John Resig: The way we think of it is, while the world is battling for real estate on your mobile device and your home TV, we've really taken the third space while no one was watching
Nate Mills: We were bringing in new content. We're bringing in new channels. It's a no-brainer if you're a business owner and it's free.
Keith Eddleman: What is Chive TV? Who is behind the iconic internet property? How did they start? What is their next big thing and how did Bill Murray's face become their calling card? You'll hear all of that and more on this episode of the Q, Conversations in Digital Media. My name is Keith Eddleman. I am CTO at Q1 Media and producer of the Q podcast. I would like to invite you to join the conversation. If you or someone you know would make the perfect guest, please go to Q1media.com and let us know who it is. We will take it from there. As always, thank you for listening. Here's your host, James McNeil.
James McNeal: Hello everyone. We had a such a great show today. I know you guys are all going to enjoy it. We were able to have one of the co-founders of The Chive, John Resig on the show today, and he came on with his brand manager of The Atmosphere TV, which is their streaming platform with all of their many channels. Oh man, it was a great conversation, John, how he started the conversation, him and his brother, and how they started all of what The Chive is back in 2008. Interesting story on how they got it started. John and I are both battling a little bit of Cedar allergies that goes on in Austin, so if any of you guys have been to Austin, you know about the allergies, but it was a great interview and I hope you guys enjoy it here. You're in the Q.
James McNeal: All right, John, Nate, thanks for joining us here in the Q. First of all, thanks for battling the weather. This is unusual Austin weather, but John, you've been here for what, eight years now?
John Resig: Seven now.
James McNeal: Seven?
John Resig: Yeah.
James McNeal: Yeah. This is, are you getting used to Austin? Are you acclimated pretty well?
John Resig: Yes and no. They don't tell you after three years, that you'll experience this thing called Cedar fever. So because they don't tell you about that, you wake up and you think that you're dying for about a month.
James McNeal: It's true.
John Resig: Till you realize that you actually are very allergic to these plants. So I'm in the middle of that. If I sound a little rough, that's okay. I've spiked my coffee with Jack Daniels and I'm ready to go-
James McNeal: A little of grandpa's cough medicine. That's the best way to go. No, I'm dealing with the same. Nate, you've been here for God, I guess 10 years now.
Nate Mills: Close to about 10 years. But you know, I'm born and raised in Texas, so I'm pretty used to the Cedar fever and all that.
James McNeal: Where are you from originally?
Nate Mills: From McAllen, Texas, on the border of Mexico.
James McNeal: Oh yeah.
Nate Mills: Way down South.
James McNeal: You've seen that place change quite a bit.
Nate Mills: Yeah, it has. But the thing about that, about the border and down there is, people usually have the wrong sense of it. Being on the outside, they don't really see the great tradition and culture and people that are down there. I know it has its problems just like everyone else does, but it's a good place.
James McNeal: No, I think that's really well said. Because there's a lot of people that are in those Midwest States that look at it. They're like, 'how do you live there?' It's like, "Dude, it's just like anywhere else."
John Resig: The only thing I know about it is that you used to, people played hooky from school and we'd cross the border and get lunch-
Nate Mills: Well I have done that. Yes. I'm not saying I haven't done that. When we were in high school, you could just walk over. You didn't need a passport-
James McNeal: Yeah, now you do.
Nate Mills: When I was in high school, it was after baseball games or football games, you just go across the border, take a shot of tequila... At 18 years old.
James McNeal: That sounds amazing. Not that they were carding you.
Nate Mills: They were not carding me. Don't worry about it.
James McNeal: You could have been, you could have been 15. Grew out your peach fuzz a little bit. Well thanks for joining us. So John, tell me about your background. I know, we can get into you and your brother in a little bit, but tell me where you grew up and, and how you guys, where you guys started from.
John Resig: The Reader's Digest version is we grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My brother and I, which was just absolutely... I mean it's Main Street USA.
James McNeal: I've been there for a wedding.
John Resig: Have you?
James McNeal: For a destination wedding.
John Resig: There's a lot of weddings happening-
James McNeal: There's a botanical garden, which is really cool-
John Resig: Which is absolutely gorgeous.
James McNeal: It's amazing. The welcome dinner was there. It was awesome.
John Resig: Yeah, it's beautiful. There's a lot... Fort Wayne, it's not that bad.
James McNeal: Is that the slogan?
John Resig: To the extent of which my brother and I were driving to high school every day, on an empty gas tank. We knew we had to get out of that place. So we kind of set our sights on Los Angeles as soon as we graduated. My brother's, we're Irish twins by 18 months, younger than I am and I moved out to be an actor. He moved out to catch as catch can, just get, be out of Fort Wayne.
James McNeal: Wow. So, what'd y'all do? What was it like growing up in Fort Wayne? Was there not a lot to do?
John Resig: It was wonderful. Yeah. I mean, you had a real childhood. There was a bunch of kids running around and you went outside at night and your parents were happy you were gone. They rang the dinner bell, you came back and as long as the sun was still shining, you'd go back out with all your friends, play basketball. It was a magical existence, really esoteric, and you didn't know that the outside world had teeth. And I thought it was enchanting. And then you grow up and there's a certain, it's a little Maga, but there's good there, the kindness... I'll tell you what. I went to, I was just back in Fort Wayne, I took my family home. It's nine, my mom's one of nine, and I took them all out to dinner or we all went out to dinner together. I ended up picking up the tab because it's basically free. In Fort Wayne dinner at a Mexican restaurant for 27 is like $2.50 and a pack of Newport Menthols.
James McNeal: If it's a good place, right?
John Resig: Yeah.
Nate Mills: It's upscale.
