Aussie lifestyle site Urban List eyes Auckland, looks to partner with local businesses

Australian lifestyle brand Urban List is expanding into the Auckland market and is looking to establish partnerships with businesses on this side of the ditch.

The website, which was first launched in Sydney in 2011 and provides content on dining, shopping, health and beauty, has grown quickly in the Australian market, attracting a following of 1.2 million unique visitors per month across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

These numbers will be difficult to replicate in the local market, but founder Susannah George says it’s not so much the number of people but rather the quality of the audience that makes the website so appealing to brands.

She says that the quality of the audience lies in the fact that its made up of people who actually live in the region and visit the places showcased on the site, meaning that brands have direct access to their target market.

To carry this success over to the Auckland market, George says that she is establishing a local team, initially consisting of around six staff members, responsible for establishing partnerships with businesses in the city, producing content and creating commercial opportunities.  

“In each of the markets where we’re active, we started with a core team of six, who are talented in content marketing and design.”

She also prefers not to rely on freelancers, saying that they aren’t “as united in terms of the tone and vision” of the brand—something which she believes has been integral to the success of the website.  

Entering the Kiwi market will, however, be tricky for the company. The lifestyle segment, particularly in Auckland, is very cluttered, with various magazines (both online and offline), websites and blogs covering much of the content that Urban List is looking to provide. 

That said, Urban List has already performed well against the likes of Concrete Playground and Time Out in the Australian market and now leads the category according to Nielsen’s ranking system. And George believes there is a similar demand for the site in Auckland.    

“I get emails every week from people across the world asking whether we can launch Urban List, and there’ve been plenty from Auckland and Wellington.”   

George also differentiates Urban List from the likes of Zomato, because of the editorial process that goes into selecting businesses to appear on the site. She says that while living in Los Angeles, she often found herself frustrated with the recommendation sites available because there very little curation involved. 

“I was always on the hunt for places to visit, so I was cross-referencing a lot of different sites,” she says. “And what I found was that most of the recommendations weren’t very good. It was often a case of finding the lowest common denominator. I didn’t trust the reviews. And I found myself really just wanting a curated guide of the best businesses in the city.”

For this reason, she says that Urban List is very picky in terms of which businesses it decides to work with.

“Exclusivity is key,” she says. “We’ll only work with brands that we really believe in.”

She says that this exclusivity is also applicable to Urban List’s approach to monetisation. The site primarily offers content marketing opportunities for brands, and complements this with a very limited number of banner ads (usually related to a content piece on the site).

And the approach seems to be working, with Mini, Peroni and Tourism Victoria signing on for content partnerships in Australia. And given that these brands are active across both sides of the Tasman, it will be interesting to see if their logos make an appearance on the Auckland Urban List site once it launches later this year.      

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