Month: August 2018

Are Your Followers Worthless?

Influencers give marketers access to an engaged audience on giant platforms like Facebook, but how do you assess the worth of an influencer’s audience — to know if that reach will result in sales or brand lift? As a digital revenue expert for the LA Times, a Bertelsmann-backed influencer commerce company, and other media companies who I’ve helped cultivate and grow online audiences and revenue, and after selling my last digital media company to the Maker Studios CEO & co-founders, I want to share strategic insights I gained firsthand in navigating influencer marketing. It’s no secret how quickly influencer marketing is growing, but the impact it has on the bottom line is still a mystery in many cases for marketers.

Marketers today seem to concur on the potential effectiveness of influencer marketing — to different extents depending on campaign goals. It seems over 20% of marketers find influencer marketing to be extremely effective at driving sales, and 33% say it is effective.


Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing channels for acquiring customers, as you can see here:

Accessed from here


The first takeaway to remember: Analyzing who follows an influencer is part art and part science. Influencer discovery tools are still a “black box” with regard to evaluating influencer match for your brand goals. So even when you use a third-party influencer platform to locate influencers and analyze followers, you must validate those you partner with — human judgment around content quality is still critical in influencer identification.

Setting aside follower counts, let’s go through six questions I’ve had to answer in finding the right influencers for my clients.

  1. Are the followers human or fake?

Audience size says nothing about audience composition. There are bots that create fake followers and fake engagement: Fraud is a real problem in influencer marketing. Detecting it requires tracking consistency and meaning in social conversations dominating your target influencer’s accounts. Telltale signs include sudden spikes in follower counts, high follower-to-engagement ratio, bot-generated comments, and low-quality posts — random, misspelled, or indecent. Even a cursory glance of comments is helpful. Look for unusual patterns using social tracking tools.

2.How engaged is that audience?
Influencers are as effective as the follower passion they cultivate through their storytelling (content). Followers engage with great content and this build follower loyalty with an audience. Engagement is an extremely valuable metric to measure long-term ROI since it is a good indicator of how closely followers identify with that influencer. Influencers who matter convert followers to buyers. Buying is true engagement. To ensure that the sphere of influence aligns with your brand, determine whether the influencer’s high engagement ratio occurs on the channels where your target market is active.Remember: Real influence compels action.

“Influencers who matter convert followefollowers to buyers.”

Consider that subject-matter experts and thought leaders might be more effective and engaging than a mass celebrity because an expert has a skill that engages an audience very deeply (i.e. — a scrap-booking influencer vs. a reality TV star). Here’s what influencers say keeps their followers engaged:


3. Do follower demographics, especially household income fit?

Without a contextual fit, your influencer marketing campaign investment goes down the drain. Think from the viewpoint of who you want to buy your product and if they have the income to buy it, and maintain laser-sharp focuson your market. Brand marketers like Taco Bell want to see brand lift, and ultimately sell more tacos. Direct marketers like My Pillow want to sell more pillows. Many followers do not have the discretionary income needed to purchase your product. Are the followers broke college students or highly affluent young professionals? Analyze the discretionary income of followers. Context is why different influencers work for different brands, and why the right influencer, with the right audience, can have a huge impact.

4. What has the influencer’s audience bought in the past?

Examine what the influencer’s audience has previously bought from that influencer or other influencers, and whether it aligns with what you’re selling. This is one area where past performance can at least indicate future results. Learn all you can about what directly or indirectly led to those purchases, the ratio of buyers to the total follower count, and the time it took followers to become buyers. Examining past influence provides a benchmark for future influence.

Exposure to influencer content has been proven to lift sales. As shown in the below graph from a 2016 Nielsen Catalina Solutions study which uses point-of-sale data to compare purchases from consumers exposed to influencer content to a matched control group of consumers who did not see influencer content, exposed buyers purchased significantly more product on each purchase occasion.



5. Is the influencer’s audience willing to take a survey?

Real fans respond with speed and enthusiasm. They want to have their voice heard and to express their distinct preferences. Surveys allow them to do that, especially if run by their favorite influencer. When your target influencer agrees to run a survey and the results are favorable and convincing, that’s an indication of audience willing to pull out their wallets and/or engage in your marketing message, particularly if the survey is done in real-time on social media. Some influencers do not know the value of their audience, but rely heavily on brand marketers who may measure effectiveness of a marketing campaign (reach, brand impressions, etc.). In my consulting practice, I have seen major influencers with 10’s of millions of followers get 500 survey responses, whereas another influencer with under 500,000 followers generated 8,000 survey responses!



6. Is the influencer willing to do a free test post?

As in any business alliance, a test phase paints a picture of how an influencer partnership will take shape and what possibilities lie ahead. One way to do so with a target influencer is to ask if they are willing to do a free test post. Such a post — if the influencer is confident about original content creation and about the audience’s identity — would be fairly easy to do. Even more than celebrities, real influencers know their audience and how to entice them to act. There can be substantially more upside and a long-term relationship for influencers if they can align with a few marketers who are willing to help them monetize their audience.

Keep in mind: As of last week, Facebook now allows you to place media buys on the influencer posts: Facebook will now allow a brand to promote influencer posts as ads.

VC’s and media executives are investing in companies to help discover and track influencer effectiveness. These include companies such as TapInfluence, funded by a variety of VC firms, and media executives like Tony Hunter, the former CEO of the Chicago Tribune, who invested in Glocally. My business partner and CEO of Time Inc Rich Battista launched Connect at Time Increcently.

What has your influencer measurement experience been like? Are you finding any tools that help you analyze influencer’s impact on sales?


“Stacking Growth Summit 2” featured the world’s top growth marketers, digital media and tech executives, including Erick Miller, the CEO who sold what would become “Spectacles” to Snapchat. At the conference, Jimmy Hutcheson moderated a panel called “Getting Your Company Acquired” featuring Justin Choi, the CEO of Nativo who sold his company CIE Games to Glu Mobile (NASDAQ: GLUU), John Montgomery, Chief Creative Officer of R&R Partners, who sold Threshold Interactive, and Jonathan Zucker, SVP, Intrepid Investment Bankers.


Jimmy Hutcheson is the Founder and President of Hutch Media, an online entertainment network that creates original shows focusing on celebrities, pop-culture, business, sports and music.

Jimmy talks about creating content for this new medium and the struggles of building a business from scratch.


Jimmy was asked to speak and share insights about the future of digital media at UCLA Anderson School of Business.


Zealot Networks, a digital-first media company that empowers entrepreneurs by delivering multi-platform revenue, distribution and development opportunities, announced today the acquisition of Hutch Media, an online magazine publishing group. The addition of Hutch Media to Zealot Networks begins to fulfill a component of the company’s distribution capabilities by offering destinations with niche audience for premium content.

Hutch Media operates a collection of digital magazines centered on specific content verticals from entertainment news (RumorFix) and home improvement (HGDIY) to parenting (BestMomsTV) reaching millions of fans and enthusiasts. The company also produces original digital programming and web series for numerous Fortune 500 marketers specifically tied to each of their platforms while also assisting in the distribution and monetization of that content.  Companies such as AOL and Scripps utilize Hutch Media for content distribution on its online properties.

“Hutch Media represents an opportunity for Zealot Networks to strengthen and elevate an already profitable company by activating our network of companies, lending support with our resources and digital media insight,” said Danny Zappin, president and CEO of Zealot Networks.

“When we created Hutch Media, we set out to build a widely distributed publishing portfolio with original and syndicated content for niche digital audiences,” said Jimmy Hutcheson, president of Hutch Media. “Now with Hutch Media joining Zealot Networks, we know this vision will be in good hands. Zealot Networks has important content and influencer relationships, as well as a unique view on digital media. We’re looking forward to the next evolution of Hutch Media as Zealot Networks looks to enhance our digital presence.”

About Zealot Networks, Inc.: 
Zealot Networks, Inc. is a digital-first media company that empowers entrepreneurs by delivering multi-platform revenue, distribution and development opportunities. The company is poised to lead the next chapter in the ongoing evolution of digital media with its new holistic approach to connecting entrepreneurs with brands and like-minded communities based on transparency, ingenuity and experience. Zealot is a privately funded company led by a well-rounded, talented team who share the same values and vision: Co-founded by President and CEO Danny Zappin; CFO Bob Vanech; CSO Conn Fishburn and CMO Chad Seymour. For more information, please visit

About Hutch Media: 
Established in 2007, Hutch Media is a privately funded digital magazine publishing company that owns 11 brands, including RumorFix. Hutch Media produces Internet TV programming, webisodes and unique editorial products around specific content themes. Hutch Media reaches millions of fans and enthusiasts through its collection of online magazines such as BestMomsTVHGDIY and EgoTV, among others.