John Resig: Every single one of my aunts and uncles sent me a thank-you card.
James McNeal: Oh, that's sweet.
John Resig: I called my mom and told her that's the nicest thing. Anyway, I really thought that was really sweet.
James McNeal: Yeah.
John Resig: For picking up a $90 tab, who cares? And my mom was like, "Oh yeah, I was just writing you one too". I was like, "Did you collude?" And then she was like, "No." And that's kind of what Fort Wayne is in a nutshell. What a beautiful place that, there, your generosity is rewarded. I thought that that was sweet and I think that encapsulates where I grew up.
James McNeal: That's, that's good people. I mean they're, they're really good people.
John Resig: Salt of the earth.
James McNeal: One of my best friends from that area. And it's a great place. I enjoyed it. I drove from Chicago to Fort Wayne. Went through all those small towns like Valparaiso.
John Resig: Oh yeah, Valpo. How long ago were you there for the-
James McNeal: It's got to be 2014.
John Resig: Of course.
James McNeal: Yeah, 2014.
John Resig: How old was the guy that got married?
James McNeal: He's, he's a sucker. He got her, he got married at like 25 so-
John Resig: There you go class, that's old for Fort Wayne. Ancient. The real world is still growing. You don't know who you are, but the botanical gardens are lovely in April.
Nate Mills: Yeah. That's good.
James McNeal: Well I guess, what's your folks do? I mean, what did they, what was-
John Resig: My dad was VP in the lighting division at General Electric.
James McNeal: Oh nice.
John Resig: In a big office there and he did that for 33 years.
James McNeal: Wow, nice life.
John Resig: Yeah. And he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet. The one thing he was big on was just letting us fail and not telling us we were going to fail. Because you never get any information from success at all. You learn everything from failure. So we would just do stuff that was dumber than hell and he would never say anything, go live your dreams, never said what's your plan B? So when we were like, "We're going to go to LA and we're going to make our dreams come true". He was like, "Live your dreams."
James McNeal: Oh, that's great.
John Resig: I was like, "Can I have $400?"
James McNeal: Well it's, you do need more than that in LA.
John Resig: Yeah, you need a dream and $400.
James McNeal: Hey that's all you need. You succeeded.
John Resig: That's all you need to make it big.
James McNeal: You landed on your feet so that's good. Well it sounds like you had a good support system, but I guess when you got out to LA, you and your brother, what did, I mean you had that safety net. I guess it was probably better to go out there with somebody than nobody right?
John Resig: I was out there for two years by myself and I was recruiting all of my best friends to come and just be with me because I was lonely. My brother came out and I have one of my other buddies, Paddy came out, and then my cousins came out, and to this day it's my cousin Bob and Rick. Bob's the head editor for The Chive. Rick is the military editor, my brother co-founded The Chive with me, and then we were just slowly piling into a three bedroom house on Rose Avenue in Venice. If you've seen the movie, The Social Network, where they're rappelling off the chimney and everybody's going bonkers. It was basically that, minus the in-ground pool.
James McNeal: Yeah.
John Resig: It was a real special time or-
James McNeal: Or Justin Timberlake as your next door neighbor.
John Resig: Right?
James McNeal: That never happened.
John Resig: No, no, no, no. Viggo Mortensen was our next door neighbor.
James McNeal: Really?
John Resig: Oddly enough. Strange dude.
James McNeal: What year was this?
John Resig: This was 2005 through 2007.
James McNeal: What? So he just came off of Lord of the Rings.
John Resig: He was... Lord of the Rings really... He's an artist. He would open his garage and just make all this art out of real heavy wood and we'd just, we were just young scrapping boys. We just helped him carry it around his house and he was a real quiet dude. And he was living the dream. He had his own racket going on and he was, I think he was single. But yeah, I mean Viggo, Viggo did it right.
James McNeal: Did you tell him that?
Nate Mills: Well, when you become first name basis with Vigo though-
John Resig: We weren't first name. He was like, "Hey, help. I got a new bed frame. I just whittled out of oak."
James McNeal: Well, when the King asks you to help, you kind of have to.
John Resig: We loved it. We just loved going over to Viggo's house. That was awesome.
James McNeal: Well, so how did the acting thing turn out?
John Resig: Really well. I was cast in the pilot episode of a vampire drama called True Blood.
James McNeal: Yeah, that was a big one. HBO. Yeah.
John Resig: Yeah. Life came to confluence. I was broke. I still have my tax returns. For seven years I lived under the poverty line in LA, which living under the poverty line in general is hard, pulling it off in LA is a magic trick. But August of 2008, I was cast in the pilot episode of True Blood and ended up doing that for eight years. And then in 2008, September, 30 days later we started The Chive. There was a writer's strike during that time. Real big, famous writer's strike. So we couldn't go into production. I thought, crap, I can't pay rent, I can't do anything and I'm not going to make it. And they put us on this paid veil. They paid us not to work, which is still one of those foreign concepts-
James McNeal: Wait. They weren't paying the writers but they paid the actors?
John Resig: They paid [crosstalk 00:11:35].
James McNeal: Oh my gosh.
John Resig: The writer-
James McNeal: Did they know about that?
John Resig: The guy... Alan had already won an Academy award for writing American Beauty. I think he was all sorted out at the time. But no, they didn't pay him. They paid us to not work in it. And we used that money to start The Chive.
James McNeal: Oh my gosh.
John Resig: Yeah.
James McNeal: That's crazy.
John Resig: That's why we were able to retain complete control of The Chive, was because True Blood funded that for a couple of years.
James McNeal: Really? Wow. What a crazy story. So the fortunate thing is, you capitalized off of these writers now-
John Resig: Out of the... Yeah. Which is still true today. And it's... Poor writers.
