With so much negative coverage of publishing, we at Bibblio are shining a spotlight on the many vertical publishers that are thriving. Welcome to the "Vertical Heroes" series of interviews.
In this edition, Bibblio CEO Mads Holmen takes up position opposite Yoga International's Chief Technology Officer, John Daskovsky. Trusted as the "authentic voice of yoga" since 1991, US-based Yoga International now provides a diverse array of exclusive multimedia content for yoga, meditation, and mindful living to over 300,000 members. John tells Mads of the importance of content quality, personalized experiences and their multi-lingual expansions.
Mads: Who is Yoga International's target audience?
J: Our target audience has always been yoga students and teachers who are looking for a trustworthy resource to practice yoga online. We’ve recently seen a shift in our audience to ages 25-54, as yoga becomes more mainstream. People are looking to experience the benefits of a yoga and meditation practice, and we have the best content and platform to make that happen!
M: Which different types of content are you offering them?
J: We offer streaming yoga classes, audio meditation and relaxation, podcasts, articles, and workshop-style courses for our members. We also launched a Spanish-language site in April, which includes original classes, articles, and member courses.
M: How large is Yoga International in terms of audience and staff?
J: We have over 800,000 users from over 230 countries visiting our site each month. We employ nearly 50 people, including in-house production, editorial, audio/video, marketing, development and customer service teams.
M: You’ve managed to grow impressively, what has been the secret sauce?
J: Our growth has been a tremendous mix of talented employees, email and paid social media marketing, and content that is second-to-none in the yoga space.
M: How do you prioritize attracting new audiences vs. engaging existing users deeper?
J: These two work hand-in-hand with us. While a great deal of time is spent exploring new marketing and generating new members, we are constantly working to make sure our user experience and content is front and center in all of our planning.
M: How are you retaining your audiences? Turning visitors into regulars - to fans!
J: The secret sauce that we’ve found to retain our customers is making exceptional content with experts that the everyday person can understand and trust! User experience is 1A, in regards to order of importance for retention.
Cost is also a factor. We’ve mindfully priced our monthly membership to where it’s an affordable and accessible option for yogis looking to practice anytime, anywhere. $14.99 per month is lower than a single drop-in class at most brick and mortar studios, which is something not to be taken for granted. Most towns don’t have a gym, let alone a yoga studio, and people have little time in their day-to-day lives to drive to the nearest studio or YMCA. Some people, especially those new to yoga, are intimidated by going to a studio class, so Yoga International is a perfect option for people to start practicing and experience the many benefits of yoga.
We send weekly newsletters to our members that reinforce the value of their membership. On site, we're building a yogic way of gamification, where the member will set a goal and we will encourage them to reach it through subtle nudges and on-site reminders.
Members also get unlimited access to the site, and will never see an ad trying to sell them an outside product, or access to a piece of content by watching an ad.
Soon, we will be releasing a new version of the site that is smarter and will customize the experience for users based on where they are on their journey, the content they do or don’t want to see, and a snap-quick search option to get you into the content you want at that moment.
M: What’s the key audience metrics you define success by?
J: Our key audience metrics are acquisition and retention. The more visitors we can get to become members, the better. We also want new sign ups to enjoy our content and find it so valuable that they continue their membership with us. If these two metrics are performing well, we know that our business is running smoothly.
M: What does SEO mean to you these days?
J: For us, SEO means that we are providing quality content that matches the user’s search intent. When they enter a search, they are looking for specific, in-depth information from experts. We have a team of expert yoga teachers, writers, and editors who produce articles daily. There are also other factors that go into SEO that we optimize for, such as page speed, keyword volume, and backlinking.
M: What’s your social media strategy, and how important is it for you to be present on those platforms?
J: 2019 was a big year for our social media presence. We have hired a dedicated social media coordinator, who develops and executes content plans for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. The coordinator works hand-in-hand with our creative, editorial, and production departments to help bring awareness to our many classes, articles, featured teachers, and other helpful resources that drive traffic directly to our site, and directly to trial sign up.
These platforms help set our public tone as a trusted and accessible option to build your practice and improve your health. It’s also a fun way to give our fans a look into our company culture. We like to have fun in and out of the office!
M: How do you drive engagement when readers land on your site?
J: Engagement begins with matching content to user’s interests. Because we have so much content, it’s important that we can personalize the user’s experience once they land on our site. There are acquisition funnels that deliver specific offers based on a user’s interests. We also have a personalized experience once a visitor becomes a member so we can deliver specific content that interests them.
M: Do you work together with other publications in your vertical?
J: We love to collaborate with other publications and organizations who can help bring attention to their expertise through our platforms to hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. We cross-post and promote editorial content on Yoga Medicine and Accessible Yoga. We work with certifying bodies like Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists. We have also developed trainings with Warriors at Ease, Yoga for the 12 Steps of Recovery (Y12SR) and Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine. Combined, these efforts help both entities bring awareness to important content, create lasting partnerships with important organizations, and also bring more people to the practice of yoga and yoga education.
M: Would you describe Yoga International as data driven?
J: Our business is very data driven. Data is important for us to make objective decisions. We run A/B tests constantly so that we can measure our success and run the winning set. The data that users provide is used to personalize their experience on the site by showing content that they’re interested in. We are interested in delivering an even more personalized experience based on user’s preferences in the future.
M: Could you shed a bit of light on your revenue model?
J: Our bread and butter is a recurring revenue model based on monthly membership subscriptions to our platform. Yoga International members get unlimited access to exclusive content, including classes, articles, and programs. We also sell trainings a la carte, which has been a tremendous resource for yoga teachers to continue their education. We are also branching out into the B2B space by offering businesses and organizations opportunities to include Yoga International as an employee benefit.
M: What’s your fastest growing area?
J: We are still in a huge growth and acquisition phase of our company. We are reaching new audiences, both in levels of practice, but also in terms of geographical location and languages. We launched a Spanish language site in the beginning of 2019, and we're exploring more offerings produced in different languages.
M: Why do you think your model has been successful?
J: Yoga is growing all over the world, but people are hesitant to explore it without trying it and feeling the benefits of movement, mindfulness and breathwork. We’ve been able to develop a system where people can try us out for 30 days and have full access to a tremendous library of classes and guided programs.
M: From your own journey, what do you think other vertical publishers could learn?
J: Focusing on the quality of your content is the key. Once you have your niche, develop a system that continues to develop top notch content on a regular and reliable schedule. Once you have that, the story (and promotion) of your brand and product will come naturally. From there, listen to your readers! Seek out feedback and make a determination about what stands out to help continually improve the experience and grow your platform.
M: Can you share some of your milestones?
J: Sure, here's a few. We featured in the Back-to-Back INC 5000 Fastest Growing Private Company ranking two years running (#122 in 2018, #807 in 2019). We also earned the 2019 INC Best Places to Work accolade. Numbers-wise, we've seen 3152% revenue growth from 2014-2018. Our employee growth has gone from 9FTE in 2015 to 48 in 2019. Lastly, our Facebook following grew from 40k in 2013, to 500k in 2014 to 1.3M in 2019. We're really looking forward to 2020!
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