Announcing our new ad platform for native-sold ads: DARTH VENDOR

By on Oct 17th

darth-vendor

Since 2007, I've used a tool called OIO Publisher to sell all the native ad placement on all the Offbeat Empire sites. "Native ads" are the ads that we sell directly to businesses, as opposed to third-party ad platforms like Google AdSense, where we're just delivering ads that Google has sold. Native ads include stuff like vendor listings, sponsored posts, social media campaigns, and the non-gross banner ads in the sidebars.

OIO Publisher has done its job decently, but the code behind the tool has always been a bit finicky, and for the last five years I've basically been waiting for it to break. Every time we update WordPress, my developer and I would hold our breath waiting to see if OIO will still work. Keep in mind, this is the tool that processes at least half the Offbeat Empire's revenue! It breaking would be horrifying.

This fall I decided to just bite the bullet and invest the money in having a developer code a custom ad platform tool catered to the Offbeat Empire's needs. Conveniently, my lead developer Kellbot happens to be married to a developer (who happens to be one of the cofounders of Etsy)… so I hired Chris to code the new tool from scratch.

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An interview about the evolution of Offbeat Bride's brand

By on Oct 8th

inclusivity kindness

I got an interview request recently from a woman named Claire Hawkes. She’s the Social Media Manager / Keeper of the Shire at WeddingMix, but she’s also majoring in Advertising/Public Relations at Loyola University in Chicago. She asked if she could interview me for her senior thesis, and I said sure. With her permission, I thought I’d share the interview here.


After reading through The Business of Offbeat Bride white paper, I was especially excited to get your thoughts on brand strategy and catering to your readership.

Cool! That white paper was written in January of 2008, so while it accurately represents my early strategy, a lot has changed since then — both in terms of my business, and in terms of online content as an industry.

I read that you originally envisioned Offbeat Bride would attract non-traditional brides searching the web (in addition to your book readers). After so much audience growth, how do you define and segment your current target reader(s)?

My strategies have definitely shifted over the years. My initial target readership was super weird people planning super weird weddings. I assumed that if they were using the web to plan, they’d be pretty nerdy, like me.

It became clear within a year that the majority of my readership was not actually all that weird, nor were they especially tech savvy. The majority were brides planning what initially appeared to be relatively traditional weddings, looking for creative and unique ideas to make the weddings feel personal. Despite the fact that many of these folks didn’t define themselves as especially non-traditional, they were attracted to the tolerance, supportiveness, positivity, and thoughtfulness of Offbeat Bride’s brand values.

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Meet the Offbeat Empire's new Vendor Relations Manager, Tiffany!

By on Oct 1st

meet tiffany

Ooh, it's always so exciting when I get to introduce a new Offbeat Empire staffer.

For the past year and a half, my editor Catherine Clark (who I call Superman) has been doing sales for the Empire, while also still producing posts for Offbeat Bride. Catherine is shifting her focus back to editorial and project management work, and so I'm bringing on a new Vendor Relations Manager… meet Tiffany! That's her over up there with the red hair.

Some of you may remember Tiffany from her fabulous Offbeat Home & Life post about her hairless cat smelling like potatoes, but here's more about her:

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In-image ads on Offbeat Home & Life

By on Sep 29th

gumgum

Normally the business side of running the Offbeat Empire blogs lives, well, here on the Offbeat Empire's behind-the-scenes blog. But today on Offbeat Home & Life, Megan did a post about her and my joint decision to add in-image ads to the site. It felt important to do over there, since it's something we anticipated the reader community would have LOTS of opinions about.

First, I want to give Megan major snaps for the way she walks the line on that post — she framed it as good cop/bad cop, and at first I was like, "Omg, you're being really negative about this!" and then I got to this part:

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Why we're retiring the term "Offbeat Lite"

By on Sep 24th
Original photo by takomabibelot, used by Creative Commons license.

Original photo by takomabibelot, used by Creative Commons license.

Over the years, much digital ink has been spilled on the phrase "Offbeat Lite," the term I jokingly started using back in 2007:

Over the years, there's also been a significant amount of reader friction over the term, which I've always been fine with… but interestingly, over the last year, my editors and I have just organically stopped using it. Not because some readers didn't like it (because, trust: there's ALWAYS something our beloved readers don't like), but because it stopped being useful.

