Gorkana meets… The Pool

In 2015, Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne, founders of The Pool, revealed their new multi-media platform for women “too busy to browse” to a packed out Gorkana media briefing. A year later, Baker says the platform is going from strength to strength, talks about which content is working best and asks PRs not to address her as “Mr Baker” when getting in contact.

The Pool Sam Baker

Sam Baker

Since The Pool took part in a Gorkana Media Briefing (May 2015), what has changed?

We’ve grown at a crazy pace – which has its benefits and its drawbacks. The main platform is going from strength to strength with over 650,000 monthly unique users.

What has surprised you the most about the reaction from your audience at The Pool since launch?

Well we obviously *hoped* people would like The Pool – and we’d done a fair amount of research beforehand to make sure – but there were plenty of naysayers, both in tech and in old media, so the positive reaction has been really gratifying.

People tell us how much they love the broadcast method of delivery and the device that tells you how long it will take to consume the content. But best of all is how addicted people are to our ‘Today in 3’ email.

Hardly a day passes when I don’t see tweets saying people don’t know what they did on their journey to work before The Pool, and last week a woman crossed the street to say that. I had to stop myself kissing her!

What content has worked best on the site since launch?

That’s a bit like how long is a piece of string! Different content works in different ways – in terms of sheer numbers, news pieces where we catch a mood or are first off the block. For example, when Jenny Beavan wore an M&S leather jacket to the Oscars or when Kelvin Mackenzie used his Sun column to attack a Channel 4 news presenter for wearing a hijab – these stories brought us hundreds of thousands of new readers.

Combining the news hook with emotional resonance is the holy grail – like when Jessica Knoll (author of Luckiest Girl Alive) came out about her high school rape.

Video can be harder to make stick, but when it does you have a captive audience for anywhere up to an hour. Although we’re having lots of fun with social video right now, one snappy 30 second video called “Smile Hillary” was viewed 500,000 times overnight.

That said, our dwell times are hugely impressive, often exceeding five minutes for a fashion piece; our fashion content has a hugely loyal following, with people looking for taste and advice they trust before they shop. Our books content is the same. We have proven people come to us again and again for recommendations across a wide range of verticals.

What are you focusing on for the next 12 months?

AV, data, and improving the user experience. And we also have a sneaky little side project up our sleeve.

Pan Macmillan recently renewed its content and sponsorship partnership with The Pool. What does it get with The Pool it cannot get elsewhere and what will be different about the partnership in its second year?

We’re hugely thrilled and proud that Pan Macmillan chose to renew its deal. There’s no bigger vote of confidence.

As well as the influence and reach of The Pool’s team and contributors, and the way we deliver content into our audience’s receptive moments in their day, our method of working with brand partners is totally unique. We spend time with the brand’s stakeholders finding out what’s important to them, then the content team work hard to produce content that we know will resonate with our audience in an authentic way and, ultimately, introduce them to new authors.

What’s the key to a successful content partnership?

Collaboration. And trust. That’s it.

What’s the one thing PRs should never do when approaching you?

Call me Mr Baker. Seriously. Take a look at Twitter, Facebook, Google or even the masthead!

Your novel, The Woman Who Ran, hit the shelves earlier this year. What’s your next book going to be about?

I’ve spent a lot of time hosting events and filming interviews, both for The Pool and my book, and I’ve really enjoyed finding my voice off the page as well as on. I can’t tell you too much about my next novel – other than that it’s another psychological thriller – as I don’t want to jinx it.

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