James McNeal: Oh God.
John Resig: Yeah. So we did.
James McNeal: That's great. That's awesome. And Nate, you about that time, we're getting into the broadcast biz.
Nate Mills: I definitely don't have that story. I graduated from Ole Miss, University of Mississippi, and my very first job, I was actually telling Deb on the way over here, my very first job out of college back in 2010 was probably one of the worst times to graduate.
James McNeal: Yeah. Recession was happening-
Nate Mills: Well they were just kind of getting out of it, and it just wasn't, people weren't hiring as they used to. So I was literally just, I went, stayed at home for six months and I was just applying everywhere I could. And my very first job was a production assistant in Waco, Texas, at the ABC station there. I was making minimum wage. I was making the same amount of money as anyone that works at Wendy's or McDonald's. I made it my mission at that point, I'm going to learn everything about this business, from day one. Within about six months I was promoted to a producer, then they put me on-air. I was a morning anchor for a little bit. I pretty much did everything at that station except for GM.
James McNeal: Yeah.
Nate Mills: Because I wanted to learn everything I could possibly about this business, and eventually got into marketing and that's when KXAN and Austin called me up to come over here, and I was there for about seven years and just moved my way up. Really kind of helped transition their brand to what it is today and helped us, helped them at the time, get to number one overall. So, I mean, people start off at the... The way I looked at it was, I'm going to start off at the very bottom and try and work my way up from there and learn everything along the way. So, I think it's gotten me to where I am today. I hope-
James McNeal: No. Got you. We hired you because you'd been there for seven years, and you're still young and we're all... Millennials don't stay at a job no matter what it is for more than two years.
Nate Mills: Yeah.
John Resig: You know what a MILF is?
Nate Mills: Oh, yeah.
John Resig: It's a millennial I'd like to fire.
James McNeal: That happens quite a bit. [crosstalk 00:14:19]
John Resig: I'm like, Nate, this kid's loyal. Like at least he's going to gut it out with us for the tough times. You know, local news isn't exactly on the up and up. And I remember thinking this guy's a gem.
James McNeal: Yeah. How was the change? I mean, the news cycle has changed so much in just, during the time that you were at a big station, NBC affiliate and in Austin. How were those changes? How did do you deal with all that? The social media side, the digital side?
Nate Mills: When I started at KXAN, nobody, I guess I started in, what, in 2012? 2013?
John Resig: Yeah.
Nate Mills: Nobody was thinking about social. That wasn't even part of our strategy. That wasn't even part of our plan. It was all Facebook, man, whatever. Instagram, that's not even a thing. No one, that was never even part of what we were-
James McNeal: To push the brand-
Nate Mills: To push the brand. That was never a part of what, at least our higher-ups wanted us to do. And it got to a point where I was like, this is going to start catching up really fast if we don't start changing our strategy here.
Nate Mills: So that's when we started really focusing on social aspect. It was digital first. That's all we were doing. And over the years, obviously, no one knows what Facebook is right now. They're not going to know what Facebook is next week. It changes it. They changed their algorithm every freaking day. And so it's constantly staying up on the trends, constantly staying up on the impact of what Facebook does to the community. And that's how we focus our strategy, was strictly how do we perceive ourselves on social. Because everyone knows it's on air, they know KXAN In-Depth Investigative, they know all that. But who are we on social? It's got to be a different, it's a different audience. So that was probably the biggest challenge we had. At least I had when I was there trying to-
James McNeal: Well, explain that what you, I mean as a marketing or brand manager, what you did for the station. Because a lot of, some people are like, "Oh yeah, we see topicals and what's coming up in the news." And they're like, "Oh yeah, they put together that." But there's a lot more that goes into it when you have to work and coordinate with the news director or the reporters or whomever it is.
Nate Mills: Yeah. Well at a news station, the news department and the marketing department should work hand in hand. They can't really sell what they're doing without our promotion. We obviously can't do what we're doing without their content. So it has to be, you have to be one on one. As a brand manager at KXAN, my main focus was selling KXAN In-Depth Investigative. We wanted people to know who we were. And that's when I first started was, what are we, we are the investigative team in Austin. And as we really solidified that and grew that brand, the brand changes through the years. And as, as the years were going along, I was looking at the data. You look at the analytics, you kind of figure out, people know what we are, but why do we do what we do?
Nate Mills: And it was just kind of like changing that mentality through the years of, well, everyone knows the data shows, everyone knows we're In-Depth Investigative, but do they know why we do it? And we're showcasing, we're proving what we do. And that was my main strategy as a brand manager was, people can say, people can say shit all day long, like we do this, we do that. But if they don't prove it, if they don't showcase that in a proof way, then people are just going to think you're just throwing crap against the wall.
James McNeal: Yeah.
Nate Mills: I had a huge proofing strategy at... I wanted to show people this, we're getting results, we're going out, we're knocking on people's doors, we're changing laws, we're doing this and this is how we're doing it and why we're doing it. We're doing it for the people. As far as protecting the brand and molding the brand, that's kind of my, that was where my mind was at moving forward as we were going-
James McNeal: And marketing to many other, the people who were, the industry is dying. People are watching less and less TV these days.
Nate Mills: Absolutely. Do you want to go on the news right now and see all this shit that's going on? Pardon my language. Sorry.
James McNeal: Well there's a lot.
Nate Mills: It's like people... I remember it was like maybe 2015 to 2016 late, early 2017 that people just got, we saw the trends. People just got so tired of all this crap, bad stuff that was on the news. People just got so drained. And I remember sitting with my director of marketing, I was like, "Look. I am just going to stop doing half the crap that we're doing, like promoting these stories, because they're just not, they just, they drain me." And he goes, "Yeah, do it. That's fine." And we kind of just switched our mentality of, I'm going to start promoting who you know, the community is and who we are, the good things that we bring in. And you know, we saw a little uptick of that, but it's just draining sometimes. So you had to fight against that sometimes. But that was our brand. We're a hard invest, we were a hard investigative brand, so it's hard to go against that. You had to, you had to stick with your brand, you know, so...
James McNeal: Well John, you know that pretty well in branding The Chive. But I guess when you guys first started, you and your brother, what was the goal? What was your thought process in going, "Hey, we're going to start this website." Was there a general brand that you knew that was going to happen through The Chive?
John Resig: No. The original name before it was Triad Media Group, was Resignation Media. It was born out of wanting to resign from our day jobs.
James McNeal: And also incorporating your last names-
John Resig: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, win win. You couldn't have, there was no way to predict what it would do because we failed so many times prior to The Chive, with Derober, and just a number of websites that didn't take off. But we learned WordPress 1.1. When the world was on movable type and blogger and people heard this automatic company out of San Francisco launched WordPress, and we thought we will jump on that. And that turned about, they turned out to be the heir-apparent to the blogging platform. So we got lucky in many ways, but there's no way to handle or have a playbook for like the meteoric rise of The Chive. So, it did take off within the first two weeks. It was bigger than anything we'd ever done before.
James McNeal: Wow. How many hits were you getting back then?
John Resig: The biggest day we ever had on Derober was like 100,000 hits. And that's a lot. I thought that was good. It wasn't enough for everyone to quit their jobs. But we were at a 100,000 in two, two and a half weeks.
James McNeal: Well, how did you start to monetize that? Because a lot of people don't realize you can create something, but how do you then-
John Resig: You quit your job. You guys know that as good as anyone. You know, back in the first blush of online digital media, there wasn't. I can tell you that Google AdSense, we got, let's just say we get five million unique visitors that would equal about $2,300 a month on Google AdSense. That same amount of traffic, five years later, was the equivalent of seven or $800,000.
James McNeal: Wow.
John Resig: So same traffic. But so what we did was we took on the movie theater, we adopted the movie theater mentality, which is like, we've got butts in the seats, let's sell them popcorn and peanuts. So we started e-commerce before anyone did. We kind of ferreted out these four guys in Ottawa, Canada, who had created this platform called Shopify.
James McNeal: Wow.
John Resig: Right?
James McNeal: [inaudible 00:21:39] this small platform.
John Resig: Again. So yeah, the story of The Chive is a story of luck. People would say luck doesn't play a part. I'm like, "Oh my brother and I are not that slow."
James McNeal: You're Irish twins so that makes sense.
John Resig: Yeah. We found these guys who were doing Shopify, there's four of them. They're all billionaires now. At the time they just wanted people to join their platform, and we had all the traffic in the world and they helped build the first iteration of The Chivery. And we were able to come up with two designs with Bill Murray and keep calling Chive-On that just went parabolic. They're still our two best, nothing has eclipsed or even remotely eclipsed the success of those shirts. So we were able to use e-comm to buttress the growing digital media property until the inflection point came where you could monetize it effectively through banner ads and premium video, and things that were years before that industry matured.
James McNeal: That's interesting. It's cool that you mentioned Bill Murray. How was that process? I know y'all do have someone on staff who's related to Bill Murray, but was that-
John Resig: Shout out to Drew Murray.
James McNeal: Yeah.
John Resig: Yeah. Drew's one of our better employees actually. But at the time, there's no way to predict that putting Bill Murray's face on a t-shirt would sell.
James McNeal: Did he prove that or-
John Resig: No. All the urban legends are true. He has an 800 number that you can call. He might listen, he might not. He has no agent. He has no manager. He has a lawyer in Chicago and his brothers and then a producer. And that is the circle, the very tight circle of Bill Murray.
John Resig: So we were selling all these t-shirts and we're not going to stop, right? We're selling. We've gone from not being able to, the difference between a bean burrito at Taco Bell and a beef burrito was 10 cents. Ninety-nine cents and a $1.09. Half the week we ate bean burritos because that 10 cents, that's a hell of a carry. You can't float it, to making millions of dollars selling this t-shirt. And from day one we're calling his 800 numbers, "Hey Bill, we owe you tons of money." And then trying to get, we got ahold of his brothers and we're trying to get a hold of Bill. That process took three years, until the secretary walks in and says, "Bill Murray's on the phone," and she has a look in her eyes, "don't say I'm the Easter bunny".
John Resig: Yes, it's definitely Bill. It's Bill. Then he meets up with you and said he liked the shirt and knowing the Bill that we know now, he shuts everything down.
James McNeal: Really.
John Resig: He's really protective. So we handle all of his imaging, like licensing. We founded his golf line. But he's particular about how he's perceived by the world and rightfully so. Look what that has done for him. It's not, it's an extension of who he is but it's not, I mean it is somewhat deliberate. So we finally got a hold of him and worked out a deal, and just again, got lucky. Because how Bill defines talent, and you can see it now, is that he discovers early talent. Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, myself and my brother when we're young. That is how he measure success as being able to find nobodies who might have a shot at something and teaming up with them.
James McNeal: Wow.
John Resig: And what a benefit that is to us because we, no one knew who we were. We weren't a brand and suddenly you're puffing your chest out, Bill Murray has your back. [00:25:31].
James McNeal: How did two guys from Fort Wayne, Indiana-
John Resig: Yeah. Who grew up watching Caddyshack 300 times. There was some poll at salon.com, I think a year, it was a couple of years back, where they... Who is the one person you want to have a drink with in the world? And it wasn't an eight, it wasn't a one through 10, and like 47% of respondents wrote in Bill Murray, without being prompted, and I can go do that.
