What it takes to build a media company

Spoiler alert: we’re still learning but we’re making some serious strides!

Double spoiler alert: Make sure you read the entire article… we included a special bonus (free $!) for anyone looking to grow their own blog, brand or product.

Talk to anyone on the streets of New York, Chicago, or LA and it might seem that everyone has a blog of some kind – whether it’s a personal blog, a daily publication, or a “once every so often”-type of blog. One thing is for sure – blogging in the 21st century has taken on an all-new meaning; one that has witnessed an incredible journey as small-time blogs evolved into BIG-TIME publications.

There are countless stories of people like Jake Dobkins (founder of Gothamist.com), Mario Lavandeira (Perez Hilton), Gina Trapani (Lifehacker.com) and Vitaly Friedman (SmashingMagazine) who have built vast media empires. Vast? Each of these people are on the top 10 richest bloggers in the world, hitting critical mass visitors and commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.

But what about scaling a blog from a creative outlet to a revered online daily publication?

Pete Cashmore did it with Mashable. Michael Arrington did it with Techcrunch. The list goes on… Business Insider, VentureBeat, Huffington Post, Daily Beast…

Myself and my business partner Matt Gottesman (hdfmagazine.com) are on a mission to join that second group of folks – men and women who created some of the most influential and far reaching daily publications in the world.


We have fielded a lot of questions lately about our missions, our goals and what we are creating. Apparently two features in Entrepreneur Magazine get peoples’ attention (you can read those features here and here).

Entrepreneur Magazine, in featuring our publications, highlighted our mission statement by saying:

The more you can document the hustle, the more you can impact others who are watching

That’s exactly why we started our respective blogs. I started PRSUIT.com in February 2014 to provide perspective that inspires for those on a journey of self-improvement and those who crave new experiences.

Matt started HDFmagazine.com in February 2015 to document the journeys of everyday entrepreneurs from around the world as they build their dreams.

Our mission is clear: we motivate and inspire by sharing the stories of those personal and entrepreneurial journeys. As we say on our podcast… we don’t glamorize or sugar-coat the journey. We provide raw and real insight into men and women and their personal experiences. After all, there is something to be said in observing your fellow peers grow through their respective paths, than watching their end success come to fruition.

It’s been an incredible journey thus far and we are extremely humbled to have received high praise from the likes of Entrepreneur, CBS, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, and variety of blogs and podcasts.

Heck, I’ve even been recognized on the streets of Chicago because of our Instagram presence.

That’s all good and great and but where does this lead us? Where are we taking our publications?

We are building the most influential digital media portfolio for Generation Y. Under our portfolio called Trep Media Group we have built PRSUIT, HDFmagazine and our podcast The Hustle Sold Separately, with much more to come.

Why are we telling you all of this?

We believe in 100% transparency. It’s something that’s allowed us to build a dedicated and loyal base of readers, contributors and influencers. We refuse to hide behind our content.

As any other startup founder will tell you, building something from scratch takes complete hustle and dedication, marked by persistence, extreme focus and gaining help along the way. It would be wise to assume we’ve learned a few things in the process.

Here’s what we’ve learned thus far

Even if you don’t think so, people are always watching

When you first come into the game, people are genuinely curious, and they range in small players to the really big ones. You are being watched because people want to know what it is that you are contributing and whether or not it has merit.

Additionally, the people who are watching can fall into three categories:

  1. Your Audience – The people who your messages are targeting.
  2. Influential Players – People who recognize your hustle because they’ve done it and genuinely want to help you when the time is right. Call it, “sending the elevator back down.”
  3. Haters – People who don’t understand or want to understand, the naysayers, the cynics and competition. Yes, competition. However, in our world, we only believe in collaboration. If you look at most successful people in today’s standards, they got to where they are through cooperation, teamwork and networks. We are only concerned with this mode of thinking.

You have to be willing to offer transparency

There are too many self-proclaimed gurus, lifestyle blogger / publications, “listicles” and content-for-content’s sake websites that are either concerned with solely growing “any” audience for the numbers, or essentially represent an end outcome of what they’d like to achieve and not where they currently are.

While we are all for large audiences and celebratory outcomes, a highly engaged audience not only respects honesty, transparency and zero fluff, they will also become your brand ambassadors, customers and your sponsors’ customers.

Transparency builds the story by telling it.

Building an audience is tough!

As referenced above, it’s not about quantity, but quality. We’ve seen some accounts get massive traffic and “LIKES” on Instagram, but they come and go so fast with little to no interaction.

In this day and age, it’s the “COMMENTS” that count. Anyone can hit a “LIKE” button, but someone taking a few minutes to write their thoughts, feelings and emotions to you, constitutes a deeper relationship.

Additionally, you can have the greatest content in the world, but if no one knows about you, then do you really exist? Therefore, you have to create relationships with complimentary brands and influencers.

Hence, you have to know where your audience is, who they are interacting with, what they are interested in hearing, take in feedback, cross-promote with other influencers and online brands and keep delivering content day-in and day-out to keep the relationship growing. 

Growing is tough. If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that your money can go A LONG WAY if you know how to use it. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it is very easy to waste money if you don’t know what you’re doing. I have wasted hundreds of dollars on Facebook and Twitter advertising because I didn’t understand where our ideal audience was.

That’s why we partnered with needls–  a truly kickass company that automates your ability to find an audience in real-time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We convinced them to give you all $50 FREE in advertising on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). You can redeem this FREE offer here.

Consistency and thoughts on the hustle

To use the cliché, “the hustle is real” – Building a media empire is about straight consistency, perseverance, collaborative networking, get up early, go to sleep late, create and curate more content, grind it out, revenue generating, revenue reinvesting, no days off, work.

It is like any other startup, only you are trying to create an audience from scratch. That audience is your lifeline and will be there with you till the end if you respect them and treat them well. In the world of media, your audience is your currency.

Building while you have a 9 to 5

And because you can’t just wake up one day and decide you’re going to be a media mogul from day one, you also have to consider working a 9 to 5 like myself, or keeping independent consulting contracts like Matt does.

Why? In a word, sustainability. You have to be willing to earn revenue elsewhere to maintain your responsibilities while your company earns revenue to reinvest.  

I am going to bring up needls again because as a guy who epitomizes the 9 to 5/ side-hustle grind, I’ve learned it’s that time is your greatest asset. You have to be extremely protective of your time and focus your skills and strengths on areas where you can have the most impact. For me, that has been content, partnerships and advertising. I don’t have a background in SEO or paid social advertising. For that reason I outsource to people I trust. needls is a great platform for your social needs. You can get your $50 FREE in ads here.

The future

So, where do we go from here?

Well, to date, our media group has garnered over 200K social media followers, more than 350K monthly unique visitors to our publications, over 1M comments, nearly 12M impressions per month, a top 15 Podcast and 2 coveted features in Entrepreneur.com.

While we cannot say for sure what the rest of the journey will be like, we can say that we are very serious on being the most trafficked source of inspirational content on the planet and time is on our side.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, be sure to take advantage of this offer from needls. $50 in FREE social ads. Use this to kickstart your blog or grow your existing presence.