HER CAMPUS MEdIA: Executing on an Established Business Model and Preparing for the Future

If you’re a female college student and are looking for an enriching experience, you might consider plugging into your college campus’s Her Campus chapter. Her Campus is the number-one online community for college women. Written entirely by 4,000-plus college journalists and supported by a dedicated staff at its Boston headquarters, Her Campus features national content on style, beauty, health, love, life, and career, supplemented by local content from 250-plus campus chapters across the world. In addi- tion, Her Campus offers slideshows, videos, memes, gifts, quizzes, giveaways, e-commerce, a daily e-mail newsletter, and social media communities. It’s like nothing else available for college-aged women.

Her Campus was started in 2009 by three Harvard University un- dergraduates: Stephanie Kaplan, Annie Wang, and Windsor Hanger. The women met in 2007 while working on a separate Harvard pub- lication. In the nearby photo, Stephanie Kaplan is on the left, Annie Wang is in the middle, and Windsor Hanger is on the right. In January 2009, Kaplan, Wang, and Hanger entered the i3 Innovation Challenge, a business plan competition  held on the Harvard campus, propos-ing a national online magazine for college women, with student chapters at colleges and universities across the United States. After the business plan received the Harvard Student Agencies Investment Award, Her Campus was born. The award secured na- tional attention, along with free office space for a period of time.

Her Campus, the flagship site of the company, which is formally named Her Campus Media, features a vibrant online magazine, with feature articles targeted toward all aspects of college life and survival. The website is divided into six cat- egories: style, beauty, health, love, life, and career. The content is wholesome and upbeat, and speaks to the daily challenges, concerns, dilemmas, and triumphs that college-aged women experience. In addition to a staff of full-time editors, design- ers, and managers working at the company’s Boston headquarters, Her Campus is represented by students at 250-plus college campuses. These campuses are known as My Campus chapters. Each chapter has a president/editor-in-chief,  and a staff of volunteer correspondents who develop feature articles, photos, and other content specific to their particular university. Her Campus also has a team of national con- tributing writers who “pitch”  articles to run on the Her Campus national website. The local chapters compete to reach certain levels of distinction within the Her Campus community. The highest level is the Pink level.  To reach the Pink level  a local chap- ter has to demonstrate flawless writing and formatting, update their site every day, post several times a day on social media sites, host events, and reach 40 percent of the undergraduate female population on their campus. An example of a local chap- ter, the My Campus chapter at the University of Central florida,  is available at www. hercampus.com/ucf.  Toward the end of 2014, Her Campus was receiving approxi- mately 3.5 million monthly unique visitors, 15 million monthly page views, and was operating with 20 full-time employees.

of paramount  importance  to  Kaplan, Wang, and  Hanger from  the  outset  was developing an effective business model for their company. The company’s core com- petency is developing compelling content at a low cost and displaying the content in an attractive and accessible manner. The 4,000-plus local chapter correspondents are all volunteers, who write for Her Campus to obtain experience and hone their journalistic skills rather than make money. The same applies to interns in the company’s Boston headquarters. The company’s mission is crystal clear: to produce, on a daily basis, the “Collegiette’s  guide  to life.” The word “collegiette”  can’t be found in the dictionary, at least not yet. It’s a word made up by the founders of Her Campus to describe the women in their target audience. According to Stephanie Kaplan, a collegiette is “a col- lege girl who is on top of her game—strategically career-minded, distinctly fashionable, socially connected, academically driven, and smartly health-conscious, who endeavors to get the most out of her college experience on every level.” In early 2012, Her Campus received a trademark on the word “collegiette”  from the U.S. Patent and Trademark of- fice. Her Campus is now the only company that can use that word in a business context. on the revenue side, Her Campus’s business model focuses on connecting com- panies with college females. The key to making this work is Her Campus’s unparalleled access to college-aged women. Part of their business model is native advertising, or sponsored content. The way sponsored content works is that Her Campus will run an article that is sponsored by a brand and that promotes that brand to its audience. This arrangement allows brands to connect with Her Campus’s audience. Her Campus’s client list includes victoria’s  Secret PInK,  new  Balance, Pinkberry, and many other national brands. Her Campus also generates revenue from other types of advertising and sponsorships, which is often visible on its website and additional platforms. other revenue generators include product sampling and on-campus and event-based mar-keting programs.

In regard to expansion, Her Campus is steadily increasing its number of My Campus local chapters. It is also interested in overseas markets. In late 2013, Her Campus acquired  HerUni.com, a similar online magazine for college-aged women in England. The acquisition of HerUni.com will strengthen Her Campus’s presence throughout the United Kingdom. The company is also thinking about broadening its audience to include men, including the possibility of a His Campus site. The founders would have to think carefully about how that possibility would affect their current busi- ness model and future prospects.

In this chapter, we introduce you to the concept of the business model. A business model is a firm’s plan or recipe for how it creates, delivers, and captures value for its stakeholders.1 Business models are foundational to a firm’s ability to succeed both in the short and long term, especially when it is the first one to introduce a new product or service to customers.2 Dropbox, for example, has what’s referred to as a freemium business model. It offers its customers a free account with a set amount of storage space, and makes money by selling premium accounts with more capacity. Dropbox could charge all of its users a monthly fee based on the amount of storage that they use, but that’s not its business model. Its business model is based on the belief that by introducing users to its service through a free account, it will ultimately sign up more paid users. To further illustrate what a business model is, the Savvy Entrepreneurial firm feature focuses on Quirky, an interesting company that helps bring peoples’ inven- tions to life. The feature illustrates how Quirky creates, delivers, and captures value for its stakeholder.

The proper time to determine a company’s business model is following the initial validation of the business idea and prior to fleshing out the opera- tional details of the firm.3 sequence, which is depicted in Figure 4.1, nicely parallels the chapters in the book. Chapter 1 dealt with the decision to become an entrepreneur. Chapters 2–3 considered the initial validation of the business idea. This chapter deals with determining a business model, while Chapters 5–15 deal with the topics needed to implement a firm’s business model and grow the firm.

In this chapter we’ll first discuss business models and their importance. We then introduce and discuss a template for developing a business model. The template, called the Barringer/Ireland Business Model Template, consists of 4 categories and 12 items that make up a firm’s business model. The tem- plate, which can be completed on an 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper or blown up and placed on the wall, provides a nice visual mechanism to think through and display the elements of a firm’s business model.

A critical factor is that similar to feasibility analysis, a firm’s business model should not be completed in isolation. The founders of a firm should “get out of the building” and talk to potential customers as a firm’s business model takes shape.4 This is a facet of developing an effective business model that we stress throughout the chapter.

Source: Barringer Bruce R, Ireland R Duane (2015), Entrepreneurship: successfully launching new ventures, Pearson; 5th edition.

One thought on “HER CAMPUS MEdIA: Executing on an Established Business Model and Preparing for the Future

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