Media executives sometimes say that their companies are like a startup — but in the case of This Old House, that’s actually kind of true, since Time Inc. sold the nearly 40-year-old brand (best known for the home improvement TV show of the same name) to Eric Thorkilsen and TZP Growth Partners less than two years ago.
Thorkilsen, who now serves as CEO of This Old House Ventures, has a history with the brand. He said that it’s actually gone through multiple periods of reinvention and “startup thinking” — like when Time launched the print magazine in 1995, or when it acquired the show from public TV station WGBH in 2001 (both initiatives that Thorkilsen led). And it’s happening again, as it’s spun out as an independent media organization, and as it launches it first digital-only property, House One.
“We can build on that kind of startup attitude and culture in the way that we think about this brand that’s about to turn 40,” Thorkilsen said. “In what ways can we build it and rebuild it and renovate and add to it that will give it still more growth opportunities going forward?”
House One launched its social media channels a couple of months ago, with the website going live today. The goal is to reach a younger audience of millennials — both renters and first-time homeowners who are in need of some advice, as well as more serious DIY craftspeople.
To lead the effort, Thorkilsen hired someone else with a real connection to This Old House — Jennifer Largesse, who served as a writer and producer for the magazine before joining About.com and eventually launching her own woodworking site Build Basic.
While there’s plenty of instructional home improvement content already online, Largesse argued that it tends to be gimmicky and superficial, while House One will be distinguished by its depth: “No one is offering the instructions that these homeowners are in search of.”
So not only does House One offer detailed instructions on things like cleaning a dishwasher or building a floating shelf — it also includes project files and what Largesse called “cornerstone content” that helps less experienced readers figure out how to use tools and learn other basic skills.
House One is divided into different channels, each hosted by someone who’s already built an audience for DIY content. So Largesse is the face of project and tool tutorials, while Aaron Massey (host of the Mr. Fix It channel on YouTube) is the host for home fixes and upgrades and Kirsten Grove of Simply Grove is handling design files.
“We’re a community of makers who already exist in the digital space,” Largesse said. And if you’re already a fan of the work that these hosts are doing elsewhere, that’s not going to stop: “All of our content creators will continue with their own brands. That’s why we chose them in the first place, because they had this awesome thing already happening. We don’t want to replace that, we just want to be a part of it.”