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20 Amazing Examples of Content-First Startups (the Content Inc. Model)

Is there a better way to launch and grow a business? Joe Pulizzi believes the answer is yes. This presentation features 20 different examples of how entrepreneurs built remarkable businesses by first developing a loyal audience, and then launching products or services second.

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THESE 20 STARTUPS FOUND
A BETTER WAY TO LAUNCH
AND GROW A BUSINESS
BY JOE PULIZZI
#ContentInc
In 2014, I set out to tell the story of our company, Content Marketing Institute, and how we’ve become one of the fastest
growing, private companies in the world through content marketing.
As my book journey began, I wanted to find out if there were other companies who accomplished the same thing –
launching first by building an audience through content, and then adding products and services later.
And did I?
After countless interviews, we found that there are Content Inc. examples all over the world and in all sorts of industries.
Even more interesting, each one we talked to followed a similar strategy – now known as the six-step Content Inc. model
(see next page).
Long story short, the Content Inc. model is a better way to start and grow a business. Building an audience first, and
then monetizing that audience is simply the best way to go to market today. But don’t take my word for it…here are 20
unbelievable examples of Content Inc. in action. Enjoy!
Yours in Content,
Joe Pulizzi
Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Author of four content marketing books,
including Epic Content Marketing and (now) Content Inc.
A Better Way to Launch and Grow a Business?
#ContentInc
According to the US Census Bureau, the far majority of businesses fail in their first five years. This is a major concern.
99% of businesses start the same way: they create a product or service that is unique and differentiated, and then find
ways to market and distribute it. While sometimes entrepreneurs find the proverbial “needle in the haystack”, for the
most part this is a recipe for failure.
The Content Inc. model shows us that there is a better way. The six steps of the Content Inc. model include:
	 The Sweet Spot: The intersection of our personal passion and a skill/knowledge area.
	 The Content Tilt: Finding a content niche in which we can actually be the leading expert in the world.
	 Building the Base: Consistently delivering content and value to a defined audience – focusing on one content type 	
	 and one particular platform.
	 Harvesting Audience: Building an opt-in (permission-based) audience.
	 Diversification: Once the audience is built, diversifying away from solely the main platform to draw in new 			
	 audiences and build a more loyal key audience.
	 Monetization: Identifying multiple ways to make money from the audience and platform.
	
Don’t believe it? Here are 20 examples that prove the model.
contentmarketinginstitute.com/content-inc
#ContentInc
COPYBLOGGER MEDIA
Today: This software-as-a-service (SaaS) company now does over $10 million USD in revenue and
is one of the leading hosting and content software enterprises on the planet.
It may surprise you: Brian Clark, a
recovering attorney, starting by blogging
about online copywriting consistently
for 19 months. Without asking for
a dollar over that time, Brian built
an audience of 200,000 loyal email
subscribers. It wasn’t until much later
that Brian launched his key product,
the Rainmaker Platform, which now
provides the bulk of Copyblogger
Media’s revenues
#ContentInc
ANDY SCHNEIDER
Today: Andy Schneider (aka “The Chicken Whisperer”) is the world’s leading expert in backyard
poultry, boasting the leading book, leading magazine and most popular radio show about raising
chickens in your backyard.
It may surprise you: Andy turned a
hobby into a regular meet-up group after
so many of his friends wanted to raise
chickens as well. Those regular meetups
turned into a podcast of over 20,000
listeners a week. The rest is (chicken)
history.
#ContentInc
MOZ
Today: Moz is one of the leading providers of SEO software, boasting revenues of over $30 million
USD per year and thousands of customers.
It may surprise you: Rand Fishkin,
CEO of Moz (originally called SEOMoz),
started his blog on search engine
optimization insights back in 2004.
In less than five years, Moz had over
100,000 e-mail subscribers. Rand
originally monetized the audience
through consulting services, but in
2007, Moz launched a beta subscription
service for software tools and reports.
By 2009, Moz closed the consulting
business entirely and focused on selling
software to its audience.

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20 Amazing Examples of Content-First Startups (the Content Inc. Model)

  • 1. THESE 20 STARTUPS FOUND A BETTER WAY TO LAUNCH AND GROW A BUSINESS BY JOE PULIZZI
  • 2. #ContentInc In 2014, I set out to tell the story of our company, Content Marketing Institute, and how we’ve become one of the fastest growing, private companies in the world through content marketing. As my book journey began, I wanted to find out if there were other companies who accomplished the same thing – launching first by building an audience through content, and then adding products and services later. And did I? After countless interviews, we found that there are Content Inc. examples all over the world and in all sorts of industries. Even more interesting, each one we talked to followed a similar strategy – now known as the six-step Content Inc. model (see next page). Long story short, the Content Inc. model is a better way to start and grow a business. Building an audience first, and then monetizing that audience is simply the best way to go to market today. But don’t take my word for it…here are 20 unbelievable examples of Content Inc. in action. Enjoy! Yours in Content, Joe Pulizzi Founder, Content Marketing Institute Author of four content marketing books, including Epic Content Marketing and (now) Content Inc. A Better Way to Launch and Grow a Business?
  • 3. #ContentInc According to the US Census Bureau, the far majority of businesses fail in their first five years. This is a major concern. 99% of businesses start the same way: they create a product or service that is unique and differentiated, and then find ways to market and distribute it. While sometimes entrepreneurs find the proverbial “needle in the haystack”, for the most part this is a recipe for failure. The Content Inc. model shows us that there is a better way. The six steps of the Content Inc. model include:  The Sweet Spot: The intersection of our personal passion and a skill/knowledge area.  The Content Tilt: Finding a content niche in which we can actually be the leading expert in the world.  Building the Base: Consistently delivering content and value to a defined audience – focusing on one content type and one particular platform.  Harvesting Audience: Building an opt-in (permission-based) audience.  Diversification: Once the audience is built, diversifying away from solely the main platform to draw in new audiences and build a more loyal key audience.  Monetization: Identifying multiple ways to make money from the audience and platform. Don’t believe it? Here are 20 examples that prove the model. contentmarketinginstitute.com/content-inc
  • 4. #ContentInc COPYBLOGGER MEDIA Today: This software-as-a-service (SaaS) company now does over $10 million USD in revenue and is one of the leading hosting and content software enterprises on the planet. It may surprise you: Brian Clark, a recovering attorney, starting by blogging about online copywriting consistently for 19 months. Without asking for a dollar over that time, Brian built an audience of 200,000 loyal email subscribers. It wasn’t until much later that Brian launched his key product, the Rainmaker Platform, which now provides the bulk of Copyblogger Media’s revenues
  • 5. #ContentInc ANDY SCHNEIDER Today: Andy Schneider (aka “The Chicken Whisperer”) is the world’s leading expert in backyard poultry, boasting the leading book, leading magazine and most popular radio show about raising chickens in your backyard. It may surprise you: Andy turned a hobby into a regular meet-up group after so many of his friends wanted to raise chickens as well. Those regular meetups turned into a podcast of over 20,000 listeners a week. The rest is (chicken) history.
  • 6. #ContentInc MOZ Today: Moz is one of the leading providers of SEO software, boasting revenues of over $30 million USD per year and thousands of customers. It may surprise you: Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz (originally called SEOMoz), started his blog on search engine optimization insights back in 2004. In less than five years, Moz had over 100,000 e-mail subscribers. Rand originally monetized the audience through consulting services, but in 2007, Moz launched a beta subscription service for software tools and reports. By 2009, Moz closed the consulting business entirely and focused on selling software to its audience.
  • 7. #ContentInc CLAUS PILGAARD Today: Claus (better known as “Chili Klaus”) is one of the most famous online personalities in Denmark, and has parlayed that success into countless merchandising opportunities. It may surprise you: There are hundreds of blogs on chili peppers that tell stories about the “heat” of the peppers. Claus Pilgaard found a way to tell a story that was radically different from that of his content competition . . . his messaging was around the “taste” of the peppers. His video with the Danish National Orchestra eating chili peppers has been viewed by more people than the entire population of Denmark.
  • 8. #ContentInc ANN REARDON (HOW TO COOK THAT) Today: Sydney, Australia’s Ann Reardon is the “baking queen of YouTube.” Ann boasts over one million YouTube subscribers and has marketing deals with companies such as electrical appliance company, Breville and kitchenware company, World Kitchen. It may surprise you: In 2011, after giving birth to her third son, Ann was looking for something to do during her night feedings, so she launched a recipe site called How to Cook That. In three years she went from 100 subscribers to over 16 million views on YouTube. Her key? Focusing on impossible food creations.
  • 9. #ContentInc MATTHEW PATRICK Today: Matthew Patrick’s Game Theory YouTube network boasts millions of subscribers and billions of views. He’s turned a simple YouTube channel into a million-dollar enterprise, and even consults directly for YouTube itself. It may surprise you: It may surprise you: Matthew started Game Theory (a YouTube show about video games) as a resume builder. Over 4 million subscribers and Matthew doesn’t need to look for a job anymore.
