Apartment Therapy founder Maxwell Ryan intentionally keeps a distance from the world of aspirational, high-end design. “Most people want homes that are juicy, lived-in and accessible,” he says on the latest Business of Home podcast. He says readers want to feel a sense of excitement and think, I could have done that.
Teaching readers how to decorate was a natural business for Maxwell, an art major with a master’s in education. The propulsion of the internet paired with great content helped move his business from an email newsletter to a blog to the digital media empire that it is today.
Unlike most digital media companies of the same size, Ryan’s has never taken outside investors. In this episode, he takes us through the ups and downs (including a canceled $12 million pre-recession sale to Scripps) and explains how he has reinvented the business many times over—most recently by harnessing data. “In digital media, you have to be okay with being different next year.”
The notion of accessibility is critical to his community, and that is an element that aspirational magazines often overlook. “Seeing super-high-end product doesn’t make me feel better about myself, especially when I don’t have the resources to buy it,” Ryan says. “We meet people where they are, and the design trade doesn’t go there.”