Staff Reporters
Jul 14, 2016

Hypebeast: How to convert readers into shoppers

BuzzFeed and Mashable are on the wane, but Hypebeast's IPO closed 708 percent above its opening price. We ask industry experts to explain the site’s winning formula.

L-R: Adrian Toy, Lilian Leong, Ivy Wong
L-R: Adrian Toy, Lilian Leong, Ivy Wong

Adrian Toy
Regional marketing director

Hypebeast has successfully stayed focused on their audience’s passion-point—streetwear and sneakers. You probably won’t have heard of them unless you share this passion, unlike BuzzFeed and Mashable which have both become more mainstream. 

Hypebeast has attracted not just anybody but the super influencers or KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), which are those that influence the influencers. The army of KOLs in turn spread the word organically and authentically, and have been crucial to influencing a ‘friend’s friend’ to purchase. They are the trusted authority in their domain.

From a business perspective, they have grown beyond traditional advertising revenue stream of display ads, creating branded content for brands, and effectively embarked on ecommerce. We all know that ecommerce has great future potential as we all buy more online, and it’s a huge advantage to be able to take the consumer from being reader to shopper. It sounds simple, but traditional publishers have not been able to make this transition due to the issue of editorial independence. Although they have been able to manage this so far, balancing as they grow will be key to winning this in the future.

Lilian Leong
IPG Mediabrands, Hong Kong

The element of Hypebeast that attracts investors is ecommerce. Just look at catalogue retailers like Amazon or Alibaba. It is just that simple. Sites that allow goods to be traded online while building communities generate tremendous market value. 

It is noteworthy that Kevin Ma figured that out well ahead of others, and he is now reaping the returns. The entire Hypebeast model is based on content, not advertising. And therein lies a very important lesson for all brands—they need to be content-led brands, not advertising-led. 

The other remarkable aspect about Hypebeast is targeting men—at least to start with. While they now cater to women too, they’ve created hubs for niche segments like metrosexuals. In Asia, they’ve been successful at engaging a growing population of wealthy millennials who are yearning to be cult followers. 

The third aspect is diversification of the site properties, which now comprises app, a print magazine for men and women, a global ecommerce business and a music publication and app. 

A media business that thinks of itself as a brand and that builds its community by telling compelling stories, rather than producing headlines for clicks and virality, has always worked out a long-term plan.

Ivy Wong
Founder & CEO
VS Media Limited

While many media companies enjoy great exposure and have a large number of views per page daily, are they really capable of drawing and holding the users’ attention? Are they able to directly call for follow-up action, such as making a purchase or clicking on a website? What if we tell advertisers that we can now directly target and convert a specific audience group, which is already made up of loyal followers, to follow through with an action or purchase? That is exactly what influencer marketing and KOLs can do.

Hypebeast started out as a one-man blog but has now managed to use its power and influence to merge ecommerce with premium editorial content. The winning formula is simple: tailor-made content with a niche focus and a distinct personal voice that is trusted by its readers.

Hypebeast’s streetwear positioning has been very clear for the past decade. Consistently producing relevant content of high quality is key to its loyal followers. Then comes quality readers. Hypebeast readers are ready to spend, which translates to sales for advertisers and their own ecommerce offering. 

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