To diversify revenue away from media models reliant on advertising, female-focused U.K. publisher The Stylist Group has opened a fitness studio in London, called Stylist Strong, to focus on strength training programs and events, which comes alongside a content platform on the practical and psychological elements to strength training.
According to the company, last year Stylist recognized the rise of boutique gyms, women’s strength training and fitness brands like Soul Cycle and Barry’s Bootcamp becoming lifestyle brands on social media.
“At its heart, it’s a workout program for busy urban women,” said Ella Dolphin, CEO of The Stylist Group. “We’re starting with a studio as opposed to content; the studio becomes the content: We’re doing it in reverse.”
The gym will run five 45-minute classes each day of around 20 people, before work, at lunch and after work, focused on strength training. Classes cost £17 ($22.23). The idea is that people will use this as one of their three workout classes a week, said Dolphin. Once a week, it will run talks with key speakers in the fitness arena covering the psychological and practical elements of strength training, like learning how to push through barriers in the gym and at work. There’s also a six-month content plan based on topics covered during the various talks, but it will expand its remit and output. For now, Stylist Strong content is integrated into the rest of Stylist rather than sitting on its own channel.
The Stylist Group is still predominantly an ad-funded business. Content marketing accounts for over 50% of the revenues and grew 20% compared to last year, while display revenues aren’t growing. Stylist Live, its annual three-day event featuring panels and interviews, generates £2.5 million ($3.27 million) in annual revenue through a combination of ticket sales and advertising sponsorship. In 12 months, the company expects to have 20% of revenues from non-traditional media businesses, like Stylist Live and Stylist Strong. Currently, it’s roughly 15%, said Dolphin.
Stylist Strong sits in between Stylist’s experiential and media businesses. It will open up new routes for advertisers to work with the publisher. The gym will draw on the events and marketing capabilities it already has in-house. It has also hired two full-time fitness experts to design the programs. Stylist Group now has 130 employees.
“Diversifying is done because it’s an opportunity as opposed to a desperate need,” Dolphin said. “Generating more consumer revenue — tickets for events and buying products — is absolutely important and a new development for the company.” There’s an opportunity for Stylist Strong to explore licensing and merchandise opportunities down the line. “We have the media business in the middle, and it’s how we create franchises and verticals from that.”
The company has re-aligned itself in the last six months, shuttering its male-focused title due to difficulties in the ad climate. Now, the focus is on creating products and experiences for women. Stylist is eyeing growth in the U.S. too, launching a U.S. version of its site in the last month. Two U.S. editors are creating content, supplemented by relevant U.K. content after it found it had a small cohort of 600,000 U.S. readers.
As well as a new business model, Stylist Strong opens up a new content area for the publisher to cover.
“We never talk about weight loss on Stylist. It was always very hard for us to find the angle. This felt much more reflective of who we are,” said Dolphin. “There’s a lot more realistic body types. The imagery is strong, not skinny.”
Image: courtesy of The Stylist Group.