SpinMedia Gets New Investors, Hires New CRO

After setbacks, aims for profitability 'early this year'

SpinMedia Group, a publisher of celebrity and entertainment sites, today announced that it's lined up new investors and hired sales vet Tom Morrissy as chief revenue officer as it attempts to put its struggling financial past behind it.

The company has lately made headlines for laying off staff and shutting down the print magazine editions of Spin and Vibe; the staff of 165 is down from more than 250 last September.

SpinMedia hasn't been consistently profitable, CEO Dale Strang admitted. But he said that he hoped to finally achieve that goal for real "early this year." His predecessor made similar pronouncements that didn't materialize, but Strang said the difference this time around is that the company has a new structure that's allowed it to vastly reduce its debt.

SpinMedia (formerly Buzz Media) just got in $10 million in new funding from investors including MC Partners, Focus Ventures, Anthem Ventures and TDF Ventures. The Web publisher is in the process of rolling out mobile responsive sites to capture consumers and ad dollars that are moving to smaller screens. It's also focusing on its sites deemed to have the most growth opportunity, starting with ones like The Frisky, Stereogum, Idolator, Spin and its biggest, Celebuzz.

"We're really bullish," Strang said. "Entertainment as a category continues to grow. With this new structure and focus, we can hire people like Tom to bring it to market successfully."

Morrissy knows his way around entertainment and digital media, having been the former publisher of Entertainment Weekly and OK! Magazine, then working with Selectable Media, which helps publishers incentivize consumers to watch video ads in exchange for access to content. As SpinMedia's evp and CRO, Morrissy said he'd be hiring at "least a dozen" sales and marketing employees as the firm attempts to attract more brand dollars to its 47 owned or partner sites including its biggest, Celebuzz. Size also is an issue, as SpinMedia's overall traffic (which comScore puts at 27 million) has been flat, with mobile growth failing to offset desktop traffic declines. 

"Scale has not been an issue, but we want to have more scale, not less," he said.

SpinMedia isn't ruling out doing more in print, either. It's committed to publishing Vibe as a quarterly and hinted at the possibility of print versions of other brands.

"There's plenty of people who read Spin and would love to see that come back, but we also have similar interest around Stereogum and The Frisky," Strang said. "We're a digital-first company…but I don't think Vibe is the only print product you'll see from us this year."