Bustle plans UK expansion with 10 staffers

Women-focused publisher Bustle is expanding to the U.K., launching a local site and social channels in May. According to the publisher, it will have 10 employees in the U.K. within the next three months, split evenly between editorial and commercial. Former Mashable sales exec Jack Gillespie and former Vanity Fair strategy editor Charlotte Owen will lead the publisher’s U.K. operations.

The 5-year-old site already has a U.K. following: In January, Bustle had nearly 3 million unique visitors in the U.K., putting it slightly ahead of PopSugar (2.9 million) and Refinery29 (2.7 million), according to comScore.

“Empowering women is a universal thing. Now, there’s an opportunity to reach the U.K. market directly,” said Kate Ward, Bustle Digital Group’s editor-in-chief. “We’re proud to never have pivoted; we’ve had the same message of inclusivity and diversity since day one. Women’s empowerment will always be a trend.”

Bustle’s U.K. site plans to publish a few dozen text articles a week, figuring out what content resonates with U.K. audiences before developing more specific coverage and formats. Ward points to recent successful articles like this piece about actor and writer Heather Graham’s directorial debut, and this profile on “Black Panther” actor Danai Gurira.

Jason Wagenheim, Bustle’s chief revenue officer, said 95 percent of the company’s revenue comes from direct display and branded-content ad campaigns, while roughly 5 percent comes from programmatic and affiliate revenue. Last year, he said, Bustle grew revenue by 50 percent. Branded content will drive its growth in the U.K. market: Wagenheim said 80 percent of each deal has a branded-content component, with Instagram proving particularly popular with advertisers recently. The publisher was unwilling to share when it expects the U.K. site to turn a profit.

“Insights always lead our strategy in our approach to branded content,” said Wagenheim. The Bustle Trends Group, the publisher’s research arm, informs ad campaign strategy and post-campaign analysis. It’s conducting research on the U.K. market to take to advertisers and plans to have several brands on board when the site launches.

The digital media casualties of the last six months have spurred U.S. media companies to rethink international expansion. And it won’t be easy for Bustle. Its brand recognition among U.K. agencies needs to improve quickly in order to gain traction with advertisers. Campaign budgets in the U.K. are lower than in the U.S., and competing with entrenched titles will be tough.

“There is a lot of competition in this area. I don’t yet know what Bustle’s point of view would be or what makes their audience unique,” said David Carr, strategy director at DigitasLBi, pointing to Bustle’s homepage, which features a variety of listicle posts like “9 Revelations From ‘Bachelor Nation’ By Amy Kaufman That Will Surprise Even The Most Diehard Fans” and “14 Scary Movies Like ‘Veronica’ That Are Too Terrifying To Finish, From ‘Creep’ To ‘The Babadook.’”

The publisher, however, is confident about its international expansion. “We’re in the U.K. for the long haul,” said Wagenheim.

Image: Bustle via Facebook

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