It’s been nearly one year since coronavirus lockdowns shut down gyms, leading those seeking some form of exercise to at-home workout content online. The surge in demand resulted in growth for publishers like PopSugar Fitness — but as gyms reopen and New Year’s resolutions relax, the PopSugar vertical is tweaking its strategy to maintain this momentum.
Using data from polled readers and watching what its audience was consuming, PopSugar is looking to redefine what fitness means to the brand to retain readership and win over advertisers.
PopSugar Fitness does boast an increase in audience in this category: in January, 7 million people visited PopSugar Fitness’s site, which targets young people in their 20s — or a 50% increase compared to December 2020, according to the company. In the same period, its YouTube videos’ view counts increased by 60%. And consumers spent 130.7 million minutes watching PopSugar Fitness’s videos on YouTube and Facebook collectively in January, according to Tubular Labs.
The vertical was the primary contributor to growth in PopSugar’s overall distributed revenue — aka revenue from third-party platforms — in 2020, according to the company.
Now, the PopSugar vertical is expanding its broader health and wellness content, with plans to launch an online hub to highlight its coverage for Mental Health Awareness Month in May. PopSugar Fitness also will feature more personal stories of those who struggle with mental health in an effort to end the stigma around those issues, according to the company.
And while the exact game plan for the coverage expansion, overall, is still largely to be determined, it will be shepherded by Jennifer Fields, who was hired in January as deputy editor of fitness, a new role at the company. Fields — who was most recently senior director of editorial development at WebMD, and has also served as site director for Good Housekeeping and in other editorial roles at AOL Health, WW and O, The Oprah Magazine — reports to PopSugar executive editor Mandy Harris.
This year, PopSugar Fitness will also work to produce more articles and videos around sleep, stress and anxiety management, self-care, meditation, mindfulness and self-fulfillment. A Group Nine 2020 study found 1 in 3 consumers want more personalized information about improving their physical health, and more personalized advice on how to improve their mental health, according to the company.
Site visits to mental health content across all of PopSugar (not just its Fitness vertical) doubled throughout 2020 and peaked in January 2021. About 200,000 site visits in January 2021 were to content tagged as mental health, according to internal data cited by PopSugar. As of January 2021, content tagged as mental health made up about 10% of PopSugar’s content, according to the company, per Google Analytics.
“This response shows me we have nothing to lose by doing more of that,” Fields said.
In fact, PopSugar Fitness may stand to gain not only audiences but ad dollars. Advertisers are taking a broader view of health and wellness that goes beyond physical fitness to include “mental health, nutrition, and even relationships,” said Haley Paas, chief strategy officer at media agency Carat U.S. Claire Russell, head of media at Fitzco, echoed this trend, and said that clients of the independent, Atlanta-based agency haven’t increased their spends with fitness publishers in particular recently, but are expanding their definition of fitness.
Under Armour, as an example, renewed a sponsorship deal with PopSugar Fitness for an online workout content hub called PopSugar Workouts that debuted last week. The year-long deal includes a relaunch of PopSugar Fitness’s workout video franchise Class FitSugar with a new identity, fitness trainers and series, and two new 30-day Class FitSugar challenges hosted by fitness influencer Charlee Atkins. PopSugar declined to say how much money Under Armour is spending with the publication but described the deal as “a sizable partnership.”
“Following audience interest, we are still seeing fitness publishers and, more broadly, health and wellness content, maintaining audience attention,” said Paas.
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