ENTERTAINMENT NEWS – 8-12-16
Refinery29 raises $45M more led by Ted Turner at a $500M valuation – by Ingrid Lunden
Another traditional media company has invested in an online property to help expand its digital footprint and capture the next generation of consumers. Refinery29 — the online publisher that, in its own words, is aimed at “a modern woman’s destination for how to live a stylish, well-rounded life” — has raised $45 million in funding led by Turner, the Time Warner broadcasting giant that owns TV channels like CNN and the Cartoon Network, but also online sites like Bleacher Report.
Also participating: another oldie from the media landscape, Scripps, via Scripps Networks Interactive, which co-led the company’s last round with WPP, a Series D of $50 million at a $290 million valuation.
A spokesperson for Refinery29 tells me that the companies are not commenting on the current valuation, but a report last month in Recode about the startup raising (which accurately identified Turner as the lead investor) noted that it was looking for about $50 million at a $500 million valuation. (And since publishing this earlier we have had some additional confirmation of the valuation.)
This latest funding round is a strategic investment that will help both sides.
The two companies say they will “work together on content creation and development tied to key programming across the Turner networks that will appeal to Refinery29’s core audience of millennial women. They will also work on ad sales together — a key component, considering the shift that media buyers have made to cross-platform campaigns that can target consumers wherever they happen to be looking (with many of those gazes now happening on smartphone screens).
Refinery29 can use the investment to reach more consumers that are already Turner viewers, and Turner can use it to tap into the base of users who may look at Refinery29 content, but have more or less stopped watching the kind of linear TV that Turner churns out.
“In order to achieve success in today’s quickly evolving digital environment, we believe in partnering with brands that have distinct voices and loyal, engaged audiences,” said David Levy, president of Turner, in a statement.
“Refinery29 certainly fits the bill, bringing with it a highly coveted following of millennial-minded women, strong capabilities in digital products, event marketing and content creation, as well as an attractive advertiser base. We’re excited to enter into this agreement and look forward to working with the talented and creative team at Refinery29 to develop and expand opportunities around our commercial content partnership and other initiatives that will engage audiences and appeal to advertisers.”
Refinery29 has been around for more than a decade now, launching first in 2004 as a local shopping guide before expanding out into more lifestyle publishing and adjacent branded content as a route to monetizing. While it’s continuing to grow, a lot of that growth is happening away from its actual website.
Today the site says that it has over 27 million monthly unique visitors; but that is not much of an increase on April 2015, when it had 25 million monthly uniques.
However, the company is growing with the times, so to speak, spending more effort (and now investment) on building its brand on other platforms.
Refinery29 itself likes to point out that its reach has grown by 226% since April 2015, now reaching over 225 million users “across platforms.” It doesn’t specify which but I’m guessing that they include social platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter. It’s been working on a number of original content initiatives as part of this, such as R29 Originals for video, and it has launched regional sites in various international markets such as Germany.
“It has been an incredible year of growth for Refinery29, expanding our mission to put women at the center of every conversation and lead a new powerful representation of women in media and advertising,” said cofounders and co-CEO’s Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano, in a statement. “We are thrilled to bring Turner on board as a key strategic partner: Turner’s portfolio consists of many of the world’s strongest media properties and is a true leader in global content creation. We are excited to collaborate with the Turner team to expand Refinery29 into new territories, expand and develop our leading voice in video content for women, as well as integrate into some of Turner’s most exciting franchises and platforms.”
To date, Refinery29 has raised $125.4 million, with other investors including Stripes Group, Floodgate, Lead Edge Capital, First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures and Hearst Corporation.
For Turner, meanwhile, this is not its first online investment by some measure, among those that have been disclosed: the company’s strategic stake in Mashable, and other in the online video company Above Average. Other large media companies that have dived into digital media include Comcast/NBC Universal, which invests in Vox Media; and Disney, A&E and 21st Century Fox, which invest in Vice Media.
As part of this round in Refinery29, Christina Miller, president and general manager of Turner’s Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, will take a seat on Refinery29’s board of directors.
Josh Gilbert back on Billboard Christian Soft AC Charts!
East Tennessee based worship leader Josh Gilbert returns to Billboard Christian Soft AC charts with his new radio release, Holy Spirit Come! This truly inspirational song comes at a time for our country and this song comforts the fears many have. With lyrics like, “Holy Spirit Come, bring life to the dead, work your miracles in our life by your hands” the song reminds listeners that we serve a mighty miracle working God!
The most increased spins on Billboard Christian Soft AC charts last week!
We are praying that Josh’s new song will hit the Top 20 on Christian soft AC charts but with so many good songs out right now it will only happen through prayer. Last week Holy Spirit Come had a huge increase in radio spins and listeners continue to request to hear the tune more often. Please join us in believing that this song will reach as many listeners as possible, any thing is possible with God!
Billboard Christian Soft AC Charts!
Holy Spirit Come moves up on Billboard Christian Soft AC Charts!!
We are excited about the future of Soncured Records and our artists, stay tuned for more new music from Calling Glory, Tanner Clark and new artist Asher. Our hope is to have Josh back in the studio early 2017 as we continue to focus on his strong song writing ability’s. Josh is an anointed worship leader and God continues to give him new songs that we are certain others will love singing to our Lord. Soncured has new radio releases scheduled for later this year and the first part of 2017! As always, To God Be The Glory!
