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Traffic Soared but Funding Disappeared (Plus Other Content Marketing Surprises of the Week)

This week, a brand-funded magazine faces a hairy situation. Everyone’s least-favorite email error creates an accidental community. And marketers fear they’ve maxed out their audience’s digital attention spans.

Dollar Shave Club slashes relationship with MEL magazine

A month ago, the men’s lifestyle and culture magazine MEL celebrated the ninth anniversary of Dollar Shave Club, the brand that founded and funded the publication.

But last week, MEL suspended publishing, announcing Dollar Shave Club’s support would end in sixty days. Publication leaders are seeking new owners.

Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club hasn’t commented on its decision. But MEL shared a series of tweets from co-founder and editor-in-chief Josh Schollmeyer:

… This has always been a part of the plan for our brand-backed partnership, and we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve built together.

And he continued:

We … can now finally create all of the razor content we’ve been dying to explore.

Josh’s tweets are a sharp contrast to a conversation he had last May published in Canada Media News in which he praised the brand-backed media model:

Of course, right now, I’m thankful that we have the kind of funding model that lets us focus on continuing to pile up traffic wins — and build a completely organic, highly compelling audience — as well as high-quality work that keeps letting us stand out …

How has being a brand-backed media business impacted your business during this time? 

That’s honestly been the beauty of our model. It’s insulated us from the pressures that many other traditional media companies are experiencing — not just now, but over the last few years — and given us the room and time to really think innovatively about what our model could be in the future and how it can be sustainable enough to even get through a global pandemic.

WHY IT MATTERS: We don’t know why Dollar Shave Club opted out of MEL, which debuted in 2015 on the Medium platform before moving to a dedicated site in 2018. But we do know traffic to the MEL site increased significantly – jumping 30% (to 4 million unique visitors as reported by Adweek in October 2020) during the pandemic. MEL’s fate serves as a reminder that traffic alone does not spell success (or continued financial support). That’s one more reason to ensure your content marketing goals align with the overall business goals.

.@WeAreMel saw traffic gains during the pandemic. But @DollarShaveClub won’t fund it any longer. What’s the takeaway for #ContentMarketing and brand-funded publishing? Via @CMIContent #WeeklyWrap Share on X

Reply-all email delivers the unexpected

The nightmare was real.

The CEO of ABC Carpet & Home emailed customers to notify them of a delivery delay for the Cobble Hill Hannah sofa they ordered. But instead of hiding recipients in the bcc field, the CEO listed all 205 email addresses in the cc line.

Exposing more than 200 customers’ emails is unsettling enough. At first, the customers’ responses followed a predictable path, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal (registration may be required). People hit reply-all to complain about the error. People hit reply-all to complain about others using reply-all. People hit replay-all to ask to be removed from the reply-all chain.

But that’s not what landed the story in The Wall Street Journal. What happened next did.

“The phenomenon [of accidental CC] is a frustrating spectacle of technological absurdity. But 13 months into the pandemic, this particular chain ended up bonding strangers and breaking the monotony of the 54th consecutive Tuesday night when no one had anything better to do.”

Eventually, The WSJ explains, someone pointed out that a real person at ABC Carpet & Home had simply made a mistake and asked the group to be more understanding. The tone of the conversation shifted.

A woman named Zoe emailed that she was single and looking for a Jewish man. And the cc’d email recipients responded as a community: “People started offering to set up Zoe on dates. One member of the email chain wondered if the group could manage to get Zoe engaged before their couches arrived.”

The conversation continued. One member of the email chain secured complimentary premium subscriptions to dating app Hinge for six people on the email chain.

Another conversation revolved around how the customers were using their fabric swatches as coasters – complete with shared pictures of their favorite drink on the fabric.

WHY IT MATTERS: Content marketers shouldn’t encourage customer service teams to expose hundreds of customer emails in the cc line. But this story illustrates how communities form unintentionally around a brand. The Wall Street Journal saw the value in telling the story of the unintentional community. This marvelous headline caught CMI editor Ann Gynn’s attention – They Just Wanted Their Couches. An Accidental Reply-All Email Storm Followed  – and she couldn’t help but read it.

ABC Carpet & Home should take advantage of the storytelling opportunities, too. The company’s audience would love to read follow-up stories (and so would we): Does Zoe find love? Will the email chain get additional fabric swatches to complete their coaster set? When will the couches finally get delivered? That alone would be a great story – a way to explain production delays, shipping considerations, and so on – to keep the audience engaged. The possibilities are endless.

.@abchome’s #EmailMarketing nightmare turned surprisingly sweet – and landed it in @WSJ. What’s the #ContentMarketing lesson? (Hint: It’s not about email etiquette.) via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #WeeklyWrap Share on X

Is digital fatigue real?

B2B revenue leaders think their audiences suffer from digital exhaustion.

Eighty-one percent of the 750 B2B marketing, sales, and success decision-makers surveyed by Sendoso in February believe their audiences are experiencing digital fatigue, Media News reports. (You can read the executive summary of Sendoso’s State of Sending 2021 report here.)

The decision-makers surveyed said their use of virtual events grew by 1,000% and their use of marketing emails grew by 62% since March 2020. No wonder they think their audience is exhausted.

WHY IT MATTERS: The survey was designed in part to emphasize the growing shift to human-to-human interaction. Do the findings mean marketers should avoid sending email and running virtual events? Knowing how frequently a tactic is being used can be helpful for planning. But knowing how effective that tactic is for your brand is what really matters. Focus on results, not frequency.

Are #B2B audiences sick of #email and virtual events? Research from @sendosohq shows marketers think so. What should that mean for your 2021 plans? Via @CMIContent #WeeklyWrap Share on X
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute