Heralded as the “media phenomenon of 2017” and the “reference point for young women on social networks”’. If you are a woman younger than 35, you have almost certainly seen their posts on your social network feeds: Freeda, the new pop feminist editorial startup. We describe it like this for their colourful, easy-going posts that focus on girls in a changing universe. Where kittens are never in short supply.
Freeda, on the other hand, has its own definition of its mission: “a project, and a world, made up of people who want to change things, break out of boxes and create a new era for women”. Actually, the format has shattered what used to the classic format of information, up to now. All content - articles and video (all short and very attractive) - is posted with very high frequency on social media channels (were girls spend a lot of their time each day). This means that the target audience receives the information directly on their feeds with heavy sponsorship. Freeda’s website is no more than a landing page that directs people to news in “instant articles” posted on the different social networks.
The numbers, for a “publication” that is less than two years old, are literally astounding: 1.5 million likes on Facebook, 900K followers on Instagram and 36K on YouTube (their most recent channel), with 24 million unique profiles reached, over half of which are women and girls, and 30 million video views per month. Who is behind Freeda’s success? And more importantly, what is the strategy that they used to attain such a high level of success?
Founded by Andrea Scotti Calderini, ex-director of the crossmedia and branded entertainment division of Publitalia, and Gianluigi Casole, from the Holding Italiana Quattordicesima, today H14 (this company also from the Berlusconi family), Freeda aims to fill the gap in the market of women information for the millennial generation, and wants to become the “strongest independent voice of women between the ages of 18 and 34”.
A project and a world, made up of people who want to change things, break out of boxes and create a new era for women
Starting with the name - in the founders’ intentions, Freeda is the feminine form of freedom - their mission is to transmit “the high-impact change that is happening to women now”, as editor in chief Daria Bernardoni explained. How? Telling “stories of women who broke down barriers and improved society with their strength”. Just scrolling down Freeda’s wall on Facebook shows us the stories of very different people -scientists, make-up artists, actresses and athletes - who have helped change the destinies of all women through their work and their dreams.
Because Freeda mainly aims to inspire. On one hand, they do this by adopting an American concept that affirms that individuality and personal goals are the key to success, and on the other, they talk about topics that interest today’s girls, ranging from the simple question “What Christmas gifts should I buy?” to “How you know you’re in love”, with more important topics such as homosexuality, abortion and marriage mixed in for discussion.
The business model, which could suggest a complex strategy despite its success, is actually very simple: it is based on the offer of communication and marketing services for companies oriented towards the reference target. In a nutshell, through dedicated, branded content and native advertising, the brands (mainly in the fashion, beauty and mass distribution sectors) can acquire visibility and increase their customer base.
Freeda is the feminine form of freedom: their mission is to transmit “the high-impact change that is happening to women now”, as editor-in-chief Daria Bernardoni explains
Naturally, this system has its critics, who have called them “a hyper-aggressive editorial project where feminist or pseudo-feminist content are used as Trojan horses to become part of “conversations” of young millennials, in order to sell the enormous quantities of data collected through the website to companies who want to exploit that target for their own corporate strategies”. In short, they have been accused of a sort of “corporate pinkwashing” that uses the interests of girls to increase their own revenue.
However, if we listen to the founders, they say advertising content only amounts to 10% of their total content. In any case, the management does not seem to have any particular reason to hide their desire to expand, also on a physical level. In May, this startup collected 10 million dollars in investments (also involved in the financing group were the French fund Alven Capital, the investment company U-Start and business angels Stefano Sala from Publitalia, Henri Moissinac, ex head of mobile of Facebook, and Paloma Castro Martinez, ex global director of corporate affairs of Lvmh) for an internationalisation process that started in Spain and plans to touch several countries in Europe and Latin America. “Our goal is to increase our offering of premium content for users and partners, differentiating and expanding our business model. Today, branded content is our first source of revenue”, said Freeda founder Casole.
And that’s not all: their plans also include distributing new content to Amazon and Netflix and launching new forms of monetization such as products, events or paid experiences. The final objective? Quadrupling their turnover, which at the end of the first year had reached 1 million Euro, and “building a media brand for women all over the world”, said Scotti Calderini.
Are they intelligent geniuses or mean opportunists? For the moment, Freeda is positioned among the ten finalist startups of the StartupItalia! Open Summit 2018 and their growth looks like it is unstoppable. With a success like this (content posted has recorded some of the highest monthly interactions in the feminine editorial segment), not even Chiara Ferragni could have done better. A round of applause for kittens!