By Teresa Novellino
Purch, which just announced an unusually large round of funding for its digital content site, will not be using it to behave like other media companies.
Instead the Ogden, Utah, and New York City-based company is planning to use the $135 million Series C round announced Tuesday for further growth in what it sees as a unique mix of content and e-commerce, with technology product reviews on its network of sites including Mobile Nation, Top Ten Reviews, Tom’s Guide and Live Science, inspiring purchases directly from those same sites.
“We see ourselves as a new style of publisher in many respects,” Purch chief executive officer Greg Mason told me in a phone interview Tuesday. “When we talk about our No. 1 position in the tech vertical, we don’t necessarily see ourselves as the same as [tech product review and news site] CNET, but more like a Yelp or a TripAdvisor especially in respect to to how we marry content, commerce and community.”
With Mason (an alum of CNET, WebMd and ZiffDavis) at the helm, the company has steered itself from being more of a traditional product review site to one that has a very direct link to e-commerce.
It generates about 55 percent of its $100-million-plus revenue it expects this year from e-commerce (including its own sites), lead generation and performance marketing, and 45 percent on advertising.
While its traditional advertising revenues have gone up 70 percent year to date in 2015, Mason says, he prefers to keep its revenue streams diverse and not be “reliant on direct sold advertising, because of the inefficiency of the marketplace and hyper-competitive nature of the market.”
Purch’s series C round, led by Canadian portfolio group Canso Investment Counsel, which has extensive digital and media holdings, brings Purch’s total funding to $175.5 million.
It comes at a time when traditional publishers are increasingly looking to e-commerce to supplement advertising revenues as readers continue to migrate to print. For example, magazine publisher Condé Nast (which like our parent company American City Business Journals is owned by Advance Publications) plans to roll out shopping platforms across several of its magazines and is beginning that effort this fall by transforming its fashion site Style.Com from an editorial site into an e-commerce marketplace.
Purch is looking to expand coverage on its owned and operated sites to 1,400 product categories, and will look at areas adjacent to its current PC or mobile tech coverage, including possibly health tech or medical tech, as well as merchandise related to the Internet of Things, Mason says.
“We really try to identify consumer purchase categories that people want or need to do a lot of research on,” he says.
The company, which operates e-commerce sites like Herman Street, is renaming those sites “Purch Marketplace.” Mason says its editorial reviews maintain independence from the e-commerce side of the business and that it is not looking to compete with the likes of Amazon as a retailer. Instead, it focuses on selling virtual inventory — items like software — that doesn’t require physical warehouses.
The company will use the funding in part for acquisitions and while Mason wasn’t naming company names, he said that possibilities include platforms that could be a technology solution to help systematize and scale its underlying business, or perhaps an e-commerce platform that could leverage its organic audience.
Purch employs 380 people: most are in Ogden, but there are about 100 at its co-headquarters in New York’s Flatiron District. Primarily because of acquisitions over the years, the remaining staff is spread across offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Paris, and Grenoble, France.