Hinting at its ambitions to enter the original publishing realm, digital agency Zealot Networks of Venice has purchased Hutch Media, a small network of websites, for an undisclosed amount of cash and equity.
Since its founding last August, Zealot has raised $30 million in venture capital it has deployed to buy a number of online marketing and talent agencies. With Hutch in the fold, Zealot’s desire to build new audiences, likely to sell advertisements against, is beginning to appear.
Hutch is a small Los Angeles company that has five employees and runs RumorFix, a celebrity rumor website; HGDIY, a home improvement website; and BestMomsTV, a parenting site. Conn Fishburn, Zealot Networks’ chief strategy officer, said the purchase underscores Zealot’s interest in building targeted content for niche audiences.
“When we look at publishing, relevancy is a massive opportunity to tap into people’s passions,” said Fishburn. “It’s a bigger play around creating relevancy and engagement and telling stories across specific verticals.”
Interest in niche content, seen as a way to build smaller audiences with intense interests as opposed to large, unfocused audiences, is growing.
“When you start to look at distribution of communities and clusters of people, the long tail is where you see the social engagement,” said Fishburn. Niche audiences are generally found on the “long tail” of the audience distribution graph.
“The primary driver of what we are doing isn’t demographic based, but psychographic based. It’s a mindset,” he said.
Zealot’s approach to making money from online content is the reverse of most modern media operations. Rather than first publishing content, building an audience around that content and then selling that audience to advertisers, Zealot has used investor cash to purchase relationships with advertisers first, in order to apparently reverse engineer audiences and content for particular marketing needs.
Hutch, said Fishburn, is just the beginning.
“We bought Hutch because of the skill set that Hutch has, their ability to understand audiences and their ability to scale up with extra resources,” he said. “It’s really the team that will be integrated into a larger publishing play.”