The $20 Million Dollar Fashion Blog: Refinery29 Projects 400% Revenue Growth


Fashion blogs are increasing in influence, with many of the larger ones becoming proper media businesses. While the audience for fashion content has been online for some time, the advertisers who support fashion publishing have been slower to follow. With very few exceptions, even brands who have begun to embrace the internet as a medium for fashion don’t put the same ad dollars behind online publishers that they do for print publishers.

Refinery29, a multi-author professional fashion blog, disclosed revenue numbers that indicate the online advertising trend may be headed in the right direction for fashion blogs. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Philippe von Borries predicts that the site will do $8 million in revenue this year, based on first quarter earnings. That’s up from $2 million in revenue in 2010, and $600,000 in revenue in 2009. The only attributed round of funding is a $500,000 seed round in February 2010, so there’s no definitive valuation for the company as a whole; but when when AOL acquired the TechCrunch network in September 2010 they paid between $25 and $40 million for the blogs which reported annual revenues of $10 million. {Inc.} Using the same multiplier (2.5-4x revenue), if Refinery29 achieves their $8 million sales goals the site could be worth $20-32 million.

Launched in 2005 as “the preeminent guide to New York City’s truly great shops,” the site has broadened its editorial to include local sections that cover fashion in Los Angeles, Chicago, and most recently San Francisco. Part of what makes the Refinery29 sales numbers – and potential valuation – particularly notable is that they’re one of the few sites not backed by a major publisher to focus primarily on fashion. The Sugar Network has a much higher valuation, and while their FabSugar fashion blog is one of the top 20 most influential fashion blogs, the company’s valuation is spread across multiple sites with the celebrity driven PopSugar blog and shopping search engine ShopStyle driving the largest amounts of traffic and revenue respectively.

Refinery29 stepped into the local group deal/sample sale arena with Refinery29 Reserve last November, but von Borries estimates that the commerce portion of the site will only represent 25% of revenue. For a 5-month old offering which is only available in New York, $2 million (25% of $8 million) in projected sales isn’t anything to sniff at, and with the exception of the Huffington Post, most blogs that find themselves with multi-million dollar valuations get there through diversified income sources like events or tech offerings.

However, the bigger news is that the company has been able to build ad revenue to a point that brings the site on par with tech blogs – a segment of online publishing that hasn’t had to sell advertisers on online content in the same way fashion has. Additionally, the  revenue is from a much smaller audience base: Refinery29’s internal numbers put site traffic at 1.6 million unique visitors per month (Google AdPlanner puts the number at 620,000 for March), TechCrunch reportedly reaches 9.2 million per month (Google AdPlanner estimates 8.39 million across the various sites in the network for March).

This is one fashion trend we’ve been waiting on for some time.

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