Mumbrella is four (and a bit)

Until a few days ago, the thought never occurred: Mumbrella is a GFC baby.

Back in September 2008, as Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the world tumbled into the GFC, I was working my notice period on B&T magazine.

By the time we launched Mumbrella on December 9, the world economy was in turmoil.

You may notice, by the way, that the anniversary was a few days ago. With the tragic events featuring 2Day FM at the weekend, it seemed a bit tacky to be slapping ourselves on the back at the time.

But I have been in the habit of sharing an annual update on our progress, so a few days later, here it is.

As usual, I’ll share some detail around our traffic growth. But the thought occurs that it might be time to share a little information on how we’re going commercially – our existence, after all, is entirely thanks to our readers and advertisers. So this is going to be a long one. Unless you’re interested in the minutiae of online business models, you’re probably wasting your time reading on.

Still with me? Thanks. First to Mumbrella’s audience.

Source: Google Analytics

Source: Google Analytics

Based on Google Analytics (which, by the way, overstates things slightly compared to our audited Australian numbers), we’ve delivered 24.8m page views. That’s been via 12.7m visits. We’re currently averaging nearly 1m page views per month.

We’ve accumulated just over 30,000 subscribers to our daily email; nearly 46,000 followers on Twitter and 11,000 on Facebook.

Videos on our YouTube channels have had about 4.5m views.

And now to the economics…

It’s fair to say that we’ve chased growth rather than profits. The management team’s early, somewhat modest, ambition was to eventually afford to pay ourselves the salaries we used to earn working for our former employer.

There are four equal shareholders in Mumbrella’s parent company Focal Attractions, by the way. Three of us used to work for B&T at RBI – myself, our publishing director Martin Lane and sales director Sean McKeown. The fourth owner is Ian Wakeling, who owned backpackers’ bible TNT magazine, where we camped for the first three years and nine months of Mumbrella’s exisitance.

So four years on, how are we doing at that ambition? The truth is, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer. We’re working a lot harder though.

Each year, within a few thousand dollars either way, we’ve broken even. And for quite a while now we’ve been (just) cash flow positive. I used to vaguely understand P&L. Now I’ve got an intricate understanding of cashflow too,

There’ve been some milestones along the way. When I came onboard as Focal Attractions’ first employee, Martin was already running a travel conference  and awards – ABIC and the Golden Backpacks – off the side of his TNT day job desk.

June 2009: Turnover 84,000 | Loss $22,000

This revenue helped us nearly break even for the financial year ending June 2009, at which point Sean joined us, ready to start monetising Mumbrella’s audience, which was, slightly to my surprise, already amounting to about 200,000 page views per month.

By then, we had ads on the website and ads on the email, which began weekly and gradually geared up to daily.

In July 2009 we launched a free job board. It quickly became Australia’s biggest media and marketing jobs marketplace. It was also great for traffic (10%, give or take), but how to make money from it eluded us for months.

Then Sean had a (what now seems obvious) idea. We wouldn’t charge for ads, but we would invite recruitment companies to buy banner ads next to a section relevant to them. The jobs board now delivers us about $2,500 a month.

Gradually, as we continued to put on staff, we learned to think of each initiative as how many staff salaries it would cover in any given month.

In December 2009, we bought Encore magazine from RBI. The price was modest but so was the initial advertising base. To date, we reckon we’ve lost about $200,000 on it.

June 2010: Turnover $546,000 | Loss $17,000

Meanwhile, May 2011 saw us sell ABIC and the Golden Backpacks to a UK-based owner. The cash – about $200,000 – allowed us to put a deposit on what would later become our new office.

Next came one of the most stressful periods of my life – the first year of the Mumbrella360 conference. Frankly, if I’d known just how many nights I’d wake up at 3am thinking of it, I’m not sure I’d have done it. But we pulled it off – 800 people in four streams across two days at the Hilton Hotel in June 2011.

Funnily enough, one reason for sharing all this data is that I’m aware that a competitor has been whispering in the market that we’ve been profiteering with Mumbrella360. The calculation he’s shared with a few people was a profit of about $1m. Sadly it was closer to $200k, excluding staff salaries. It was a result we were happy with though.

June 2011: Turnover $1.503m | Profit $110,00

Thanks to increased sponsor revenue and more exhibitor numbers, Mumbrella360’s profits increased by about $100,000 in its second year in 2012.

That said, although there were more people there, delegate revenue actually fell slightly – mainly because with five streams, we had more than 200 people getting free speaker passes. We also ran a side event for students at a slight loss.

We were delighted when Mumbrella360 was named conference of the year at the Australian Event Awards.

And even more delighted when Mumbrella was named Website of the Year at the Publishers Australia Awards.

June 2012: Turnover $1.864m | Loss $64,000

When we moved into Mumbrella House this September, it was one of the most exciting days of my professional life. We’d lived with the project for months. My baby was a multipurpose studio-classroom.

The refit cost us nearly $200k. But it has left us ready for growth – 22 desks, up from the 12 we had in the old place.

As a temporary measure, we helped pay for the fitout by allowing up to one advertiser per week pay to send a dedicated email message to our database. But the danger is reader burnout if we take the mickey – we’ll be going back to once a month or so in the new year.

But the best thing the new office gives us is the extra flexibility – the ability to stream live video from the studio, film sponsored round tables, and host evening training courses which we run as joint ventures with the creators of the content.

The same week that we moved into new Mumbrella House, we also ran the Mumbrella Awards again. They made a profit (excluding staff costs) of $87k. This came from entry fees, sponsorship and table sales.

But with 14 staff now to support (and spotting a desire in the market), we decided to push harder. In November we launched the Festival Of Branded Entertainment – a one day conference and awards. It made a profit of about $47k excluding staff costs.

November also saw Mumbrella named Website of the Year again.

So how are we travelling?

Our budget for the financial year that ends in June is, targeting just better than break even.

We’re on target to get there, based on a turnover, we reckon, of $2.8m

June 2013: Projected turnover $2.843m | Projected profit $88,000

And we’re planning to push even harder, and will take a few punts next year, most of which will take some time to pay off. I’m afraid I need to be a bit mysterious at this point…

Mumbrella’s first deputy editor Camille Alarcon rejoined us in September in a publisher role after a period of two years in PR. She’s been leading a major project which we’ll unveil early in the new year. In the next few days we hope to announce an acquisition to support this project.

Our journalist Georgina Pearson will be moving on to Camille’s project in the new year, four days a week. On the other day, Georgina will oversee another project, which we’ll also unveil in the new year.

Meanwhile, journalist Cathie McGinn, who curated the Festival of Branded Entertainment will be moving to a role providing the vision and development for even more events, and growing Mumbrella360. Soon, we’ll announce a new event for the first quarter of the year. Cathie will be Focal Attractions’ first creative director.

We’re currently hiring to fill the roles being vacated by Cathie and George.

But the big question for our growth is what to do after that: Do we replicate Mumbrella in a completely different vertical market in Australia – medical, or mining, or travel, for instance? Or do we launch Mumbrella into another geographic market?

I won’t be able to answer that one for a while yet.

And of course, our huge project for next year is taking Encore from a monthly print title to a weekly tablet title. It’s exciting, and there’s no existing model to base it on. But we believe we can turn Encore into an analytical, long-form, video-tastic sister to Mumbrella that does the media, marketing and entertainment world justice. If the new Encore is breaking even by the end of 2013, I’ll be ecstatic.

We’re feeling bullish about next year.

Me in particular, as today’s my last day at work for 2012. As ever, thanks for supporting Mumbrella. Have a great Christmas.

Tim Burrowes

 

Comments


  1. Shabbadu
    13 Dec 12
    11:59 am

  2. Congratulations to you and your team, Tim. I reckon you’ve earned yourselves a holiday.

  3. Good moron
    13 Dec 12
    12:26 pm

  4. Well done Timothy.

    Good job.

  5. Patrick
    13 Dec 12
    12:32 pm

  6. Good work Tim – I’ve enjoyed reading your site every day.

  7. Mat Beeche
    13 Dec 12
    12:36 pm

  8. Awesome Work Tim!

  9. Mo S.
    13 Dec 12
    12:44 pm

  10. Thanks for opening up. It’s refreshing to see. Keep up the good work :)

  11. Michael
    13 Dec 12
    12:49 pm

  12. We(slightly) older guys like the site too. Well done, always enjoy seeing someone starting up a new business, work hard and be successful.

  13. outdoor media association
    13 Dec 12
    1:18 pm

  14. That was a good read Tim. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store next year.

  15. Dude
    13 Dec 12
    1:22 pm

  16. Hope AdNews, B&T and Marketing Mag enjoy reading this.

  17. KS
    13 Dec 12
    1:26 pm

  18. Great work Tim and team! Really interesting to see the numbers too.

  19. Kieran Brazil
    13 Dec 12
    1:27 pm

  20. Wow, never seen such an open look at the inside running of a company…..happy birthday Tim and team, I’m very glad you’re here, and look forward to bigger and better things for us all! Merry Christmas too!

  21. Si
    13 Dec 12
    1:27 pm

  22. Congrats Tim & Team. Refreshing to see such a candid report, and look forward to the mysteries of 2013. Keep up the great work.

  23. clive burcham
    13 Dec 12
    1:31 pm

  24. Legend. a gracious post which is lovely and refreshing Tim.

  25. Fabfour
    13 Dec 12
    1:34 pm

  26. thanks for being so transparent Tim. Mumbrella is a fascinating and fabulous case study of what success looks like in digital publishing. You had the courage to take a big punt four years ago and I for one didn’t think it would work. Rupert Murdoch has to close the deal, but you’re on a growth curve. Not a bad result!
    Here’s to some genuine profits in 2013 – not just community love. When you do something well you deserve to be paid well!

  27. Congrats
    13 Dec 12
    1:39 pm

  28. Congrats Tim and all at mumbrella on 4 great years. Anyone who has the guts to open a business of their own – especially a business with clear purpose – always has my respect.

  29. Selina N
    13 Dec 12
    1:49 pm

  30. Congrats Tim & the team! Looks like there’s lots of great things coming up in the new year too.

  31. Carol Brett
    13 Dec 12
    2:04 pm

  32. Congratulations on what you and the team have achieved so far, Tim. And sincere thanks for sharing some of the truths about what it takes to go out on a limb and reach for new fruit. I’m in that space myself, so I know how hard it really is. You have my complete and utter respect.

  33. Debbie Bradley
    13 Dec 12
    2:04 pm

  34. Well Done Mumbrella – And love the transarency into your business! It’s a great insight and makes me want to read more!

  35. Shamma
    13 Dec 12
    2:12 pm

  36. I remember reading Mumbrella in the first few weeks when on holiday in Thailand – seeing the craziness at the time around the economy (auto bailouts, Lehman etc) and thinking FINALLY there was a decent ad/marketing trade publication for Australia.

    I am still shocked that the other trade brands have never really caught onto publishing more than once a day, publishing on weekends, researching their material etc …

  37. Katy Denis
    13 Dec 12
    2:13 pm

  38. Wow, all sounds brilliant. Congratulations to everyone at Mumbrella and Encore.

  39. Lippy
    13 Dec 12
    2:46 pm

  40. Gotta say Mumbrella is one of the best startups I have seen come out of Sydney. That is insane growth and I am inspired by how you have turned this ‘idea’ into a sustainable and scalable business. Cant wait to see how you are going to throw some more fuel onto this fire in 2013, 2014….?! Well done Tim, Martin, Ian, Sean and team… Out of control!

  41. Bec B
    13 Dec 12
    2:52 pm

  42. Such great news – and a really interesting and inspiring read too.

    Thanks for sharing and happy, well deserved holidays.

  43. Kelly
    13 Dec 12
    3:19 pm

  44. Congratulations and kudos on such an open, insightful article

    Like most professionals, I subscribe to a shitload of e-newsletters and invariably get bored of them after a month or so. My morning ritual usually involves eating cereal while deleting – without reading – more than a dozen such examples

    Mumbrella is the exception though. I read it every day without fail, as well as following the updates on Facebook. It’s essential reading for anyone in communications, which is reflected in your analysis of how you’ve managed to grow your business over the past four years in a challenging economic environment.

    Congratulations on taking a punt and chasing your dream. Best of luck for the next four years!

  45. The Internetz
    13 Dec 12
    3:50 pm

  46. Just out of curiosity Tim…have you use any other international publishing businesses as inspiration for the mUmBRELLA biz? Seeing some similarities between you and eConsultancy’s business, tis all.

    But awesome results all round – A strong investment in passion and dedication delivered great returns! :)

  47. Wen Xing
    13 Dec 12
    4:16 pm

  48. Congratulations to Tim and the team. I enjoy reading the Mumbrella newsletter every day. The Ipad app is awesome as well.

  49. Scott Rhodie
    13 Dec 12
    4:49 pm

  50. Tim,

    Congratulations of growing Mumbrella to where it is today. This place has become a great community and hive of interesting and not always agreeable people but it is a good place to visit on a daily basis.

    Wishing you all the success for future years!

  51. Paul Burrowes
    13 Dec 12
    6:38 pm

  52. Massively proud of you Tim.

  53. Mums The Word
    13 Dec 12
    10:32 pm

  54. This article sums up the new media stance of this company. No red tape and b*llshit, instead upfront and honest.

    Hats off to you all. You have grabbed this market by the balls.

    I say go global. NYC and London are two cities where you would flourish and where you could build a US and European HQ, once dug in.

    2013 will be a great year for you all. Well done.

  55. AdGrunt
    13 Dec 12
    11:26 pm

  56. Well done. And keep doing it well.

  57. Craig
    14 Dec 12
    3:19 am

  58. Congratulations Tim, and appreciate the transparency!

    Mumbrella is a great case study on how to build a targeted publishing business in the digital age.

  59. Fraser
    14 Dec 12
    4:15 am

  60. Congratulation Tim to all the team. Great to see a successful start up.

    Based on all the info shared above are you looking to flog mumbrella or new investors.

  61. Adam F
    14 Dec 12
    8:24 am

  62. Congrats Tim interesting read.

  63. Me
    14 Dec 12
    8:54 am

  64. Go global, Tim.

    Do what you do best while targeting an audience of 7 billion. And then give me a job.

  65. hugo
    14 Dec 12
    9:40 am

  66. Happy Birthday.

    You spotted a gap in what was available and you put in the graft to fill it.

    Well done.

  67. EC
    14 Dec 12
    9:53 am

  68. You and your team can be justifiably proud of what you have accomplished in only four years.

    Great article, fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing.

  69. mumbrella
    14 Dec 12
    2:48 pm

  70. Thanks for the kind words, y’all.

    To answer a couple of questions… to The Internetz (23). I’m not familiar with eConsultancy but will check it out. To be honest, I’ve always felt we’re reasonably close to a traditional B2B model, albeit without a heritage print title at the centre of the brand.

    And Fraser (30). We’re always willing to have coffee with people, but in truth probably not. The reason we’ve bought rather than rented offices is because we intend to be around in the long term.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  71. y0z2a
    7 Jan 13
    5:07 pm

  72. Congratulations – I missed this as was overseas, but well done team Mumbrella.

    /y0z