  • 10. #ContentInc JOY CHO Today: Joy has designed and coproduced products for such brands as Target and Microsoft, and she has developed stationery lines, wallpaper, bedding, diaper bags, and even computer accessories. She also recently debuted a line of Band-Aids from Johnson & Johnson, which are almost certain to sell out in a similar fashion to her Target line. Joy’s revenues are diverse, from direct client engagement revenues to product sales to sponsorship to licensing deals. It may surprise you: Joy started as a simple design blog in 2005. When Pinterest launched, she grew her Pinterest following into more than 13 million followers.
  • 11. #ContentInc FOLD FACTORY Today: Trish Witkowski, CEO of Fold Factory, has become a celebrity in the direct mailing industry through her regular video show, The 60-Second Super Cool Fold of the Week, where she details amazing examples of print direct mail. Her 250-plus videos have yielded over 800,000 views and more than 3,100 subscribers. In addition, Trish has become a spokesperson for a number of brands, tours the world as a speaker, and conducts workshops. Trish’s Content Inc. initiative has been directly responsible for over $500,000 in new revenue. It may surprise you: Trish sees just a couple thousand views a week on her video show, but her audience of direct mailers is loyal and they are buyers. Simply put, she targets the right audience.
  • 12. #ContentInc MICHELLE PHAN Today: Michelle’s makeup tutorials have been seen over a billion (yes, billion) times. Now one of YouTube’s top stars, Michelle has expanded her empire to include a book (released in 2014) and a full cosmetic line called “em,” produced by L’Oréal. It may surprise you: Drawing on her face (makeup) became a release for Michelle. She believed that makeup could make everyone superheroes, where they could escape and defeat evil, even against all odds. In 2005, Michelle started a blog combining her skill in art and drawing and her passion for makeup. Today, she’s a superhero to millions.
  • 13. #ContentInc PEWDIEPIE Today: Sweden’s Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, is the most subscribed YouTube personality on the planet. Since inception, PewDiePie’s videos on indie games have garnered more than 8 billion views. According to Forbes, PewDiePie made $7 million dollars in 2014. It may surprise you: According to Wikipedia: “In 2010, during his time at university, he registered his PewDiePie YouTube account. The following year he dropped out to focus on his YouTube channel, much to the chagrin of his parents. Having been refused support from them, PewDiePie began working at a hot dog stand to fund his videos.”
  • 14. #ContentInc SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMINER (SME) Today: SME manages the largest online and in-person events in social media marketing, and boasts over 400,000 subscribers to date. It may surprise you: CEO Michael Stelzner’s focus on gathering email subscribers made all the difference. While, according to Michael, he was late to the social media party, his collaboration with industry influencers and belief that email subscribers were the key to the business model rocketed SME right to the top.
  • 15. #ContentInc EVANTUBEHD Today: What if I told you one of the most successful entrepreneurs on YouTube is just nine years old? Evan from EvanTubeHD.com consistently reviews toys on his YouTube channel, amassing over one million subscribers and a staggering one billion views in just a few years. According to ESPN, Evan generated $1.3 million in revenue last year. Wow! It may surprise you: In 2011, EvanTube started as a father-son Claymation project about Angry Birds. The initial video has garnered more than 20 million views.
  • 16. #ContentInc GLOSSIER Today: The business of Glossier is thriving, with founder Emily Weiss recently raising $8.4 million from Thrive Capital and other investors. It may surprise you: Emily Weiss began the company as a simple blog. 200,000 followers on Instagram and 60,000 Facebook fans later, Glossier has become one of the leading online retailers for skin care products.
  • 17. #ContentInc JON LOOMER Today: Jon Loomer gets over 400,000 page views per month and has 50,000+ email subscribers who asked to receive his information every week. If you ask anyone about who is the leading expert in advanced Facebook marketing, Jon’s name almost always comes up first. And the best part . . . Jon has developed a remarkably substantial, growing business—all while still coaching his sons every year in baseball. It may surprise you: In 2012, Facebook rolled out its Timeline for Pages product. Jon was hooked immediately. So Jon went to his website, JonLoomer.com, and started to consistently create content about the Facebook product. Everything was educational, helpful, and remarkably detailed. That first year, Jon blogged on the subject of Facebook religiously (creating approximately 350 blog posts in that first year alone).
