Kiki Von Glinow is the former Head of Growth & Analytics at HuffPost and now Co-founder and CEO of Toast Media Group.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
Once I started writing for my high school newspaper, I was hooked. It was scary (talking to people I’d never met for a story) and so rewarding (seeing those stories come to life, printed on the page), and I knew that this was going to be what I did with my life.
I went to NYU (in big part because of the proximity to great media internships in NYC) and studied journalism, English, and creative writing. Throughout college, I was an editor at NYU’s Washington Square News and had internships at CosmoGirl, Elle, and Newsweek. After college I ended up with an internship at HuffPost and stayed there for six years, holding positions from Managing Entertainment Editor to Deputy Managing Editor and Head of Growth & Analytics.
I was thrown into things that were way above my head and in the process learned more than I ever could have imagined. I left HuffPost in the summer of 2017 to take everything I learned and turn it into something new: Toast Media Group — a network of commerce content experiences for niche Gen Z communities.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
It sounds cliche, but when you’re starting your own company no day is the same. Some days I’m head down collecting and reaching out to hundreds of influencers within the niche communities we’re planning to serve and then some days I’m creating content or coming up with a PR strategy and some days I’m bouncing between meetings with lawyers or accounts, freelancers, designers and just smart people I want to learn from.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
Google Drive and Google Calendar are my best friends, but I’m never without my good ol’ paper agenda. For me, there’s still nothing like crossing something off of a list. When it comes to project management with my team, we use Trello and Slack.
WHAT DO YOU TO GET INSPIRED?
Because all of our properties are geared toward a niche community, that’s where I turn when I need inspiration. Our first experience, called Norman, is for post-gender teens (teens who believe that gender doesn’t have a place when it comes to great style) and so whenever I’m feeling a lack of inspiration I turn to YouTube, going straight to the source to hear them talk about how they see the world. Some of the most progressive, thoughtful, and eloquent people I’ve ever heard speak are part of this community and many of them are under 16! I’m in awe of this community every day.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
I think a lot of innovation in the areas I’m particularly interested in right now are coming from outside of media — a lot in the retail space, actually. Particularly, when it comes to creating a relationship with an audience. For example, Glossier’s influencer marketing strategy is brilliant, I think. The way they’ve identified and enlisted their super fans to market their products out of pure adoration for the brand (and the product, to an extent).
That’s one area where I think media is actually dropping the ball — the thinking that because news media, in particular, is supposed to be non-partisan that that means it’s not personal. I think the brands with the most personal connections to their audiences are the ones that are succeeding right now and will continue to succeed with new (read: younger) audiences. Brands aren’t cool, people are cool.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
It’s probably the problem we’re addressing with Toast Media Group. There is no one size fits all experience anymore (and there really never was) that creates a real and impactful relationship with an audience when it comes to publishing or e-commerce. So TMG will exist as a network of commerce content apps to serve underserved communities. You’ll get a peek at what that really looks like with Norman early summer!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Yes! If you’re a storyteller who uses words, get out of your comfort zone and make sure you understand how to tell the narrative of your story with numbers too. Knowing how stories move across the internet, who interacts with them and why is just as important as the story you’re telling. And for those of you who are looking to create narratives with numbers via analytics, audience development or business development, develop an understanding of what it takes to create the content that your audiences are interacting with. I think so often those two separate schools don’t understand each other, but when they do, real magic can happen.