Refinery29 is continuing to evolve beyond its fashion roots and is investing heavily in video and global expansion.
The lifestyle Web site just raised $50 million from Scripps Networks Interactive and WPP Ventures. To date, refinery29.com has secured investments totaling $80 million.
According to the site’s co-chief executive officers, Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano, the business is profitable and has been growing rapidly in recent years. The site publishes about 80 articles a day, receives 25 million unique visitors monthly and reaches 65 million people through social channels each month.
“We’re taking the company more aggressively to the video and entertainment world,” Stefano told WWD, noting that video content thus far has been largely rooted in fashion and beauty how-to videos. But in the works are new formats, including a 10-part documentary series about feminism, scripted videos and some comedy.
The 11-year-old destination has expanded its coverage significantly in recent years, diving into arenas of food, politics, health and wellness, news and culture.
By the end of this year, Refinery29 plans on launching sites in the U.K. and Germany, producing more than half of the content for each locally. Stefano said the goal is to evolve into a “global lifestyle brand” over the next year-and-a-half, and the rollout of additional international sites will support this.
Now, 245 employees occupy offices in New York and Los Angeles, the latter which opened earlier this month and houses about a fifth of the staff. The company added 45 people to its staff this year and plans to add another by yearend.
“We aren’t a retail company, we don’t have inventory costs,” von Borries said. “Our biggest cost is our people and creating content.”
Refinery29 did dabble in commerce, but pivoted when it became clear that the media and content side were experiencing the most meaningful growth.
“The e-commerce business wasn’t doing that badly,” said Stefano, noting that it actually drove a few million dollars in revenue. But the co-ceo’s realized quickly that running and operating a media content business and e-commerce site are two fundamentally different things. “We saw a bigger opportunity in the media and content side – [it was] more in line with the direction we wanted to take the business. It wasn’t that [e-commerce] didn’t work out.”
Von Borries noted shopping is still an integral part of Refinery29 and that they have invested heavily to produce shopping content that lives on Refinery29. But instead of selling the product, this content facilitates product discovery and helps readers find goods online.