From blog to brand: Jenene Crossan (nzgirl)

For over a decade, nzgirl.co.nz has served as a hub of information for Kiwi women. Although the site initially started as a collection of blogs, over the years it has morphed into a content marketing machine that offers articles on everything from eye cream to the best summer drinks. And despite enjoying year-on-year growth, the creators of the site have not shied away from experimentation in their approach.

While some of their ideas (like the breast cancer awareness campaign) received some lash back via mainstream media, others, like the early incorporation of content marketing, have allowed the website to respond to the ever-changing online environment and become profitable.  

But as with all online success stories, the minds behind the website refuse to stagnate. In October last year, Idealog released a story about how Jenene Crossan, the founder and director at nzgirl, was in the process of launching a platform to help other bloggers make money from their writing hobby.

If this new experiment works, it will effectively give amateur writers the opportunity to ride on the coat tails of an established brand while furthering their writing careers. And in this sense, it could serve to inspire other potential online entrepreneurs to similarly transition from simply blogging to create brands of their own.

To find out more about this project and the history of the site in general, we asked Crossan a few questions – and this is what she had to say.


How/when did you start the blog?

Technically nzgirl.co.nz isn’t a blog. We’re a curation of blogs. We launched in 1999 as an online magazine.

How has it changed since the early days?

We morphed into being a social magazine three years ago. There was an opportunity to create a hub for bloggers to create beautiful looking content that they could then distribute across multiple platforms. We now have 400 bloggers as part of our network (and 110,000 members). We are in the process of launching bloggersclub.com to support the content creation element and nzgirl will focus on being one of the distribution partners.

How do you go about financing your site? Do you make enough to live off it?

We are one of the few that actually makes advertising revenue work – and we have done for our entire 15 years. We focus more on partnerships in our content marketing business and have a team of five people who look after it (not counting paid bloggers and contractors – dozens of those). Our insight engine feeds us too – we provide research as a product.

What approach do you take to advertising?

We’ve got a strong view on display advertising – it shouldn’t be the lead of any “campaign”. We focus on content marketing partnerships first and foremost. We typically work with large multinationals (L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Unilever) and then a multitude of New Zealand businesses. Anyone who wants to have women under 45 talking about their brand.

What type of advertising works best for nzgirl?

Definitely native. We’ll put blogger ambassadors onto projects for clients and that will mean the content created is authentic and interesting. Works far better than a display ad!

Do you collaborate with any other websites? Does collaboration help to drive your site forward?   

We do and happily will do ongoing. We believe in sharing and multiple distribution streams. Our bloggers are all encouraged to multi-publish their content and we work with anyone who will work with us.

Has anyone ever offered to buy your site? Would you mind sharing some stories. What is the most you’ve ever been offered?

We are owned by a large portfolio of shareholders, so we have sold parts of it off. However, as an entire buyout – I can’t really share on that one, but let’s leave it at many times, but the timing has never quite been right. I definitely can’t talk about how much.  

Have you got any funny anecdotes about running a site in New Zealand?

How long have you got? 15 years means a lot of very amusing stories. nzgirl has taken me around the world and back many times. We’ve had some serious highs and some serious lows. Rollercoaster ride and then some. What a buzz though.

What advice would you give to newbies wanting to make it in the online industry?

Know what pain you fix.

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