Tech How Fatherly turned a tiny website into a budding business that reaches 300 million people

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The two-year-old media company Fatherly has a modest website audience. But its ad business is still growing quickly.

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(Fatherly)
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The parenting-focused digital content startup Fatherly may be on its way to becoming a textbook case for the new math in distributed media.

Launched in 2015, its website didn’t even meet comScore’s minimum audience tracking threshold this time last year. As of May 2017, Fatherly.com had reached 391,000 unique visitors.

That’s not nothing, but it’s rather measly in the digital publisher world where sites grumble about needing 10 million users just to get advertisers’ attention and publishers like HuffPost and BuzzFeed boast of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of users.

But while Fatherly’s direct traffic isn’t eyeball-popping, it does have over 2.3 million Facebook followers, along with over 12,000 Twitter followers and 24,000-plus Instagram followers.

Thanks to all that, cofounder and CEO Mike Rothman estimates that Fatherly’s content can reach 300 million feeds per month.

As a result of its social reach, and growing ability to produce video and text content that millennial parents share, Fatherly’s ad business is outpunching its unique user count. The company has pulled in $5.2 million in revenue this year, after promising $5 million for the full 2017 to its board of directors, said people familiar with the matter.

That’s hardly going to make Facebook or Google shiver. But in terms of revenue-per-user basis, it’s fairly impressive, and would seem to bode well for Fatherly’s investors. SoftTech, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and a handful of other investors pumped $2 million into the content venture in 2015.

Rothman said the company has run campaigns for 70-plus advertisers to date. Several have resonated with lots readers, on Fatherly and beyond.

For example, a video celebrating a bunch of real Dads' unique parenting styles produced for New York Life early this year has 45 million views on Facebook to date. The publisher has recently produced a custom survey for Dewar’s on what dads really want for Father’s Day along with a video for Disney featuring dads recreating sets from "Beauty and the Beast."

"Audiences have become a commodity," said Rothman. "You need to be able to brand your company and tell a story. And one thing we recognized early on is this industry is still relationship driven. So we've worked to solidify our positioning with ad buyers."

To help continue momentum, Fatherly recently brought on a handful of new senior executives.

Longtime media consultant Michael Wertheim, who previously served as general manager of EW.com, was recently named Fatherly’s chief operating officer. In addition, Joshua David Stein has recently been named Fatherly’s editor-at-large.