James McNeal: Yeah. Pat your... Sometimes you've got to look back and go, wow, this is-
John Resig: This is cool.
Nate Mills: That's crazy to show the impact that he has. You know? I mean, you just put his face on shirt and everyone's like, I want to buy this shirt. You know, I mean-
John Resig: We've tried to explain to him that that actually helped make him more cultural. It's true, but he'll never admit to it.
James McNeal: No. He, well, it's him. He's his character is... But you're right for the new generation, which you were just talking about MILFs. Some of these millennials have no clue who this guy is but know his face.
John Resig: Yeah.
James McNeal: And that's a credit to The Chive.
John Resig: I think we bridge the gap between that and Zombieland [inaudible 00:26:39] cameo, and he just, and now he's got the new Sofia Coppola movie launching, and the new Ghostbusters in which he plays a role, and another secret project he's working on. And he's going to turn 70 this year. And he's still every bit Bill Murray. Yeah.
James McNeal: Well you mentioned popcorn and candy. I want to dive into that a little bit. So what, the content was, what you were serving to people was, a male focused side when you first started.
John Resig: Yeah. Still is.
James McNeal: Explain your thoughts on just... You were talking earlier before we got on, that you are really the last in the space that you guys are, that have been able to survive that. But kind of started it though. I guess with the popcorn and candy.
John Resig: Our, if you want to call it the freshman class of comedy publishers, it would be College Humor who was the first. They were in 1999. Cracked, brake, funny or die to some degree, total frat move. And at the time you went online, you go online now because it's a utility. You go on now do your banking. You go on now because you got to find, get all your news there. But like back in 2008 or nine you went on for funsies man, you just went on to get on the B board at 4chan and see... Go to Egotastic and see which celebrity had a nip slip. That was just the greatest first blush of what you'd call web 2.0, where it was just fun.
John Resig: To Nate's point then, the news feed out, it came out with Facebook and you had a choice to either join the Facebook death star because they were distributing a ton of traffic back to publishers, as we, hindsight being 20/20, that you were only leasing their traffic.
James McNeal: Right.
John Resig: You were not owning that. They were checking in and coming back and people thought that that was the future. And we remembered something no one talks about right now, which is in 2010 and 2011, Facebook was all about likes. Like your site, right? And we had this, we had built this wall in 2010 that had all of our friends. We had indexed their API and scraped all our friends pictures and put them on a wall, and it filled the wall. It was like 800,000 people and it was wallpaper all around. And then they built the walled garden around likes and he said, "Look, it's not about likes anymore. It's about shares. Don't worry about shares." So everyone liked our page. That reach went from 100% down to 5% and then in 2013 Rally's publishers got hooked. They were like, "Oh, it's all about shares and we're getting all this traffic." [Crosstalk 00:29:41] And we're like, "Oh, I've got to get all this."
John Resig: And we were like, we just had to tear all of our friends down off the wall. It was like a moratorium when we had to be like, "These aren't our friends, they can't see our page anymore. What do you guys think you're doing?" This is, you're going to build a walled garden around this. And when they do, they're going to make publishers pay-
James McNeal: Right.
John Resig: to make up the difference. So take, if you've got a hundred percent share voice, they moved it to 50 overnight, and said, "Look, you can buy the other 50 back but you got to pay." And so they started paying and paying and paying and that's when all the sites I talked about, started paying and paying and draining their coffer-
James McNeal: Boosting. [crosstalk 00:30:25].
John Resig: You could boos the thing and we just saw, well you couldn't... I don't trust Mark Zuckerberg as far as I can kick him. This Vaseline cyborg, this kid is milk toast, and he has no, very loose affiliation with the truth and absolutely no sense of consequences whatsoever. And I-
James McNeal: Which we've seen over the past three years. But we've... Back then you were experiencing it firsthand.
John Resig: We didn't. We didn't start a social distributed model. Instead, we went and built a community.
James McNeal: Right.
John Resig: And so we're just going to shake every hand, throw Chive meet-ups, start Chive chapters all-
James McNeal: The app-
John Resig: over the road. We were a laughing stock to everybody because suddenly they started to surpass us in traffic. But we were 90% organic traffic and they were 80 or 90% Facebook traffic. Now if that ever flips, you're going to have the effect of the CDO, housing market collapse. And that's effectively what happened.
James McNeal: That's crazy. Well, I guess it's cool to know the evolution of what y'all had to deal with to get the brand where it is. But when did you decide to move to Austin, which I know Venice, you were saying was like one of the best times. I guess, what made y'all make the shift? This being a podcast out of Boston, it's-
John Resig: Yeah. We didn't want anyone to not, we wanted a work environment, which everyone worked together. In Venice Beach you had a choice. Snapchat ended up taking over our building and ran into a problem, that is a bifurcated, fractured, business space where you'd have to house 20 people here and 30 people over at the Freak Show and 30 people on Market Street.
John Resig: Some offices were better than the others. And then you've got the Freak Show crowd, and they took over our offices, and those guys were just The Chive, and it creates contention. We wanted everyone together and you can't do that in Venice Beach. So we went on a tour and thought people would care, because we were going to bring a couple of hundred jobs to, high paying tech jobs, and we went to Boulder, we went to Seattle. We even tried out Key West. We figured out we'd impregnate the Island. That would be bad-
James McNeal: The vikings come in, right?
John Resig: Yeah, yeah. We came here and like Governor Perry was in his victory lap his last six months in office and I mean, talk about a guy like he had been governor for 16 years, 14 years, whatever it was. He didn't give a shit. He was like, "I love you guys." Politics aside, he cared and we just want someone to care. So it was ended up being Governor Perry that brought us in.
