Call it the makeover of Glam Media. Since its launch in 2005, Glam has been many things: a media company, a tech company, an ad network, an owner and operator of its own stable of diverse websites, including the epicurean destination Foodie, which hit last month. But now, it would appear Glam is all grown up and ready for its next phase.
Foodie in particular has Glam “really feeling to me like what I would classify as the next generation of media companies, which is a very tightly meshed combination of curated content and social,” says the company’s founder and CEO Samir Arora, in full-on salesman mode. Foodie represents what Arora calls Glam 3.0, focused as much on cranking out content as erecting a social community around it.
While he might overstate Foodie’s position in the next-media vanguard, his description of the Epicurious-meets-Facebook social site also offers insight into how Arora—one of the most colorful personalities in a digital-media universe crammed with colorful personalities (just check out his Wikipedia page)—views Glam today. It is a crystallized identity the company is sorely in need of, and that would be essential considering buzz that the privately held company—whose value has been put in the neighborhood of $1 billion—is prepping an IPO.
Glam launched with a single fashion site, Glam.com, plus a network of a dozen publishers. The 46-year-old Arora—a native of New Delhi who, prior to Glam, was best known as the founder of Web design company NetObjects—today shepherds an enterprise that encompasses a handful of owned-and-operated sites, including not only Glam.com and Foodie but also parenting site Tend (which launches today) and the health-and-wellness site Bliss. In addition, it boasts some 2,500 publishers in its network of niche sites and blogs, including SHEfinds, Allie is Wired and Adventures in the Stiletto Jungle.
The network reaches more than 220 million unique visitors worldwide according to comScore, which pegs Glam’s U.S. uniques at 86.7 million. To attain that reach, Glam has expanded beyond its fashion and beauty roots to verticals including not only food but also entertainment and health. And it set out to court another new audience with the 2008 launch of the men’s lifestyle site Brash—a move that still puzzles media buyers and, it would appear, consumers. Growing from 219,000 uniques last September to 578,000 by December, Brash tumbled to 383,000 uniques in January and 184,000 by February, per comScore.
Brash is the latest example of Glam’s attempts to establish a cohesive identity. Another is last fall’s acquisition of DIY social-network builder Ning, whose platform powers 100,000 social nets, including band Linkin Park’s online fan community. This is a company that has its fingers in a lot of pies—but also one desperate to boost its rep in the marketplace. To that end, in February it tapped Erin Matts, formerly global director of digital connections at InBev’s Anheuser-Busch, as its first chief digital marketing officer—a signal to the ad community that Glam’s business model is maturing.