Jimmy Hutcheson is the Founder and President of, an online entertainment network that creates original shows focusing on celebrities, pop-culture, business, sports and music. It’s “CNBC for an MTV generation”. Jimmy talks about creating content for this new medium and the struggles of building a business from scratch. A new industry of web broadcast entertainment has sprouted out of the success of youtube and a host of other second and third movers into the online video space. Though it is yet unclear how large this industry will become, we’re certain that viewers are spending a lot less time in front of the television and a lot more time online.

A Virtual Studio The challenge for Hutcheson and others is how to capitalize on this trend and capture some of the value it has created. Unlike YouTube, EgoTVonline is largely propped up by original content that it produces inhouse. It’s technically considered a studio and its own network. The site is largely built off of original content from individuals such as celebrities, trainers, models ,TV personalities and the like. For example, I paroused the site recently and came upon a “Dr. 90210-style” docu-series called “Dr. Botox”, a show that bluntly conveys the drama in the life of Dr. Kenny Siporin. This particular episode talked about his recent relationship with a 19 year girl whom he once had as a patient. Talk about mixing work and play!! The show is a take-off on the ever intriguing notion that Hollywood plastic surgeons have somehow become celebrities in their own right and have been just as able to dip their feet into the life of excess, starlets, sex, and partying that other real celebrities have been known to get involved with.

Some other note worthy shows I came across on EgoTV were “So Fresh and So Cheap” a style guide reality series that attempts to make fashionistas out of your every day person with a little help from the best thrift stores in America. “Dream Jobs”, a show hosted by comedian Tom Arnold. Rather than showcasing traditional corporate jobs “Dream Jobs” looks at unconventional careers such as belly dancing, in a tongue and cheek, yet still respectable manner. And lastly “EgoScoop” hosted by Jason ‘Gummi Bear’ Davis, is a edgier version of E! News that gives a behind the scenes look into the life and times of Hollywood.

EgotTVonline has enough going for it to feed the ferocious appetites of even the biggest celebritaniac. We just hope that it is able to continue monetizing and figuring out a way to offer compensation for top talent. Because as we all know, in the world of entertainment nothing comes cheap. For Hutcheson, the magic formula has been to balance growth with low cost production and advertising.

Starting A Company vs Buying Companies

Starting a new business is never easy. Buying a business and fixing it is also never easy. There is nothing quite like the excitement of building an idea from scratch. Being an operator of a successful business is exhilarating. Acquiring companies feels good when you know you can help and turn a dollar into $10 with a few tweaks. Investment bankers, venture capital firms, and fellow entrepreneurs have opinions of buying vs starting companies. I’m exploring which path to go down as I contemplate opportunities.

If I really examine the advice I’ve received, I’ve realized that it’s really all about the people. Being intentional about surrounding yourself with incredible people is so vital, and keeping a good relationship with those people is important.

I’d rather build a start up with great people and have it fail vs acquiring something with losers, and vice versa. Many times, those of us who are experienced entrepreneurs see something that is broken and we think we can fix it. We usually can! But, it requires discipline and focus to choose what we want to fix. Am I disciplined enough to fix someone else’s problem (an acquired asset), or motivated enough to start an idea from scratch?

After you develop an expertise, you often find opportunities to help other people with their businesses. In my digital career thus far, I’ve had the fortune to work alongside some of the biggest names in the media business, including Rich Battista the President of Time Inc. I’ve acquired niche digital publishing businesses, and sold my digital media startup to the co-founder of Maker Studios, Danny Zappin. I’ve created. I’ve bought. I’ve sold. I now find myself wrestling with this question: do I go out and start another company with some amazing co-founders, or do I buy a group of under-valued companies and help improve them. I’ve been approached to do both. In order to help me decide what I should do, I’m going to outline the pros and cons of both scenarios.