James McNeal: Wow. Yeah. I know. I've seen the pictures and whatnot. I guess it, when you landed here, expanded obviously, and you've turned into what, how many employees do you guys have now?
Nate Mills: I think it's overall, including Atmosphere, I think it's about 110.
John Resig: Yeah. It was 103 a couple of weeks ago.
James McNeal: Yeah. Wow.
John Resig: I don't know. Ballpark. Ballpark.
James McNeal: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well that's, how does that feel to know that you, what you've built started from scratch, and now it's employing all these young folks like Nate [crosstalk 00:00:33:34].
Nate Mills: That's very nice. Come on.
John Resig: I'm incredibly proud of that. I really am. I think it will be one of the great honors of my life to be able to support not just employees, but their families and have them on good insurance, and think about what could have happened as you've seen last Thursday, when College Humor laid off 103 of its staff all at once. That's hor... I don't want to know what that looks or feels like, but I, you've got to know it's possible. It's ever-present in this industry as evidenced by the fact that we are the last man standing in that space. The fact that we're growing is, that's cool man. Because I will really do this job till they forcibly extricate-
Nate Mills: And I'll just piggyback off of that. Just coming in, obviously beforehand I was a big Chive supporter and I knew, I've followed them for years, but what some people don't know is, when I got here I looked at Chive charities, which is what these guys do. And the impact that they can bring on a community and their followers and their fans is absolutely just, second to none. So, sure, we are an awesome comedy blog. We're a great streaming platform, but we're also a community that gives back to our fans. And I think that's evident in Chive charities, which is what John and Leo have really worked hard to put together.
James McNeal: Yeah. Then you mentioned the streaming platform that, and I think if I don't ask this question, people might murder me, but where, how do you get these videos on The Chive, and who do you have working on to implement this? Like where do you find this content?
John Resig: At first, it was really organic. I think if, being a brand, I think if you accidentally set your friend on fire and he falls down a well, someone nudges you and says, "You should send that to The Chive."
James McNeal: Well, you capitalize off the smartphones [crosstalk 00:00:35:40]. Because everybody has a video camera and-
John Resig: You're exactly right. Everyone has a camera and they're sending it to us, but Chive's really a photo blog. We post five or six videos a day, maybe, sometimes four, but we had all these videos archived and we knew there was value in that. In 2015 we had started a beer line. This shows my brother and I's need to be serial entrepreneurs ends in failure, but out of failure you get a lot of information. So we started [crosstalk 00:36:19]. We started a nationwide beer line. We were the first in 50 States and it was going bananas and we didn't know how to support it. And especially, we didn't know how to advertise it. We're in a bar and we're like, "how do you advertise in a bar?" And you look around, it's table teepees, it's the coasters, it's neon signs.
John Resig: And then I remember, someone came up next to us and asked the bartender what the wifi code was. And I was like, okay. And this is not that long ago. And it wasn't until late 2015 that high speed internet became ubiquitous in bars and restaurants. They were, they're not early adopters or anything. And we thought, Oh my God. And we looked around and bars didn't have two TVs anymore. They had 10 TVs because the cost of a flat screen had come from $1,200 down to 99 bucks. And then there was a Roku stick that you could port into the TV, effectively hijacking it. It's like the Uber model, without the complaining people. Justifiably so.
James McNeal: Yeah. Yeah.
John Resig: So we thought, "We've got all these videos and we can load them to this device, port them in TVs in bars and restaurants that everybody has, and it can sync with high speed internet." And we were, we hit that right in early months when that was happening, and announced to our, that we're going to spend 20 plus million... Every dime of company profits, whatever that amounted to, to pivoting to streaming for businesses. And we had a number of employees who quit that day.
James McNeal: Wow.
John Resig: Thought that we had gone and stayed too late at the fair because the beer line was failing, and now we're going to do this and what, what are you guys doing? And it's like, if you're not moving, you die. And so that-
James McNeal: Especially in the digital space. You have to, it always changes. So you have to pivot in a lot of ways.
John Resig: And it wasn't that good. It was like watching the first season of the Simpsons. Homer doesn't sound like Homer and we're running slideshows through it to fill up space or running the daily afternoon randomness just to try to fill the loop up. But compared to watching Judge Judy with subtitles and Talking Heads when the game isn't on. What's your product market fit? Is this as fit for the market? The answer is, Oh my God, yeah. Even that at our worst, was better than what was running on TVs in bars and restaurants when Sunday football isn't on.
James McNeal: Nate, you mentioned this to me, that the gorilla marketing for this, the way y'all get into bars, and y'all go to certain colleges and do some guerrilla marketing and-
Nate Mills: We've done that in the past. We just launched an ambassador program where we offer money for people who want to sign up and go into bars or restaurants or any kind of business, and get them to sign up for Atmosphere, which is the stream platform that Chive TV is on. Gorilla marketing works. I've done guerrilla marketing in KXAN and it works. It really does. And that's definitely something that we've done before and we're definitely ramping up as well as we move forward.
James McNeal: And Atmosphere, which is your brand that you're in charge of and obviously promoting, it's different from The Chive. And y'all kind of, have y'all separated it?
Nate Mills: Yeah. Atmosphere and Chive TV is 100% complete family-friendly. It's viral videos from across the world that people submit to us or that we license out and we show in bars. There's a channel that fits every single mood, every single vibe, every single business.
James McNeal: How many channels are y'all up to right now?
