2010 figure of double this. The Torygraph a similar 500k from almost 700k, and The Grauniad an astronomically worrying 166,500. Astronomically worrying as I’ve always taken The Guardian. And Private Eye. Obviously. Continue reading


slide1My latest post ­– a narrated slideshow on the 7 Pillars of creating great content – has a more interactive feel. Some points are obvious, but usually forgotten. Others, not so much.

Living in a world with vast streams of content covering every perceivable subject, it is crucial to make sure that all editorial created has a real value. It must be relevant to those reading it. So it’s time to steer away from those ‘fillers’, get more creative and stop relying on press releases. Continue reading