So what’s the secret? A company founded in 2004 that changed its name to Mode Media in 2014, mostly aimed at women, is currently comScore’s No. 10 digital media property. (Last year it was No. 7). It boasts 132 million unique visitors in the U.S. and 400 million worldwide, according to the March comScore ranking, making it bigger than Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith and other outfits that have targeted women for generations.
To make matters even more interesting, Mode president and chief revenue officer Dan Lagani is a former magazine guy who worked at Condé Nast and Meredith. And his brother Joe, who worked for Mode when it was called Glam, is married to Cosmopolitan SVP/publishing director Donna Kalajian Lagani, over at Hearst.
Advertisers are flocking to Mode, including Target, Disney, Chevrolet, Mott’s, Sony, Hulu, Macy’s, you name it. Mode users watched billions of videos, since the site was rebranded, and Wikipedia calls it “a rising alternative to YouTube and Facebook video.” The company says “Mode reaches 45% of mobile users, nearly 1 in 2 people using mobile devices.”
Mode Media is a traffic and mobile magnet. But how do they do it? We asked a high-placed source, and he noted this: “They were an ad network of sorts back in the day and called themselves a mass publisher. My guess is that Top 10 means they're picking up ranking credit for sites they serve ads to etc. and are not really part of them.”
Ah so, can one do that? We would love to get Mode’s take on this, but they did not respond to two email queries and a phone call. Oddly, when one calls Mode’s PR office at its headquarters in Brisbane, Calif., a tiny town of only 4,000 people, it goes straight to voicemail.
Mode calls itself “a consumer social platform for curated content discovery with native in-feed distribution,” with multiple channels from more than 20 lifestyle categories. Much of the content is remarkably similar to women’s magazine stuff: “Ten Life Lessons I Learned from My Mom”; “Why the Women From Game of Thrones Kick Serious Ass”; “Moms Who Prove You Can Have It All.” Compare this to the home page of, say Hearst’s Cosmopolitan magazine, and it’s in the same ballpark, stories including. “Are You Dating The Right Guy For You?”; “Celeb Hair Secrets”; “7 Really Terrible Ways To Hit On Women.” Yet put all the Hearst online sites together and they still get 30-million less unique visitors a month than Mode. And Hearst has been at this game since the days of the real Citizen Kane.
Last year, Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine raved about Mode (he calls founder Samir Arora a “friend”) for crushing NBC’s iVillage “by building networks of independent bloggers instead of owning, creating, and syndicating content, the old way.” Today, the iVillage domain, once a media darling, redirects to the Web site of NBC’s "Today" show.
What Mode is doing, of course, is antithetical to the traditional media formula, in which you only distribute content a major media company makes. It’s smarter and probably a lot cheaper than what magazine companies do. Not to imply this company runs on the cheap, as they’ve pulled in $186 million from investors, including Germany’s Burda Media and Japan’s Dentsu.
Why are they so reluctant to talk? We note that they were absent from the NewFronts schedule this year, while former CEO Arora, who stepped down in April but remains on the board, was pretty voluble last year. What’s up? People we talked to at Hearst and elsewhere in magland had not even heard of Mode, which is odd. If you know anything relevant about Mode, please feel free to comment below.