Nate Mills: There's 12 owned and operated that we own and operate ourselves. And then we add and have added multiple partner channels, and we continue to do so on... We're ramping up even more partner channels coming on board. People want to be on this platform because they know how, John told me this, because I didn't know this when I first started was, 70% of the time, people are outside of the house. And all these streaming platforms, Netflix, Hulu, Disney plus, they're all meant to be streamed inside the home. But what about the businesses? What about the people who are in those businesses? It's a space that no one has really been able to take advantage of, and we were the first ones to do it and it's continuing to grow for us. So yeah, it's been a fun ride.
James McNeal: Yeah. I've watched your Drone TV, which is actually a pretty-
Nate Mills: It's amazing.
James McNeal: I love it. I love the blend.
Nate Mills: Glad you like it.
James McNeal: I'm a big topographic, I can just look at cities and maps and it speaks to me.
Nate Mills: Shout out to Air Views TV. It's becoming quite popular on the network because it's like, think of it like Apple screensaver. Only on steroids, taking you through cities and getting a tour of the Kremlin-
James McNeal: Oh, the picture is so vivid.
John Resig: It's absolutely amazing. It's 4K [crosstalk 00:41:23] But to his point, it's kind of, there are channels for every state of mind. You can watch Happy TV in a hair or nail salon, you can watch Motivate TV in a gym. And the way we think of it is, while the world is battling for real estate on your mobile device and your home TV, we've really taken the third space while no one is watching.
James McNeal: Right.
John Resig: And we're baffled by the fact that, that we've been able to accomplish that because we thought for sure, to be honest with you, we very much relied on being underestimated at first. That was half of the business model. Because like we announced to our employees that we're going to go hard in the space. If Buzzfeed or Vice in 2015, had announced that they're going to go in to digital out-of-home, content first digital out-of-home streaming, the whole world would have run. We wanted people to be like, "Eh, it's The Chive." And they did. But when we announced the Atmosphere, that Chive TV was really just the proof of concept for a platform. And then we rolled out the entire platform. We thought, "Okay, we're going to hear footsteps in 2018 soon, fast, and hard."
James McNeal: Well because connected TV just grew, and markets have almost 50% people who just cut the cord and want something on the background, where they can just maybe, like you were saying, do their laundry or do something.
John Resig: It requires no sound at all and it's free.
James McNeal: And it's free.
John Resig: It's free. And we still have no competition. We've taken on a lot of funding now and that's given us a certain amount of exit velocity that it kind of doesn't matter how much money you have right now. Welcome to center court.
Nate Mills: What's great about it is that it's a proven model. It's proven to increase new business. It's proven to bring back repeat business. It's proven to increase the overall vibe and to all time. If you're a bar or restaurant, if I'm an owner and you tell me that, wait, so someone's going to stay here, watch this for another hour and order four more beers, that's pure profit. You know what I mean? So, it's a proven model that works and we're dedicated to bringing that to businesses to help them grow. And while having awesome content, like Red Bull TV, AFV TV, America's Funniest Home Videos TV. They're all on our platform and they want to be on that platform.
James McNeal: It's so funny that AFV ,because they were basically, I mean you, you see the crashes and people get nicked or skateboarders breaking ankles or whatever.
Nate Mills: Right. And before AFV, it was Bloopers. It's why you remember Saturday morning or late night tv Blooper reel or whatever it was. [crosstalk 00:44:03] You see the Harlem Globetrotters. We're the ambient evolution of that. America's funniest home videos, kind of like, can't beat them, join them. They're smart. Upload your content to our platform, we've built the tubes, we've spent all the money. You don't want to go down the distribution route to try to compete because it is a beast. But we've laid the pipes effectively, laid the internet, the fiber optic cables, if you want to think about it like that, in bars and restaurants around the world. So-
James McNeal: You created the model, that's for sure.
Nate Mills: Yeah, and the platform.
James McNeal: It's just every section y'all have gone into, it seems like you hit it at the right time.
John Resig: Whether it's apps or e-com. That's what really gets my brother and I going. It never has been the money. It's been like trying to figure out how to be on the bleeding edge of what's next. And we only do want to do this one more time. Like this is the third lightning in a bottle and now it's going to... It's, it's Hooker Island after this.
James McNeal: Yeah. Yeah.
John Resig: Can't say that now, but you get the idea. I'm done after this. I don't want to do it again.
Nate Mills: The risks and all.
John Resig: Yeah. Like my brother'll keep serial-entrepreneuring and I wanted one more hit in a suitcase and I'll be just fine. Going and just reading some Hemingway on an island.
James McNeal: Drinking a nice Scotch and Whiskey.
John Resig: I'll do boat drinks after this. I'm four years away from Corinthia Island, something austere. I don't know. There's not really hookers on it.
James McNeal: Nope. Nope.
John Resig: But you get the idea.
James McNeal: Yeah, yeah. Well it's a good life.
John Resig: Is it? No.
James McNeal: Well, that's something I did want to bring up is, the culture that you've created, even in the office environment. You've got the slide, which we've seen some stuff, some Epic crashes on that recently too. But y'all created a culture within the environment... Before, I know there was like the Googles and Facebooks of the world doing their open concepts, but y'all kind of did something different. Explain how you decided to go about that route to maybe attract the millennials like Nate and myself.
John Resig: How did we go down the route to, on The Chive?
James McNeal: Yeah. To just attract employees or just make it a good office environment.
John Resig: The culture and the brand? Our Venice Beach place was amazing. It was absolutely stunning and we knew we had to one-up ourselves, and we are culture first profits second. We always have been. So we knew, we made this slide. If you know one thing about The Chive, it's that we have a slide built on a 43 degree angle, that's death slide. And we have a fully functional copper bar, which is great. And I think what's really great about it is, we don't, we're not very self-reverential. While all the other tech properties are trying to lock people out, we let people in. On Fridays, if you're a veteran, if you're a first responder, if you're a cancer survivor, if you're a gold Bill Murray coin holder, you can just pass freely in and out of The Chive. There'll be a bartender there waiting to serve you a drink-
James McNeal: All the time right?