  • 18. #ContentInc DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL Today: Darren Rowse built two amazingly successful Content Inc. models. The first one, Problogger, focuses on small business blogging. The second, Digital Photography School, is one of the leading sources for beginning photographers on how to get the maximum out of their picture- taking skills. It may surprise you: Darren started Digital Photography School as a camera- review blog. Darren then pivoted to education, and has now become one of the leading online training sites for enthusiast photographers.
  • 19. #ContentInc LAUREN LUKE Today: Lauren Luke is recognized as one of the leading online luminaries for makeup design, developing a multi-million dollar platform in the process. It may surprise you: In 2007, Lauren Luke began selling makeup products on eBay in an effort to subsidize her modest day job as a taxi dispatcher in Newcastle, England. To improve her eBay sales, Lauren began creating practical makeup application videos and distributed them on YouTube. Five years, and 135 million views, later, Lauren had built a bigger audience than Estée Lauder on YouTube.
  • 20. #ContentInc ENTREPRENEURONFIRE (EOF) Today: Fire Nation (as Founder John Lee Dumas likes to call it), has become a multi-million dollar podcasting empire in just the last few years. EOF is consistently rated as one of the top podcasts in the startup space. It may surprise you: Every month, John releases a podcast to his fans that details where every dollar of revenue comes from in the business. And you know what? Business is doing really well.
  • 21. #ContentInc RIVER POOLS & SPAS Today: River Pools & Spas is one of the top installers of fiberglass pools in North America, and recently started manufacturing their own line of fiberglass pools. It may surprise you: On the verge of bankruptcy, River Pools started a blog to answer all the customers’ top questions as it pertained to fiberglass pools. In a two-year period, they went from fifth in their market to selling more fiberglass pools that any company in North America, all due to the blog.
  • 22. #ContentInc OPENVIEW VENTURE PARTNERS Today: OpenView owns a content site called OpenView Labs, which has become one of the web’s leading resources for small, growing businesses regarding financial and capital issues. The site has over 35,000 subscribers. It may surprise you: Like most VC companies, OpenView used to find their new portfolio companies through word of mouth. Today, portfolio companies seek them out, since most are regular subscribers to their amazing blog and enewsletter content.
  • 23. #ContentInc CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE (CMI) Today: CMI is the leading education and training organization around the practice of content marketing. Boasting over 140,000 subscribers, CMI runs the largest content marketing event in the world (Content Marketing World) and the leading magazine (Chief Content Officer). It may surprise you: CMI started as a blog by Joe Pulizzi in April of 2007. For three years Joe blogged on a consistent basis, building a loyal audience. Joe’s blog, his multiple books, and speaking around the world led to the formal launch of CMI in 2010. The rest, as they say, is history, as CMI was named the fastest growing business media company by Inc. magazine in 2014.
  • 24. #ContentInc What’s the surest way to startup failure? Follow old, outdated rules. In Content Inc., one of today’s most sought-after content-marketing strategists reveals a new model for entrepreneurial success. Simply put, it’s about developing valuable content, building an audience around that content, and then creating a product for that audience. Notice a shift? The radical six-step business-building process revealed in this book is smart, simple, practical, and cost-effective. And best of all, it works. It’s a strategy Pulizzi used to build his own successful company, Content Marketing Institute, which has landed on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest growing private companies for three years straight. It’s also a strategy countless other entrepreneurs use to build their own multi-million dollar companies. Build an audience and you’ll be able to sell pretty much anything you want. Today’s markets are more dynamic and customers are more fickle than ever before. Why would you put all your eggs in one basket before securing a loyal customer base? Content Inc. shows you how to get customers first and develop products later. It’s the best way to build a solid, long-lasting business positioned for today’s content-driven world. Content Inc. Is The NEW Rulebook for Entrepreneurial Success
  • 25. #ContentInc The 20 companies reviewed in this eBook overview did NOT find lightning in a bottle. They followed the Content Inc. model. This kind of success is yours for the taking! Order Content Inc. today.
  • 26. JOE PULIZZI Joe Pulizzi is an entrepreneur, professional speaker, and podcaster. He is the founder of several startups, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), recognized as the fastest growing business media company by Inc. magazine in 2014. CMI produces Content Marketing World, the world’s largest content marketing event, and publishes the leading content marketing magazine, Chief Content Officer. Pulizzi’s book Epic Content Marketing was named one of Fortune magazine’s Five Must Read Business Books of the Year. Find out more about Joe’s books, speaking and business activities at JoePulizzi.com. Content Inc. is also a podcast, brought to you by the Content Marketing Institute. For more information, go to http://content-inc.com. #ContentInc