HubSpot acquired The Hustle, a digital media startup with daily email of over 1.5 million subscribers, in February 2021. However, if you look at Hustle’s website, it’s not clear that it’s been under the ownership of the marketing, sales, and customer support platform provider for a while. Almost a year now. But there’s a plan in the works, and Kieran Flanagan, Senior Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, just showed me what’s to come.
Building a media company along with a product company
The competition for attention is growing more and more every day. The number of digital first startups is massive, and venture capital funding appears to be in excess. There are plenty of opportunities for businesses of every size today.
Companies that rely solely on paid advertising will be at a disadvantage. Flanagan argues that paid advertising will not disappear, but that it will become increasingly expensive due to competition. It’s also about the prevalence of content and how people use it in all aspects of their lives, not just at work.
HubSpot sees a better way to get potential customers’ attention – get really good at influencer media, and spread their message through their own media. The company wants to be a reliable source of information and a part of an individual’s daily life.
HubSpot has always had great content in the form of blogs, ebooks, and video content. Add in extensive online training on all aspects of marketing, sales, and customer service, and no one can tell HubSpot didn’t really have a great content engine. But the company wants to go further. Flanagan explains:
It’s just an evolution of the way we approach content. We provide educational content, work with inspirational media, and want to be the number one source of education and inspiration for business builders.
The in-house expertise and capabilities you already have raises the question of why HubSpot couldn’t build this new media company on its own? According to Flanagan, the pros and cons of building versus partnering with an existing company were weighed, given how many companies in the media landscape could fill in their weak areas and whether the company and founder have a good culture to match with HubSpot.
The Hustle has checked the right boxes, including the vision and culture of the company and its founder, and the intellectual media (including the My First Million podcast). It could also fill in an area that HubSpot wanted to improve on — newsletters, Flanagan says:
They had this truly amazing community. We believe that society will be at the heart of how businesses operate in the future.
Flanagan said it makes sense to move forward with The Hustle to accelerate growth. But this growth takes time.
Eight months later…
The past year has been all about Hustle setup, team realignment, and some artwork on the backend. The HubSpot brand may not be plastered all over The Hustle, but things have been happening in the background as the entire experience is being rebuilt to launch in the first quarter of this year. In fact, Flanagan says the company is working against a two-year plan that will transform the entire HubSpot experience.
The plan is to create a rich and immersive experience across all HubSpot properties, including Hustle, Trends (a paid community for entrepreneurs and startups), and its new podcast network.
The result of those should be a more cohesive experience – ‘The Hustle by HubSpot’ and ‘Trends by HubSpot’[email protected],” etc. Jordan DePietro, former CEO of Growth at Motley Fool, has been appointed to lead the new media team.
Building a Next Generation Media Experience
In announcing the acquisition of Hustle, HubSpot founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah said:
Modern media companies have a software company built right in. Next generation software companies will have a media company built inside.
It’s a debate that’s been regularly talked about in content marketing circles for years, and how brands need to think like media companies and embrace creating a loyal audience.
HubSpot is building a next-generation media experience that views media not as a content marketing venture (which many have done with varying success), but rather as an essential component of a brand, Flanagan says:
We want to create a range of media that helps our clients grow better.
It’s about blogs, a new podcast network, a Hustle newsletter, and a plan to build a network of newsletters. It is also a series of YouTube channels. One thing HubSpot doesn’t do? Content such as Salesforce is broadcast with Salesforce+. HubSpot sees great opportunities with YouTube, and the company is doubling down on the content of that service. Flanagan believes that companies haven’t made streaming a big enough part of their content strategy. That doesn’t mean HubSpot won’t be doing streaming services at some point, not just next year.
HubSpot captures how customers learn and buy in the future. Much of its current content focuses on coaching and helping people grow in their careers. She believes some of these people will then go out and buy HubSpot software to help them succeed in those jobs. This is the evolution of the way companies think about media and content — and Flanagan concludes that Hustle is just one part of that strategy for HubSpot (a big part, but not the driving force):
We are trying to build a small business media network for business starters to try to help them grow better, to try to help them overcome the challenges that they have to overcome, the obstacles that they face.
When I think of HubSpot, I always think of its content, whether it’s blogs, e-books, or the massive amount of free training and certifications they offer. And when searching, it never fails to see something in the SERPs from HubSpot. Yes, I’m thinking of their software too, the training that makes learning and using this software so much easier. Many companies do not use the software, yet employees benefit from the content and training.
I’m interested in seeing the newsletter network HubSpot builds, starting with The Hustle, but go ahead and see how the podcast network grows. Newsletters are the new black in marketing and with content creators, an area HubSpot doesn’t do much of today.
HubSpot has a lot of different content media, all separate, both in experience and in content coverage, and the work required to bring them all together in a new immersive experience would be huge. We are entering a new corporate realm, and you will either become a model for ambition or be a lesson in the amount of work it takes to build a great brand and business today.