Flavorpill Transcript

I’m Mark Mangan. I’m Co-founder and CEO of Flavorpill.

Flavorpill’s a global platform for arts and culture information. We’ve built from the very beginning a mission around the idea that we only write about what we like. We’re in six cities — New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Miami — and then we cover arts and culture on a more general way — reviews, CD reviews and artist interviews.

You know, we can speak about journalism from the perspective of the journalists and what’s being written, or we can speak about journalism from the perspective of the readers or we can speak about journalism from the perspective of those who are being written about. And I think that we have to consider all three. And in some ways, how do we best do that? Let’s bring in all three.

And Flavorpill, moving from a publisher of journalists’ writing on publications and becoming a platform in which journalists participate with venues and with readers, I believe that we may help alter the term journalism.

We run the publications at different frequencies. We have the weekly Flavorpill City Guides, which go in six cities, and then we have what we call The Daily Dose, which is a single shot of culture covering an artist or an album or a work of art or a trend, and that comes daily.

And then we have four what we call genre mailers, and one is called Artkrush, and it covers art, and then there’s books, Boldtype. And then there’s a music, with more towards the electronic music that’s Earplug and then Activate, which is world news. And the last publication that we have is Flavorwire, which is a daily updated blog, which is just doubling its page use month over month. And the whole idea is to create a relationship with your readers in the ways that they want to receive the information.

Flavorpill is all about giving you a limited number of good art and culture choices. I remember there was this great book called Paradox of Choice by [Barry Shortz] in which he talked about a certain number of jellies being put out on a table, and when there were three out there in the supermarket to try, some were tried, but many, many more were put out and many, many more were tried, but then in the end, more were bought when there were fewer number. This concept of a limited number of things to choose from, it helps people.

Now, aggregators say, hey, content is content is content. Bring it all in, mash it all up, and let’s see what happens.

So Flavorpill is a new model for arts journalism in the sense that we want to bring different voices together and say, “Yes, we’re the publisher, we’re the curator, but you also have things to say and we want to put you in.”

When we started Flavorpill as its own thing, it was just an e-mail to a few hundred people that had no revenue stream yet built to it, and it became like a [stone] soup, that thing where someone brings a pot of water and someone brings a carrot, someone brings an onion, and the next thing you know, we had soup. People would just say, “Hey, you’re covering DJ events really well. What about jazz? I go to five events a week. Can I cover that?” “Sure, come on board.”

What we created in the beginning grew out of no marketing studies, really just grew out of a few people and what they liked themselves, and other people dug it.

You know, it just comes down to finding people who know what they’re talking about. The business model for Flavorpill has always been about 10,000 subscribers to get to a place where we’re profitable in terms of generating revenue off of the weekly e-mails and the associated site impressions.

We’re at two million readers now. We have 15 full-time people working in New York for Flavorpill, and we have about 20 freelancers that work very regularly on the different publications, and then we have a whole host of about 100 more freelancers that work to varying degrees writing for the publications or for the blog. Everyone who writes for Flavorpill gets paid.

Now, we’ve done sort of the most number of ad impressions, which means the most page views and growth month over the month last three months. What have I done differently the last three months? Well, one — we’re always doing some different things, but there’s one very simple thing that I’ve done. I’ve built in incentives for writers based on page views, and it works. And you know what? I do believe our content is better, in fact.

And the Flavorpill 50 is a new concept that that we’ve rolled out this year. I take my 50 best venues in every one of our markets. These are the venues that we talk about all the time that we already think are great, and we’ve given them the opportunity to enter all their events directly into the system. What we’ve tried to create here with the Flavorpill 50 is a platform, a constellation, a place in the ecosystem.

The Flavorpill 50 is also a business. We charge a little bit of money to the 50. I mean there’s bandwidth charges, and there’s a model to build up the software and to support it.

Journalism, particularly in the area of the arts, has taken this idea of objective journalism, and to be objective, one must not be fettered by business, which is itself somewhat of a dirty thing, and I disagree.

For journalism to not be operating according to the laws of economics and good business means that it’s not running naturally. The key is to just be transparent. There are different writers, and we try to let you know who’s writing.

So on the Guggenheim page for its art event, it has up its writing, and it says, “Guggenheim says,” and then we have a part that says, “Flavorpill says,” and we write it there with the Flavorpill logo. It doesn’t take too much for everyone to understand this is Guggenheim. They make money by you coming to the event. This is Flavorpill. We make money from the advertising over here.

One of the interesting ways we found out — that we found to not be influenced by our partners, the Flavorpill 50, is that already we don’t write about what we don’t like, and we don’t write about every event that gets entered in. So if one of the venues that we work with puts up an event that we think is, frankly, garbage, we let it go. We say we stand by this venue. They do a great job. 70, 80, 90% of the things they put up there are great. You’ve got limited time and energy and effort, and if you want to go read real critical, critical reviews of people and how their works sucks, Flavorpill’s not the place for you. If you want to come to where editors who are sifting through and only pulling out what they really like, then that’s what we offer and that’s what you can find. So we’re just a bit different in that way, and that’s how we avoid the problem of conflict.

Another thing is every six months, we look again at the Flavorpill 50, and if they’re trying to game the system or putting in bad things, we let them go, and if they ever want to let us go, they can let us go.

We do events in the cities that we’re in. A quintessential Flavorpill event would be something that mixes up multiple genres.

It started when my co-founder went into the Guggenheim and said, “Hey, this party you’re doing on Friday night’s fantastic, and it’s obviously in the rotunda, but why don’t we come in and do it and really blow this thing up?”

We brought in a few DJs and artists who were really of the downtown aesthetic and European aesthetic, and they brought their crowds uptown. They filled that place out. They ran the lines all the way around the city block. The parties that we did at the Guggenheim and at the museum now [transferring to the Getty], we’re going to reinvent again because they really stand for what Flavorpill stands for, which is bringing together different disciplines and bringing together different groups of people to create something new.

The aspects of social networking, as we see it today, will be integrated into most sites that have any kind of a community. It’s going to be what pistons are to a combustion engine. I mean everyone’s going to be — now you ask like, “Oh, wow, does that car have a muffler?” Of course, it does.

In the beginning, Web pages were served up as these magazines with text and images, but in the very beginning, Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founders of the whole paradigm, saw it as a — a Web page as a collaborative event, so we’re just now coming into that social networking reality.

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