WASHINGTON D.C. — When Bonnie Fuller tells you to roll up your sleeves, you better take note. She has spent most of her career ahead of the publishing curve, launching the American version of Marie Claire in 1994 and going on to head editorial for the likes of Glamour, Cosmopolitan and US Weekly before becoming executive vice president and chief editorial director of American Media Inc., where she oversaw AMI’s 16 weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly magazines, including Star, Shape and Men’s Fitness.
Today, Fuller is editor-in-chief of HollywoodLife.com, a celebrity news site that she launched with publishing powerhouse Jay Penske in 2009. On March 20, Fuller brought her startup lessons to entrepreneurs at Mogul Factory in Washington D.C., a day-long symposium hosted by World Forum Disrupt at WeWork’s Metropolitan Square location.
With HollywoodLife, Fuller created a digital entertainment destination for millennial women after noticing the trend of an increasing amount of young women flocking from print to online news. In order to figure out how to best serve the women, they monitored their habits.
“We found the things that our readers were obsessing about and then we would give them more of what they wanted …We understood that our readers cared so much about certain things that they weren’t going to read just one story about something, they were going to read five stories in a day about the same subject matter and they were going to come back the next day for the same thing,” Fuller said.
Mogul Factory targets non-technical founders who are in search of actionable tactics to build and grow their businesses because most startup education caters to tech-based startups. Andy Acs, cofounder TripScout and moderator of the forum, asked Fuller how startup founders can build upon their successes so they can get to their next chapter. “The playbook that got you from zero to your 10 is probably not the playbook that gets you necessarily from your 11 to your 20,” Acs said.
Fuller agreed. “What is particularly difficult about any business that’s built on digital platforms right now is that so much is out of your control. The huge challenge is that there’s very few platforms to distribute your content. It used to be in magazines, you could buy your racks,” Fuller explained. “If you had the money you could pay for your positions over the supermarket checkouts or in Walmart or in the airport and you could make sure that your magazines were front and center in front of people’s eyeballs and the same with retail. You could make sure that the latest clothes were in front of the store and you could ask for different locations. Today, we are so dependent, all of us, on Google and its algorithms. On Facebook, on other social media to distribute our content.”
She said with algorithms constantly changing, it makes it hard to predict what’s ahead. “Think of all the people who built businesses on Facebook in the media and now they don’t put media in people’s feeds,” Fuller said. She suggested news organizations do the best they can to try to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and actively solve problems.
For those who are interested in launching media startups, she said the work never ends. “You have to be prepared to really roll up your sleeves and know that you’re going to be living this 24/7. Especially if you’ve been in a traditional job. There’s no way that it fits into traditional hours. And, you’re thinking about it — even if you’re not actively doing — about it. You’re always thinking about it, what to do next and how to solve this problem,” Fuller said.
When reflecting on launching HollywoodLife, she said startup founders just don’t get enough de-stress downtime. She added, “It’s all on you and you really have to be ready for that. And the thing is, I’m in year 10 and I’m still there. I don’t think I could have done this when my kids were young. Luckily, my kids were a little older when I started it because being an entrepreneur is just so demanding of your time.”