‘Condé Nast meets Demand Media’: New Platform Connects Indie Publishers with Top-Tier Advertisers

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Strap on your sandals, bloggers, and get ready to give the big publishing companies a run for their money – the creators of StyleCaster just announced the launch of The Masthead, a new platform that gives influential style sites of all sizes the same access to advertising dollars as the makers of glossy magazines.

Co-founder and CEO Ari Goldberg wasn’t always into women’s lifestyle – he started out in sports and entertainment marketing. “I went from hanging with guys who could dunk to tall, skinny models,” he said. “It’s not a bad switch.”

Goldberg was working with LeBron James and his LRMR Marketing company when he met StyleCaster Media Group’s primary angel investor Dan Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. “‘I don’t invest in businesses, I invest in people,'” Gilbert had told him.

In this case, Gilbert was investing in Ari and his brother David Goldberg, as well as their other co-founder Albert Azout. “No one works harder than my brother,” said Goldberg. “He’s my guy.” In 2007 the team built their first property, StyleCaster, a lifestyle site with original and curated content.

With just under $5 million in seed funding, the business has “progressed more like a movie than a tech company,” Goldberg said, by focusing on perfecting the site’s content before reaching out to advertisers. People go into the “vanity industries” of fashion and entertainment for “reasons other than money,” he said. At their core, these publishers have a lot of “pride and integrity in what they do.”


Goldberg proposed a business model where “Condé Nast meets Demand Media.” They way he saw it, companies like Condé Nast had “high-quality everything, but the business model didn’t support it” once they moved online, he said. In contrast, content farms like Demand Media focused on generating revenue rather than producing good content. Said Goldberg: “Those guys are animals.”

At the time, Goldberg noticed that “the old sites were extremely fragmented. There was one place for content, one for social media, and one for e-commerce.” On StyleCaster, readers would be able to read and share articles, as well as click on a pair of shoes and buy them. Because the team had never worked in print, they had no preconceived ideas about how their site should work. “We didn’t break any rules because we didn’t know the rules,” he said.

The partners lured in advertisers with sponsored events and branded videos that they produced in-house and that allowed for distribution on other sites. “We, as publishers, aren’t so arrogant” as to limit advertising opportunities to one place, Goldberg said. We “take it to where the people are.” Within one year StyleCaster had 30 top-tier advertisers like Target, H&M, Diet Coke and Macy’s. To date, the media group’s various properties have attracted 2.5 million visits per month.

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The Masthead, their newest property, will use what Goldberg calls a “turn-key platform” to facilitate advertising for big businesses on smaller sites. The problem with indie publishers, said Goldberg, is that some have “great content, but no traffic,” while others “have a great following, but they’re not pretty.” With Masthead Goldberg aims to give publishers the infrastructure they need to succeed as a business.

Goldberg said the Masthead team will sift through applications sent to them on their site to find content that can “bring something unique to the party.” The service is free for the publishers, who eventually pay a percentage of their advertising revenue. Goldberg declined to give a specific figure, but he said it’s “more aggressive in favor of the publisher” than the average 50-50 split.

So far the platform has worked with sites ranging from Stiletto Chef, a healthy lifestyle food site by Top Chef alumna and Lifetime’s CookYourselfThin host Candice Kumai, to WeKilledCouture, a style blog run by a 17-year-old Australian girl who works in a pizza shop. Even before Masthead’s launch, the company had four campaigns lined up with advertisers including Macy’s and Barney’s.

The Masthead is the next in what Goldberg hopes will be a growing portfolio of properties under the StyleCaster Media umbrella. They currently have 18 full-time employees and are planning to expand their tech and marketing teams by the end of the year. “It’s exciting and extremely humbling,” Goldberg said.