Getting video right: 7 questions for Sugar Inc.’s Brian Sugar

Brian Sugar and his wife, Lisa, have built a women’s media and e-commerce empire that grew out of the company’s flagship celebrity site, POPSUGAR. We caught up with Brian to learn more about how he made it in media. Here’s some edited highlights from the chat:

Making Video Work

paidContent: You swear by video as the future of media sites. How exactly?

Brian Sugar: Video is the natural progression of content on the Internet. The Web has really come alive with video … It’s extremely important to make sure you have a great base of content already.

pC: What about the monetizing part of video? How do you ensure ads don’t cause you to lose viewers?

Sugar: We test different formats. One test we like is a mid-roll — the audience watches 10-20 seconds and then it cuts to an ad for 15 secs and then comes back.

We also integrate partners into video itself. We get advertisers integrated into the content. Branded content is an important part of making video work. (Here’s examples from Levi’s and Tampax).

We also have a big market in video and commerce — we have over 800 partners who are retailers. Technology helps us track when they make a sale through us.

Who ‘gets it’ and what to read

pC: Who is someone out there that you admire or like a lot?

Sugar: There are two brands that really impress me a lot. The first and foremost is ESPN. If we became ESPN for women, that would be fantastic .. From the early days, I’ve salivated at their execution. Also, Marvel. They create awesome content but they make most of their money around that content.

Small companies I admire are Kiwi Crate (which sends kids stuff to do in the mail) and Uncrate (‘gear for guys’).

pC: What do you read?

Sugar: Hacker News. A lot of stories brewing in the tech and business space, that’s where they start.

On getting by on ads alone

pC: A big part of Sugar’s success appears based on e-commerce. Can a media site make it just on advertising alone these days or does everyone need a second revenue stream?

Sugar: I look at advertising and commerce as one and the same. We refer to our partners as advertisers. It’s hard to think of someone who just does display advertising. It would be a shame to have just one revenue stream when you can layer on other streams. It makes sense as you build out your brands.

But display advertising is still important. We’re still innovating with things like Instagram and Pinterest units.

On not being a Gawker fan

pC: Who’s doing it wrong? Are they any media memes out there that you’re skeptical of?

Sugar: I’m so optimistic, it’s hard for me to be skeptical about anything. I want everyone to be successful. I can take the TMZ or Gawker view of life but that looks awfully miserable. Our company tries to keep upbeat.

What women really want

 pC: What do people not know about women’s media? What special things do you do for a women’s audience?

Sugar: I think it’s about being authentic, attractive, real and beautiful to look at. Make it aesthetically gorgeous.