Pros of Starting A Company From Scratch:

  1. Choosing People. Build your team, and unite your team around a to-be-created product vision
  2. No “baggage” — you’re building from scratch
  3. Excitement and anticipation of the “wild, wild, west”

Cons of Starting A Company From Scratch:

  1. It’s lonely in the beginning
  2. It’s very tough to communicate to people what something “will be” in the future vs showing people something you’ve acquired that is already built.

Pros of Buying Companies:

  1. Pre-existing customers
  2. Workers are already in place, and know their responsibilities

Cons of Buying Companies:

  1. Legacy leadership that is resistant to change
  2. Skeletons in the closet, including possible undisclosed legal issues

I’d love to hear what you think.


Online magazine publishing company Hutch Media today acquired the anti-tabloid entertainment website, created by Jay McGraw.

Jay McGraw is the creator and executive producer of the Emmy® award-winning, syndicated daytime series “The Doctors,” a New York Times best-selling author, start-up developer, and the son of Dr. Phil McGraw.

“With strong market traction and a unique heritage in the celebrity news marketplace, the Hutch Media team is thrilled to add RumorFix to our growing family of entertainment and instructional content,” said Jimmy Hutcheson, president of Hutch Media.  “We intend to maintain the integrity of the brand, integrate RumorFix into Hutch Media’s platform, grow revenues, and expand the audience distribution footprint of RumorFix.”

“RumorFix was an important business venture for us.  With the proliferation of tabloid sites, I set out to provide a legitimate and safe forum for celebrities to “fix” false rumors while at the same time, satiate consumers’ never-ending hunger for celebrity news. The site’s success exceeded our expectations and I’m excited to watch its further development and scope under the expert guidance of Hutch Media.  Jimmy Hutcheson and his team are skilled in content development, marketing, distribution and monetization in the online publishing arena and it will be rewarding to follow RumorFix as it continues to flourish under their direction,” said Jay McGraw.


Hinting at its ambitions to enter the original publishing realm, digital agency Zealot Networks of Venice has purchased Hutch Media, a small network of websites, for an undisclosed amount of cash and equity.

Since its founding last August, Zealot has raised $30 million in venture capital it has deployed to buy a number of online marketing and talent agencies. With Hutch in the fold, Zealot’s desire to build new audiences, likely to sell advertisements against, is beginning to appear.

Hutch is a small Los Angeles company that has five employees and runs RumorFix, a celebrity rumor website; HGDIY, a home improvement website; and BestMomsTV, a parenting site. Conn Fishburn, Zealot Networks’ chief strategy officer, said the purchase underscores Zealot’s interest in building targeted content for niche audiences.

“When we look at publishing, relevancy is a massive opportunity to tap into people’s passions,” said Fishburn. “It’s a bigger play around creating relevancy and engagement and telling stories across specific verticals.”

Interest in niche content, seen as a way to build smaller audiences with intense interests as opposed to large, unfocused audiences, is growing.

“When you start to look at distribution of communities and clusters of people, the long tail is where you see the social engagement,” said Fishburn. Niche audiences are generally found on the “long tail” of the audience distribution graph.

“The primary driver of what we are doing isn’t demographic based, but psychographic based. It’s a mindset,” he said.

Zealot’s approach to making money from online content is the reverse of most modern media operations. Rather than first publishing content, building an audience around that content and then selling that audience to advertisers, Zealot has used investor cash to purchase relationships with advertisers first, in order to apparently reverse engineer audiences and content for particular marketing needs.

Hutch, said Fishburn, is just the beginning.

“We bought Hutch because of the skill set that Hutch has, their ability to understand audiences and their ability to scale up with extra resources,” he said. “It’s really the team that will be integrated into a larger publishing play.”


Digital entertainment leaders from Disney, TMZ, Ego TV, writers and creative agencies shared viral video tips at a Digital LA event on Tuesday night in Santa Monica, CA. To bring you the scoop, below are the Top 5 Viral Video Tips from this panel who know how to reach mass audiences online. From the “Whole Foods Parking Lot” video to Ego TV who focuses on reaching a male 18-35 demographic, these pros know how to reach millions of viewers on YouTube. While there is a method behind the viral video madness, one panelist profoundly pointed out, “Trying to go viral is like trying to fall in love.” Most of us have not given up on true love so let’s not give up here, and take a closer look at these tips.

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