My Year in Grind: Gallery Media Group CEO Ryan Harwood

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Gallery Media Group's Kate Mitchell, Ryan Harwood, Gary Vaynerchuk and Mary Kate McGrath / Photo courtesy of Ryan Harwood

CEO of Gallery Media Group, Ryan Harwood, has been reaping the benefits in 2018 from the hustle and grind he threw down in 2017. Early last year, the platform he founded—PureWow—was acquired by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. This landmark deal has helped PureWow create even more content thanks to the backing of Vaynerchuk's digital marketing resources under the VaynerX umbrella. Fast forward to 2018, Harwood hasn't taken his foot off the pedal, introducing intriguing content for millennial women and men.

PureWow's phenomenal following reached new heights when they launched the PureWow 100 in collaboration with Neutrogena in September. The list was made up of next-gen stars who are tearing up the fabric of pop culture, selected by a committee of talents such as Kerry Washington, Priyanka Chopra and Gallery Media Group's Chief Content Officer Mary Kate McGrath. The list featured many outstanding fresh faces such as R&B singer Alina Barez, NBA stylist Courtney Mays and comedian Nicole Byer. 

"Making Positivity Louder" is the motto Gallery Media Group lives by. Harwood has accomplished that with the success of PureWow. This year, Harwood felt it was time to expand his digital real estate with an entrepreneur-focused site. Early in September, ONE37pm launched to keep the male hustler in the loop with what's going on in culture, entertainment, music, sports and lifestyle. "Own your future, start this minute" is the M.O. behind our site’s content.

Harwood was able to take a break from his daily grind and sat with associate editor Omari White to reflect back on his success in 2018 and look forward to the new year. 

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Chance the Rapper had a good 2018 / Daniel Boczarski/Redferns/Getty Images

Who do you think had a great 2018?

Ryan Harwood: I think that Chance The Rapper had a great 2018. I think Giannis Antetokounmpo had a great 2018. I think Jeff Bezos continues to have quite the run. I think that Gary Vaynerchuk had a really good 2018. Rihanna had a great 2018. The Kardashians had a great 2018, they continue to build their own empire. 

What do you think will happen in the media space in 2019?

Harwood: People are going to realize content is the name of the game. In order to be culturally relevant these days as a content producer, people are realizing the volume of content that is needed in order to break through. You can put one piece, two pieces out. You're not ever going to break through the noise because everyone is a content creator these days. Content is the only thing that matters in this day in age, both in quality and quantity.

Platforms are going to continue to dominate more than they already have. It's going to take time for any new technology or new platform to come and unseat the current players from FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google).

By the same token, I think it's super important to create fan brands. What I mean by that is it's not just enough to create content—you need to have something that you stand for. When it comes to media companies, you need to pick a few lanes and go very hard in those lanes. When you say ONE37pm, what do you want that human to feel when you say it? Whether they are reading it or not, your friend might not read it but when you say ONE37pm, they might feel something about the brand because they know something about the brand. It's more important than ever to stand out from the noise; you need to have that distinct aesthetic, look and feel, voice.

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Harwood, McGrath, and GMG's COO Kevin Stetter in the GMG offices / Photo courtesy of Ryan Harwood

GMG's mission is to "Make Positivity Louder." Can you tell me what accomplishments you and the team achieved in promoting positivity?

Harwood: We have two core media brands right now: PureWow and ONE37pm. PureWow has always stood for fun. What we are trying to do is give [our reader] a rest from a lot of the noise that's going on out there. If we can make her laugh, if we can make her smile, that's promoting positivity. When you give them a break from maybe watching the news and seeing headlines that make them unhappy, that is promoting positivity.

On the ONE37pm side, we are giving these guys permission to seize their moment. We're inspiring them, pushing them to do what they want to do in this world and this life and do it with fervor. Information that they find is interesting and that's going to show that, "Hey, this can be done." We're just getting started on that brand and we're going to be jumping into a lot of other ways to create content.

Even on our podcasts, such as Mom Brain, it's giving people the ability to know there are others out there like them going on and stuff. So it promotes positivity that you're not alone out there. Bobbi Brown's podcast, Long Story Short, shows people how iconic people in the industry did it. So again, inspiration, positivity and that's how I think we've done that.

