Traditional media models are falling apart in the age of internet and social media. However, new media entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the opportunities left behind. One surprisingly obvious opportunity was discovered by Kathryn Minshew. As co-founder and CEO, she has successfully built The Muse, a media company focused millennial career development.
The Muse is a career site offering professional development advice, day-in-the-life features, job postings and other guidance that is essential for modern job-seekers, whether active or passive. Started by three female founders, the site now has 50 million visitors annually. In the process of building this new media brand, Minshew has assembled early-stage strategies for the industry.
Find a Media Gap
With the fast pace of technology and design, we all know that the site or tool that was hip and useful today could become out of date next year. These fast changes are continuously creating gaps in the media market that new companies can fill. This is the story of The Muse. While job searching, Katheryn found that the existing job search websites were far too specific or would bring in thousands of results that were barely relevant. “The way people were thinking about their career was changing,” recalls Minshew. She would discuss this challenge with two female colleagues who decided together to fill this gap. The Muse was their answer: providing valuable, thoughtful and curated content for job seekers in their twenties, and in the beginning, specifically women. When they filled the gap, the audience came running.
Technical Skills Not Required, Yet.
When the three founders started their company, back then known as The Daily Muse, none of them had technical knowledge. They had enough savvy to pull together a WordPress website, but not much more. “We didn’t have a lot of [technical] skills,” discloses Minshew “We were pretty broke when we started, so we thought: ‘what can we do?'” By focusing on concept development, they were not deterred by their knowledge gap. The technical aspects were built up by both teaching themselves how to revamp a whole website when needed, and to bring in team members with those skillsets. Through the process, the founders all brought up their technical skills, where two of the three women were still recently involved in coding of The Muse.
Even if it’s Ugly, Start.
The original WordPress version of The Daily Muse was not the sleek, visually-appealing site that it is today. The first site to go live was one that Minshew refers to as “an Ugly Duckling’. Launching an unpolished product was a challenge to the team. “It’s really tempting sometimes to keep working on something and to keep it very quiet, to wait until you have something beautiful and perfect to put out to the world,” remarks Minshew. “It’s really difficult to put up a site that’s ugly.” However, there is no way to build a readership or a user base without content. If Minshew had waited until the site was perfect, there would be no Muse today.
“Test everything, but know what’s actually important.”
In the first few months, the readership at The Muse grew exponentially. They data proved their hunch that they were onto something special. As the site evolved, they tracked every bit of data. They tracked clicks, mouse movements, video views, and in doing so, saw certain activity stats were low. They tweaked the website in an effort to have these statistics bounce back. However, all these tweaks and tests took away from the broader picture. A mentor asked the team, “Does it matter if someone watches a video?”. From that moment, Minshew saw the distraction that the flood of statistics was causing. Shifting the focus to fewer key statistics, such as job applications completed and length of time spent on the site, moved The Muse in the right direction.
Building a new media company isn’t easy. Convincing investors in a new market and building a broad user base are amongst the many challenges Minshew faced. These learnings were hard-won, and as The Muse continues to grow Minshew’s success speaks for itself.
Hear more from Minshew at her Female Founders Conference talk: