Features

How 9Honey plans to dominate the women’s lifestyle category

It is fast approaching two years since Nine's digital content director Helen McCabe launched the 9Honey network. Mumbrella's Zoe Samios chats to incoming editor Shauna Anderson and digital editorial director Kerri Estlub about how it used Nine's other assets to build the brand, and what the future holds for the network.

Almost two years ago a former well-known magazine editor launched what was to become one of Australia’s extensive female lifestyle networks.

The platform, known as 9Honey, would go on to compete with a number of others in the space at the time, including Mamamia, Bauer Media’s Now to Love, Popsugar and Whimn.com.au.

But that leader, Helen McCabe, who now leads Nine’s digital content, and her first editor, Kerri Elstub, both had a difficult task.

The space was already cluttered, and Nine had never had a strong presence in the women’s lifestyle space. That could be described as a challenge on its own, but add to it to the ambitious aim of creating a mass-market women’s lifestyle brand that could compete against the long-standing players, and McCabe and Elstub had a lot to do.

The old 9Honey website

How could they do it differently? With the backing of a brand that was never considered a ‘traditional publisher’ and has recently been positioning itself as an ‘entertainment’ company – Nine.

They’ve come a long way since then, now sitting in second according to Nielsen’s August Digital Content Ratings – at 2.5m – compared to rival Whimn Network, a News-Corp network made up of Kidspot, Body and Soul and whimn.com.au brands, which has a unique audience of 3.5m.

And although Mamamia has claimed a much bigger audience, it has used the non-endorsed industry metric, secondary crediting, which considerably increases its figures.

“In so many ways it’s exceeded our expectations, in terms of the content we put out, the kinds of storytelling we are involved in, the audience that we’ve grown, it’s become the site – in two years – that we always hoped it would be,” Elstub, now Nine’s digital editorial director, reflects.

In the past year alone, 9Honey launched its first TV show on 9Life, Talking Married, expanded its podcast offering, and re-designed the website in a bid to provide consumers with a better brand experience.

The new 9Honey website

For Elstub, it’s the combination of ‘putting the brand out there’ and leveraging Nine assets that has contributed to its growth.

Having Nine’s broadcast assets, experience and opportunities at their disposal hasn’t hurt either. 9Honey has a daily segment on the news, and often provides views on Today and A Currant Affair among other programs, which allows the team to develop its own voice.

But if there’s one thing Elstub has learnt since that launch two years ago, it’s that sticking to a vision is key.

“We also knew what we wanted 9Honey to be and we stuck to that, but we were also willing to listen to our audience and take real note of the things that they like, the things that really resonate with them,” she says.

Elstub says sticking to vision has been key

“To talk to the modern Australian woman, you do need to speak to her on whatever platforms she’s on.

“If that is doing a daily news segment, if that is a weekly Married at First Sight show, if that’s through blogging the Royal Wedding this weekend because that’s what she’s about, if that’s through op-ed pieces, if that’s through podcasting, you need to be wherever your audience are, but you have to be telling stories of value to them.”

In the past month, 9Honey revamped its website, which included the rebranding of 9TheFix to 9Honey Celebrity. Nine also hired Shauna Anderson as editor, following the promotion of Elstub to digital content director.

Anderson, who has worked at two of 9Honey’s rivals, Mamamia and Kidspot, says her decision to return to Nine was due to both the joy of working with Elstub, and the establishment of a strong brand in such a short period of time.

Anderson will edit 9Honey from November

“The things they’ve done in the last two years, they’ve doubled their numbers and engaged such a large variety of Australian women. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m looking forward to joining,” she says.

“It’s the broad space that 9Honey can occupy. It’s all the different divisions throughout the network, the TV shows, the podcast, the ability to have the Nine backing and the feel good positive content is something that a lot of women really need and want at the moment.”

This week, Nine has revealed a partnership with Bec Judd and her Style School series, as well as announced new regular contributors Roxy Jacenko, Rosie Waterland and Victoria Arbiter.

From an editorial perspective, Elstub says the next year will be busy. The partnership with Judd will see Nine cover off everything from video content, galleries and interviews, while Waterland will provide an advice column. The partnership with Jacenko is still in its early days, but will see her work as a contributor when there is branded content that works for both Nine and the publicist.

“Talking Married will come back for season two. We are already in the planning stages of that because it will be here before you know it,” Estlub adds, noting video is still very much focus for the brand.

The Nine and the 9Honey teams have done a lot of work to establish a brand in just under two years. But that could all change should the proposed merger between Nine and Fairfax Media go ahead.

Nine’s digital assets, which currently include brands like Pedestrian TV, Car Advice and Future Women, could be joined by Fairfax Media’s lifestyle assets including Allure Media, which has brands like Popsugar, MyDomaine and Who What Wear within it.

Despite uncertainty around the merger, Elstub is optimistic about the future for 9Honey.

She laughs: “I hope 9Honey is around long after I am.”

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