Canadian Magazine Industry News
28 July 2009,     TORONTO
Beyond print: The nuts and bolts of Sweetspot.ca
The first in a series: Masthead looks inside the toolboxes of five very different online-only publications to show you how they were built from the ground up. First up: Sweetspot.ca.

Since its June 2004 launch, this lifestyle site for urban women has been dedicated to providing “the latest trends, fashions, beauty finds, décor ideas, hot restaurants and cool places to go” for those living in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, with a national section covering the rest of Canada. From its humble beginnings in the Toronto apartment of founder Joanna Track, Sweetspot has grown into a successful venture with a full-time staff of 25, an office at 60 Bloor St. W., and annual revenues on par with some of the country’s largest print magazines.

 


 
The editorial blueprints: Content is produced by editors, in conjunction with a wide network of freelance contributors. Under the headings of “My City,” “Shopping,” “Life,” “Fun,” “Sweet Deals” and “Contests,” Sweetspot uses a mix of reviews, colourful photos and daily e-newsletters to attract readers. It also produces short “Sweet TV” video segments with feature interviews and event coverage. Editors can easily organize content using a fully customized content-management system designed by Trioro Inc.

 
The audience development blueprints
: Sweetspot is aimed at urban women aged 25-40 who are “sharp, stylish and well-educated,” says Lori Axelrod, COO and general manager. In addition to the website, Sweetspot reaches its audience through Facebook and Twitter, and pushes content out using five different e-newsletters:
  • Sweetspot (55,000 subscribers; Mondays to Fridays)
  • Sweetmama (30,000; Mondays to Fridays)
  • Sweethome (20,000; every Thursday)
  • Sweet Travel (46,000; every Saturday)
  • Sweet Deals (28,000; every Wednesday)
Sweetspot publisher and founder Joanna Track. Photo by Helen Tansey.
Sweetspot has been able to build its brand through traditional means such as radio and print ads (often using other properties owned by Rogers Media, which bought a piece of the company in 2009 and is now a majority stakeholder), but the staff team has also tried various grassroots marketing campaigns to spread the word. This past March, they celebrated the launch of Sweethome.ca, a sister site, by secretly distributing thousands of decorative pillows around Toronto on subways, at bus stops and in cafés. Once the pillows were discovered, people were directed to the new site for an exclusive giveaway contest.

The business blueprints
: Track funded the launch herself, pouring $80,000 into legal, creative and technical development. Today, overhead costs are fairly low: staff salaries, rent, freelance costs and IT services and all revenues are ad-based: sponsored e-mails and contests, banner campaigns, text links, site sponsorships, advertorials. Sweetspot's projected revenue for 2009 is around $3 million.

The growth blueprints: While the Sweetspot team continues to expand on the type of content they provide through sister sites Sweetmama.ca and Sweethome.ca, they also hope to reach more women across Canada by expanding their list of featured cities.
— Laura Godfrey
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