Jones Beene – Soncured Records – www.soncured.com
Study with the Stars
Learn From the Greats Without Ever Leaving Home
Judy Wesolowski Clark, 50, of Buffalo, New York, had a dream. The OB-GYN semiretired in 2010 but continued to work part-time as she pursued her passion: acting. Enter Dustin Hoffman. Yes, that Dustin Hoffman of The Graduate/Midnight Cowboy/Rain Man/Tootsie fame.
Clark signed up for an online MasterClass called simply “Dustin Hoffman Teaches Acting.” And in 24 lessons, Hoffman did just that, teaching her how to create memorable characters, rehearse a script and develop her comic instinct.
“He goes through different techniques and his own personal experiences, and you can see where he struggled, which was very helpful,” Clark says, adding that the unlimited access to the course means she can go back and review Hoffman’s lessons whenever she needs. The $90 course included feedback sessions with classmates and workbooks and other lesson materials.
Following her course completion earlier this year, she nabbed four out of five roles in short films she auditioned for locally plus a lead role in a community production of the musical Annie. Up next: She’s enrolled in actor Kevin Spacey’s MasterClass.
For decades, we’ve been taking cues from celebrities on fashion, food and fitness—remember Jane Fonda’s perky VHS exercise tapes from the 1980s? So it’s no wonder that there’s a growing market today for getting even more up close and personal with the very people who are at the top of their fields. That got Aaron Rasmussen, 32, and David Rogier, 33, the masterminds behind MasterClass, thinking.
“We heard all sorts of stories that were really troubling—people spending thousands of dollars to take an acting course at some community college, not necessarily taught by anyone who has ever been on-screen,” says Rasmussen. “We thought, what would be the best possible educational experience that we could make? It would be that you learn directly from the best people in the world.”
Dustin Hoffman was the first “teacher” they signed on. The class roster now includes Kevin Spacey on acting; legendary director Werner Herzog on filmmaking; author James Patterson on writing; tennis champ Serena Williams, who offers tips on delivering blistering serves, aggressive double-handed backstrokes and other match-winning court moves; Voice coach Christina Aguilera, who gives singing lessons, and singer, songwriter, dancer and actor Usher on the art of live performance. Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and photographer Annie Leibovitz have also joined the faculty.
The cost of the instruction, available at masterclass.com, is relatively low—under $100—making classes accessible to nearly everyone. “Our mission was to democratize access to genius,” Rogier says. “So it was really important to us to choose a price that was affordable.”
Enrollment gives students access to video tutorials, peer reviews, collaborative assignments and even offers an online portal where they can submit questions to the instructors during “office hours.”
And MasterClass isn’t the only online game in cybertown. There are others, including the nonprofit +Acumen (plusacumen.org), a worldwide leadership initiative that was launched in 2012 and offers a variety of online courses on how to “change the world.” Its course list includes a five-session “Creativity Workshop” led by Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat Pray Love, and public-speaking lessons from Chris Anderson, the leader of TED.
An aspiring actor in Berkeley, California, Matt Donovan, 35, is the head of product and design for an online home-services company. “I have a job I love, an incredible wife and three lovely, energetic daughters,” he says. “But I still have this thing inside me.” After dropping $400 for five weeks of a theater class and having to squeeze it around his work schedule, he enrolled in Hoffman’s course. “An acting class with Dustin Hoffman? Ninety dollars? Lifetime access? Are you kidding me?” He calls the class “soul-stirring” and “a godsend.”
Alma Allen, 40, a native of the Philippines, began performing in singing competitions when she was 8 years old. But later, at her mother’s insistence, she put music on the back burner and trained as a dental hygienist. Eventually moving to Texas with her husband, she gave up dentistry and turned to teaching vocal lessons, enrolling in Aguilera’s class to resharpen her own skills.
“Christina’s style is almost the same as mine, because we have our experiences as performers since the time we were very little,” she says. “And we don’t need to use fancy terms about music to be able to teach.”
And Allen—who recently auditioned for TV’s The Voice and is waiting to hear back if she made the cut—has high hopes to be in the spotlight like Aguilera, her idol.
Even those already at the top of their game use at-home online classes to do better. Virginia-based author and journalist Kathleen McCleary, 56, enrolled in Patterson’s workshop to help overcome a spell of writer’s block.
“I took his class in the middle of working on my fourth novel, because I was stuck,” she says. “It was like having someone who knows the way well give you a quick set of easy directions to a destination you really couldn’t figure out how to get to.”
Reaching the Masses
But is online education for everyone? If you’re not earning a degree at the end of the course and not required to physically attend a class, are you really going to be motivated to complete it at home? Rogier and Rasmussen, who worked closely with educational specialists and curriculum consultants before launching, think so.
“We tried to re-create some of the benefits of being in person in a classroom, but instead of raising your hand and having 40 people benefit from it, you raise your hand and tens and tens of thousands of people benefit from it,” Rasmussen says.
James Patterson agrees about the reach of online education. “I actually ended up teaching more people than Harvard’s entire student body.”
As interest grows, companies are growing their offerings. MasterClass currently focuses solely on the arts and sports but has plans to expand.
“I think [online education] strikes a chord with a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons,” Rasmussen says. “One is somebody who is a practitioner of the craft.” Hoffman, for example, was eager to share his lessons for posterity.
“Then there are those who have always been aspirational,” Rasmussen says. “We had an 87-year-old woman email us with the question, ‘When is it too late to start writing your novel?’ We wrote back, ‘Never!’ And she said, ‘Great, I’m signing up for James Patterson’s course.’”