Did you know that Seu Dinheiro nearly broke? Know the story

Seu Dinheiro almost broke in 2020, but it turned around from a business restructuring; understand.

I was at a lecture at Columbia University in New York about the future of journalism. And, among several other pieces of information, a power point chart by a speaker whose name I don’t even remember caught my attention.

What I didn’t know was that that insight in May 2016 would be essential to face, four years later, the biggest professional challenge I’ve ever experienced. This not only completely changed my career, but simply “saved” Seu Dinheiro (a news site that today belongs to the same money times group) from going out of business.

And the most surprising thing of all: this idea was implemented a month after the company went through its biggest financial crisiswhich unfortunately culminated in a process of layoffs and cost cutting.

That idea was mine “last shot” to keep the site up. And, and as Seu Dinheiro is in the air in the middle of 2023, it’s a sign that everything worked out.

Below, I invite you to learn a little about my history and the lessons I learned from the restructuring of this company:

Lesson 1: Your product may be wonderful, but it won’t survive if it doesn’t generate revenue

Seu Dinheiro aired in September 2018, with a team of first-rate journalists, coming from renowned vehicles such as Valor Econômico, Exame, Bloomberg, etc.

I came from a successful career in national economic journalism: I was a reporter for Folha and Estadão and left my position as editor of Economy at G1, the largest news site in the country, to be editor-in-chief and set up the newsroom of Seu Dinheiro .

The proposal was to create differentiated content for individual investors: quality texts, clear and useful information to help Brazilians invest. All this with bold language, moving away from that boring finance content that you find out there.

Modesty aside, we did it. The editorial quality of Seu Dinheiro is one of the things I am most proud of in my career.

But then came the hard lesson: your product may be wonderful, but it won’t survive if it doesn’t generate revenue.

The site was great, but it didn’t make money. And, like the vast majority of media companies in Brazil and around the world, Seu Dinheiro is a private, for-profit company. So, at the end of 2019, we got an ultimatum to turn the business around. It was in this context that I was “promoted” to CEO, precisely to carry out the restructuring of the company.

Before proceeding, a parenthesis: this dilemma is nothing new. There are several media companies facing crises around the world. Just to name a few here from Brazil: the Brazilian version of El País closed in December 2021. The newspapers Brasil Econômico and Gazeta Mercantil no longer exist. Editora Abril, owner of Veja, and Editora Três, from Istoé, filed for bankruptcy.

In order for Seu Dinheiro not to go through the same thing, the business needed to change. In addition to cutting costs, I had to find a way to make the site profitable. But I couldn’t hire anyone (on the contrary) and I didn’t have any money to spend.

That’s when I remembered that graph I saw in 2016 at the Columbia lecture…

Lesson 2: Follow the money

The graph basically showed that brands’ investment in content would jump from 5% to 15% of advertising spend in the United States by 2020. I don’t remember the source, I don’t remember who said it. I just remember being transfixed looking at that pie chart and thinking, “wow, a truckload of money is coming for those who make content.”

Out there this is called “Branded Content” (or branded content, in Portuguese). But little was said about it in Brazil until recently. Most advertising is still in 30-second television spots.

But there are two things I’ve learned from covering the business for over ten years:

  1. everything that blows up in the United States arrives here in Brazil with a delay;
  2. no one spends money for nothing.

If brands want to invest more in content, it’s because it pays.

Lesson 3: Think Like a Money Owner

Seu Dinheiro sought revenue in the same way as almost every media company: by selling banners on the website. But that wasn’t enough to close in the blue.

Here’s an important detail: before they started investing in content, brands started investing heavily in something else on the internet.

Did you know that about 75% of advertising budget in the world goes to ads in the Google, Facebook and Amazon? And that already amounts to almost half of the world’s advertising budget.

In Brazil, Amazon is not as strong, but Google (which owns YouTube) and Facebook (owner of Instagram) dominate digital marketing. These companies sell extremely targeted advertising space on social media and search engines. The price is defined by an auction system (who gives more, appears).

They exist thousands of digital marketers specialized in optimizing these campaigns to try to get the best possible result while spending as little as possible.

If you think that I decided to compete with Google and Facebook to save Your Money, you are totally wrong. There’s simply no way.

What I did was think as if I were the guy who manages the companies’ marketing budget.

Think with me:

  • online advertising is booming;
  • that money is mostly going to Google and Facebook in Brazil;
  • these companies sell advertisements in an auction system. That is, those who pay more show off;
  • therefore, prices are skyrocketing. It is increasingly expensive to advertise;
  • as the sale is through an auction, there is no way to negotiate prices;
  • every marketing manager on the face of the earth is concerned about the dependence his business will have on Google and Facebook.

It is no wonder, therefore, that brands want to invest in content. It’s golden to be able to sell with content, with organic reach and without spending on marketing to get traffic on Google and Facebook.

But… does content sell?

My big bet to turn the tables on Seu Dinheiro was to offer a Branded Content project for Empiricus Research. The company is a major reference in digital marketing in Brazil, selling courses and subscriptions to finance content.

(Here I make two caveats to make everything clear. First, all branded content published on Seu Dinheiro has always been identified as advertising. Second, Empiricus has had a shareholding in Seu Dinheiro since its foundation. But the site has always been and still is a separate business, with its own need to generate revenue and bills to pay.)

It worked like this: Seu Dinheiro made the content and, if it sold something, it gained a revenue share. If it didn’t sell anything, Empiricus paid nothing.

For Empiricus, it was wonderful. Because she sold it paying less than what she spent advertising on Google and Facebook. And if she didn’t sell, she didn’t spend anything (which doesn’t happen in other channels).

It sounds bad for your money, but it was actually pretty good if you think about how it sold—and still does—millions.

It wasn’t easy to arrive at a content model that sells. I spent six months writing and publishing content every day that didn’t sell anything. They were ridiculous results. The site wasn’t going to survive like that.

The pressure for results led me to test all kinds of content until I found a model that sold (I bring an example in this free online class).

When we settled the hand, Seu Dinheiro got a very fat slice of that millionaire revenue. It was just not enough income to “get by”. We hired journalists, technology staff and started producing even more content.

There are an average of 40 free editorial articles per day, which are only possible because the site is economically viable.

Lesson 5: Everyone should learn about digital marketing

The case I told above is 100% true. But this is not an isolated case…

As I said, this experience changed my career. I went from being a “traditional” journalist to becoming an executive who develops profitable content projects. With quality, but with profitability (one thing does not exist without the other in the capitalist world).

By the way, I replicated this same strategy in other portals – including Money Times, which you are reading now.

Today I am the content director of the Empiricus group, I give lectures and teach MBA in Digital Marketing.

A company’s marketing strategy is not just a “campaign” or a cute video to be shown on TV. It is often the focal point of the business. The difference between a company living or going out of business. There are several cases that show this in Brazil and abroad (see some of them here).

Like I said, you can sell on the internet without spending the tubes on performance marketing. But it is a constant challenge.

In my MBA classes, I show that this project went through eight phases, with significant adjustments. In one of them, we just changed the order of a sequence of contents and tripled the result.

We recently had a case that brought 60% of sales from an Empiricus Research campaign. Reinforcement: without spending a real on paid traffic. This and other cases are available in this series of free videos, in which I participate. I suggest you see: maybe here is the insight of your life.

Source: Moneytimes

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