John Resig: All the time, every Friday. And that's been since day one of The Chive. It's not just the employees that are the most beautiful people on earth that, the only thing we test for is a sense of empathy. That's all we're looking for. Because if you have a sense of empathy, it means so much more. It means you're very social, you care about other people, you know what I'm saying? So-
James McNeal: That way works in all walks of life too.
John Resig: It really does.
James McNeal: It's not just within the work environment-
John Resig: But it's also the community that comes in. It's the veterans, it's the first responders and it's not the celebrities. We have a Four Seasons right next door and if you're a celebrity and you're like, "I'm going to The Chive today." You're not getting in. And then the 25-year retired Bill, first responder, 50 pounds overweight-
Nate Mills: Come on in here and grab a drink-
John Resig: Come on in. Yeah, come on in Bill.
James McNeal: Actually, get in line famous person. Get a wristband.
John Resig: Right. It doesn't matter. We didn't build that for them. We built it for the people, but it's not just the employees. It is absolutely the community that makes this work. And if, now that we have Atmosphere and Chive TV, it's kind of a line around the block to get in to get a job. That's really-
James McNeal: Yeah. Very cool.
John Resig: My brother and I still do all the interviewing. Just do not like hiring shitbags. Because if you're going through hyper-growth, for all you people who have the discomfort of ever hiring a hundred people in two years or whatever, if you get it 70% right, you've knocked the cover off the ball. Right? By the numbers, like 30% of the people that you hire are going to be not the pedigree that you want in your office.
John Resig: That's what sucks about it and we're probably right about there. And the first hyper-growth may be 40%, and that's like, culture's everything because one person can ruin the whole, spoil the whole lot. One bad manager can spoil the whole operation. That's what hangs in the balance. People who want to silo off, their, this is mine, I'm not going to tell you anything. I know what I'm doing. They've been indoctrinated into their own self-belief system. They don't want to listen to the bosses. And that kills me because my 25 year-old editor knows more about digital out-of-home streaming than any tenured, journeyman manager, because we created a category of content that no one else had before. Tell me what you know.
James McNeal: That's good. You mentioned that loyalty being a reason why you bring people over. I think you've created that loyalty within your office environment but also within the brand, the people who love The Chive. If you don't find somebody who, you love The Chive. That's a loyalty to the brand. And y'all have built that and it definitely comes out.
John Resig: You got to tend that garden every day. You're not entitled to it and anyone who is, ever. People that do, they gotta get out. That's why you hire people like Nate who comes in and he's in the first year of his loyalty. His loyalty peaks. We've got three years before this kid gets lazy. His inexorable decline, it won't matter. I'll be on Corinthia Island. I'll be on like four years. They'll be like, "Nate really is coming in late and leaving early." I'm like, "I can't hear you over the sound of the boat plane landing."
Nate Mills: That's good.
James McNeal: That's good. Well, John, Nate, is there anything you want to add and just what's on the horizon? I know you said he might have one more lightning in a bottle, but I don't know if you guys are moving into that.
John Resig: This is it. We're in it.
James McNeal: Okay, okay.
John Resig: We call them the salad days and they only last for three years. That's where all your successes minimize and diminish all of your failures and you just got to enjoy it, and you work hard to be a part of what we're being on. One more rocket ship ride and you just got to appreciate it. Right now we feel like that 82 year-old composer finally wins an Academy award, but got dissed for Chinatown?
James McNeal: Yeah, yeah.
John Resig: He's happier now. To get, like you appreciate it now because it's the best thing in the world to have it and you just got to appreciate it and know that competition's coming, and that there's going to be a million more problems down the road. But right now you're just all rowing the oars in the same direction. But the main thing is, if you're a business owner and you have any venue, I don't care if it, we've got Throttle TV. If you own a dealership-
Nate Mills: A car dealership-
John Resig: A car dealership.
Nate Mills: Auto shop.
John Resig: Auto shop, oil, lube change, we've got something for you. No matter what business you have. If that business has a waiting room, we have a free Apple TV to give you that's 10 times better at whatever you're playing in the lobby.
Nate Mills: With refreshed content weekly. We're bringing in new content. We're bringing in new channels. It's a no-brainer. If you're a business owner and it's free.
James McNeal: Yeah. Get people to look at something rather than their phone.
Nate Mills: Right.
James McNeal: Everywhere you go now it seems like cell phone reception doesn't work anyway, so you need something to do.
Nate Mills: I'll leave it at this. Deb and I have worked really hard in getting, hearing testimonials from companies who do have Atmosphere, and we heard one from a medical office. The head HR person there was like, "Look, people hate coming in to get checkups." But we put Chive TV on Happy TV, which is part of Atmosphere, and people are happy, people are laughing and that helps out once you go into the room to get blood pressure checked, all that stuff. It helps people relax. It helps people have fun. And that's what we're all trying to do, right?
James McNeal: That's what you started it out with. Having funsies.
John Resig: The sum total of everything we put out is just to make you laugh. We don't uphold people who hate or ridicule or snark. People need to get rid of their negative bias and that is the one thing about The Chive and Chive TV. It's just to make you happy and you can't fault us for doing that.
James McNeal: Yeah, that's great. Well John, hopefully your acting career just takes off once you-
John Resig: Thank you.
James McNeal: Fingers crossed. I'm looking forward to seeing you in the next HBO series. Thanks for coming in guys.
John Resig: Thank you. Thanks to Q1 Media, you guys are great. Keep this up. You're a good interview.
James McNeal: Awesome. Thank you guys. Appreciate it.
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