This Old House is about to undergo a digital renovation aimed at the most coveted demographic of all: millennials.
The iconic home makeover show, which is finishing its latest project in Newton, Mass., this week, will launch House One, first on social media and, in February, with a standalone site.
The building blocks of House One came to be when Eric Thorkilsen, CEO of This Old House Ventures, got his hands on research that found 40 percent of the multiplatform audience are millennials.
“We said, ‘Wow, if they’re coming to This Old House, what if we created content customized to them?'” said Thorkilsen.
This Old House is one of the first true multiplatform media brands: the TV show is now in its 38th season on PBS, the website has more than 4 million monthly unique visitors, the magazine, which Thorkilsen acquired from Time Inc. last year (after running it for more than a decade during his tenure with Time Warner) is published eight times a year and has a circulation of 800,000. This Old House also boasts 30,000 members who pay $95 a year for Insider access.
“They are the super fans,” Thorkilsen says.
The brand also doubled its ad impressions after it launched a real estate network that put This Old House content on the pages of large Multiple Listing Service brokers.
Digital impressions on the This Old House-owned properties average 65 million, Thorkilsen said. Adding the real estate site inventory brought in an additional 70 million impressions. “We give them the content and give them a share of the advertising revenue. They give us access to the impressions,” said Thorkilsen of the visionary arrangement.
House One was a natural progression for the aging but still wildly popular enterprise.
Enter millennial Jennifer Largesse, who is taking the reins as editor of House One. Largesse, the daughter of a woodworker and English teacher (“I’m the perfect blend of the two of them,” she said) got her start in media in 2006 working as a writer and producer on This Old House. After spending nearly six years at what she called her “dream job,” she moved to About.com, before branching out on her own, creating a blog called Build Basic. A few months ago, Thorkilsen recruited her to oversee the launch of House One.
“We’re not taking the traditional publishing approach or content studio approach, but taking the best of both and mixing them,” said Largesse.
“This is a digital only brand—no TV and no print,” said Thorkilsen. “Mobile will be a huge part of it. We want to reach them where they are.”
Videos will be hosted by influencers who are established in their fields, including woodworking, tool tutorials, home fixes and interior design. Largesse says House One content will go beyond the inspiration found on sites like Pinterest and the emotional payoff that is key to home improvement shows on HGTV.
“A huge point of difference is the instruction element,” she said. “They don’t get into the meat of how to do it yourself.”
“We’re about the journey as well as the destination,” added Thorkilsen.
The site will also host a healthy amount of user-generated content. “This is all about building community and supporting the makers we’re working with,” said Largesse.
Once launched, House One will be a free, ad-supported site. Sherwin-Williams and Gorilla Glue have already signed on as sponsors. Largesse expects there to be product integration but in an authentic way.
The platform “will have the independence and authenticity of a blog but have that be rooted in the values that were instilled in me at This Old House,” said Largesse. “The goal of all this is to create a brand that makes This Old House proud.”