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What is the name and location of your company and who are the founders?
Riot New Media Group, Brooklyn, NY
Cofounders: Jeff O’Neal and Clinton Kabler
How did the idea for your startup come about?
In 2011, Jeff was teaching English at The New School and writing a book blog, and Clinton was following Jeff’s blog. They both felt the most interesting book coverage was occurring within the blogging community. They believed an opportunity existed to bring the best bloggers together and provide them the technology and resources to reach a broader audience. In October 2011, they launched Book Riot, a site and community dedicated to achieving that goal.
Of the key people involved what is everyone’s experience and background?
Jeff O’Neal received his PhD in English from Columbia, and lectured at The New School prior to co-founding Riot New Media Group.
Clinton Kabler received his MBA from Rutgers, and directed sales and marketing at an enterprise software company prior to co-founding Riot New Media Group.
Jeff & Clinton attended college together at the University of Kansas.
How do you see your company creating value or disrupting an existing market?
Riot New Media Group creates value by serving readers of books and comics under the age of 35, who have been traditionally underserved. With a commitment to diverse coverage, its properties, Book Riot and Panels, cover all genres from all kinds of creators.
When was the business founded and how are you being funded?
Founded: July 2011
Funded: RNMG is privately funded by its founders and their friends and family.
If so by whom are you currently funded by?
Cash flow now funds operations.
What is the current size of your business, number of employees?
RNMG presently employs 11 fulltime staff and over 100 contracted writers.
What is the product and or service you are providing?
Riot New Media Group operates BookRiot.com and Panels.net, content-driven communities built on the niche interests of books and comics, respectively. We launched both properties because we believed that the then-available books and comics coverage overlooked diversity and failed to talk about books and comics in a way that was relevant to readers under age 35. Today, Book Riot and Panels reach a combined 1.2MM monthly unique visitors. Current revenue is generated through advertising, merchandise, event and affiliate streams. In addition, we operate the Riot Ad Network (RiotAdNetwork.com), which sells display advertising on behalf of 150+ book and comics sites that reach an additional 11MM monthly unique visitors. Combining both properties and the ad network, 58% of our monthly unique visitors are age 34 or younger.
Our revenue comes from both business and consumer sales. Business customers include the five largest U.S. publishing houses, many mid-size and independent publishing houses, book and comics retailers, book and comics subscription services, book and comics technologies, and book and comics adjacent movies and theater promotions. Over 6,000 consumers have purchased from our e‑commerce storefront or subscribed to one of our quarterly subscription boxes. Over 1,000 consumers, exhibitors and sponsors will attend our first live event, Book Riot Live, happening November 78, 2015.
Explain how you are seeking entry into your marketplace.
We engaged with our audiences in all the places they hang out online. We have active social strategies for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, and Goodreads.
What seems to be the biggest strength of the team so far?
We have a culture of deciding fast, trying fast, and succeeding or failing fast. We consider this culture to be one of our greatest achievements.
What was your greatest “AhHa” moment to date?
The realization that our role as cultural tastemakers would allow us to develop an e‑commerce strategy that has been one of our fastest growing revenue streams.
What was the funniest thing that has happened?
To save money, we have rented AirBnBs for team lodging during Book Expo America. This past BEA, our AirBnB had lofted beds. Early in the morning before show start, Clinton got up and fell 7 ft from his loft to the floor, resulting in an emergency room visit and 12 stitches on his forehead. He made meetings that afternoon at Javits looking like he’d been a pub brawl the previous evening.
If you can only do one thing in your industry what would that be?
American society is systemically racist, sexist, and homophobic. Book and comics publishing suffer from these same systemic failures. Riot New Media Group serves as a media ally to women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and other traditionally marginalized voices. Through our #ReadHarder challenge and editorial coverage that highlights authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds, we are an authoritative voice that contributes to the market success of these creators. For 2015, we challenged our editorial staff and contributors to diversify their reading by aiming for minimum 33% books by people of color and 50% books by women. Year to date, they have met and exceeded those goals; 33% of books covered were authored by people of color, and 65% by women . More importantly, as editorial coverage