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Good Relaunches, Opens Up About Layoffs

The magazine makes a shift to a digital community platform

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Good founder Ben Goldhirsh shocked media types and set in motion a slew of terrible headline puns (“Bad! Major Editorial Layoffs Hit Good”) when the company laid off the majority of its editorial staff with very little explanation last June. Yet after a quiet summer, Goldhirsh and Good are looking to make a comeback as the company makes a dramatic leap from a traditional media company to a community platform.

Good.is, as the new platform is called, is less a change in mission for Goldhirsh and Good than it is a change of the means. According to Goldhirsh, the company, which was founded in 2006 as a magazine, saw media as the best vehicle for its message of promoting and rebranding civic good. Six years later, Goldhirsh envisions a new direction for the site. “The editorial content was and is important but there was a growing and perhaps greater need sitting alongside of editorial, which was to convene and connect like-minded people,” Goldhirsh said. “We wanted to see if we could convene a community, not just an audience to come together, aggregate their clout, and drive outcomes.”

Good.is will work much like most community sites and social networks, where a user can log in, create a profile, and follow other users to receive content and share stories. To that end, the site will try to leverage its recently acquired social activist platform Jumo, founded by Facebook co-founder and New Republic publisher Chris Hughes. Where Good hopes to differentiate itself is with its action opportunities, an area with interesting sponsorship prospects that could attract brands. In order to drive tangible change and results, Good will team up with marketers to create branded civic challenges for the Good.is community. The hope is for users to submit ideas for the branded challenge project that will be funded by the brand. “We want to lower the wall between our community and our advertisers and get sponsors involved to drive outcomes that are tangible,” Goldhirsh said. Though this new model of branded challenges is untested, it has caught the eye of advertisers like IBM, Toyota, Levis, and UPS, which are all signed on as launch partners.

While some may have thought Good’s editorial days were over, Goldhirsh stresses that it will still have an editorial presence to generate content and react to the needs and pulse of the new community. As far as this summer’s layoffs, Goldhirsh noted that they were an unfortunate part of Good’s paradigm shift. “It was really a lack of alignment of vision that we couldn’t get over. It certainly wasn’t a money saving opportunity for us as we filled their positions with other hires,” Goldhirsh told Adweek. “I think that I could have done a better job—who knows—getting them on board with this direction. But I worked very hard to get them on board and they chose not to be and that’s why we had to part ways. It was extremely tough,” he said.

As Good moves into its 2.0 phase, Goldhirsh appears confident in the direction of the company. “If we were starting this from scratch I’d be really worried, but I think we already have significant traffic and a brand that represents our core values,” he said. With between 2.5 and 4 million unique visitors coming to the site already per month and a robust following on social media, Good has its audience clearly marked. All that is left is for Goldhirsh to see just how well he knows it.