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All about Offbeat Bride & Lovesick's WeddingMBA presentation + our new joint venture, OFFBEAT INDUSTRY

By on Sep 22nd

wedding mba offbeat bride lovesick by freweddings

Does anyone remember the last time I went to Las Vegas? I was invited to do a presentation at the Wedding MBA convention, and got a free exhibitor booth as well. I learned a lot from the experience, including:

  • I need to get out more often
  • Wow, I suck at the A/V component of presentations
  • I did not get a return on investment from the booth

All three of these lessons were applied in the two years since, and this year when the Wedding MBA folks approached me about doing a talk, I was ready:

  • Since last attending Wedding MBA, I've gotten out a lot, presenting at six wedding expos across the US with Tom & Jon, the Lovesick Expo dudes
  • Rather than do the presentation myself, I'd team up with the dudes — since they do videography, putting together an A/V rich presentation is WAY easier for them
  • I'll skip the booth and hang out with friends by a pool instead

So the three of us were booked to do a presentation titled "Off The Beaten Aisle: Give Every Wedding Some Edge." The timing worked out well, because we had a new very-much related business venture to announce…

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Slacking with the Offbeat Empire: how Slack turned my inbox into the happiest ghost town

By on Sep 10th
A peek at our stats on Slack. As you can see, the Empire really does sleep on Saturdays.

A peek at our stats on Slack. As you can see, the Empire really does sleep on Saturdays.

I've written before about how the Offbeat Empire leans on Flickr, and now I find my business suddenly equally dependent on Slack, a tool created by Stewart Butterfield, one of Flickr's cofounders. In barely a month, it's completely transformed the way my business communicates. I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but I'm being stone cold serious, here: Slack has completely changed the way my staff communicates and gets work done.

I heard about Slack last summer when it launched, because I follow Stewart on Twitter… but I wasn't immediately clear on how it would be of use to me.

"Yeah, yeah," I thought to myself. "A productivity tool that I sink days into learning how to use, thereby killing all productivity benefit. Also, my bitches [yes, it's a term of endearment] hate procedural changes, and I still regret that brief affair we had with Basecamp a few years ago, and you can pry gmail and IM out our cold dead hands…"

So I basically ignored it. Even after I chatted with Stewart last year at XOXO Fest, I was still like "Oh cool that he's got a new product but whatever." (STEWART OMG THE REGRETS, THE REGRETS.) I am ashamed to admit that it took this profile from Wired to get me interested: The Most Fascinating Profile You'll Ever Read About a Guy and His Boring Startup. The title isn't click bait — it's accurate.

Ok, so I started to get it: Slack is a productivity tool for remote workers, founded by a guy I deeply admire whose birthname is Dharma. (Seriously, read the Wired piece.) Ok, so Slack is sorta like a chat room, but jacked up on steroids, coming up on of three hits of ecstasy, and wearing one of those hippie utility belts packed with swiss army knives, your favorite kind of gum, chapstick, a wrench, and two-sided tape. I started being like, "Wait, why am I not using this yet?"

If Slack were a festival utility belt

Image courtesy of Etsy seller Mohana

Then I stumbled across this video:

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Presentation at WMBA in Las Vegas on September 18 (plus a big announcement!)

By on Sep 4th
Signing the papers with Jon & Tom from Lovesick

Photo of Tom, myself, and Jon by Jenny GG Photography

On September 18th 2014, I'll be sharing the stage with the Tom and Jon (the two dudes from Lovesick Inc) at the Wedding Merchants Business Association conference in Las Vegas. We will not be doing what we are doing in the photo above. Instead, we're going to be talking to a few thousand wedding professionals (!?!) about how to be a little less cheesy, a bit more creative, and a lot more themselves.

We are all super stoked to have this platform to talk about what we've learned from our favorite vendors around the country, as well as our tips for how vendors can build their businesses. Tom and Jon and I all feel like the more we can connect the world to our unique network of vendor friends, the more we all redefine the tired ways of the old wedding guard. It's exciting!

ALSO! At the end of our presentation, we'll be debuting a new joint venture that's set to launch early next year.

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