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Business Insider

Can you tell me why you chose to launch ONE37pm in 2018? 

Harwood: So, you know, it's funny. When I started PureWow, I wanted to launch a men's brand. Actually, that was my first inclination. At the time though, there had been, you know what this was eight years ago, but wait, if you looked at 10 to 15 years ago, right before I was thinking about starting a media brand, you had a bunch of men's brands that had just kind of innovated on the media landscape. That's about the time when you had Bleacher Report, Complex, Thrillist launching and Vice was starting to become more of a digital brand than a print brand. Ten to 15 years ago it, a lot of those guys were birthed. Women's hadn't been innovated on yet so, that coupled with the fact that actually back then, my research showed that women were better consumers than men, and in a lot of different ways they probably still are — but they consume, they shared content more and more ad budgets went towards them. So that was the reason why I didn't do it then, there was some strong rationale as to why it made more sense to go into women at that time.

Here we are ten years later and there hasn't been a meaningful men's media brand launched from my perspective, especially in this space we're trying to play in.  I'm sure there has been in other spaces, but like in the space we're trying to play in, it's been at least a solid ten years since you have somebody that has tried to come into kind of entrepreneurship culture, geared towards a younger demographic. I also think this is a very interesting moment in time where these young guys wanted to be communicated to in a different way. Not only from a tone of voice perspective, you know, but they're also a bit more empathetic. They're in tune with their emotions a bit more. They grew up in a different era. The way they consume, the formats they consume, hence, you know, the #Face2Facetime series that we do or you know, the fact that whatever podcast platforms we're choosing to distribute our content on have changed from ten years ago. Plus, you know, candidly speaking, like the partnership with Gary Vaynerchuk, you know it was timely. It was something that we had insights into an audience that we were going to try to target. So, I'd be able to look at what his audience wanted, what they cared about, whether it's eSports, whether it was soccer whatever it may be.

Being inspired to make that next step in their career and do whatever it took. Like there were a lot of stars aligned essentially. Plus, you know, timing is a real thing and you need to wait until you have the resources to do it. You know, five years ago I was too focused on PureWow and we didn't have enough resources to launch a second media brand and give it a chance to succeed. So a lot of the stars were aligning in the sense that we felt that there was an opportunity in a white space here to win. No different than eight years ago when I felt there was an opportunity in this space to win in the women's space.

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Harwood speaking at New Fronts 2018 West / Photo courtesy of Ryan Harwood

If you had to choose a theme song to describe your hustle in 2018, what would it be and why?

Harwood: Oh man, it would have to be Eminem's "Lose Yourself." I like that song. It's basically about seizing the moment, don't lose yourself and take advantage of it.  I think that there was a moment in time here that we could capitalize on the momentum.

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Harwood and Larry Johnson / Photo courtesy of Ryan Harwood

You're a huge NY Knicks fan. If you can compare the grind you put in 2018 to a Knicks' player from the past or present, who would it be and why?

Harwood: I'm going to say Charles Oakley because of the grit. Not because of the tough guy thing, because of the grit, you know, he, he was always willing to put the extra work in, go the extra mile. Grit is one of my favorite words to describe, like as opposed to like hustle or something. Grit is the ability to stay with a goal day in and day out and have focus. Oakley was that type of guy. He had that New York Grit.

The other guy I'm going to say is Frank Ntilikina. Frank is patient, maybe sometimes too patient, but he is patient. He picks his spots and he doesn't pull the trigger. He's not emotionally reactive and he's young. Not to say I'm young, but I do feel that line of young executives that still has a long way to go and I think that Frank is young and I actually believe in Frank. Whereas a lot of people have given up on him. I believe in him. I think that he's going to be a great point guard for years to come because even if he gives you 12 points and nine assists because of his defensive specialty, he's an elite point guard in the league that can bring something to the table night in and night out. So, I'm going with the patience of Frank and the grit of Charles.

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Harwood

What is the ultimate goal for yourself and for Gallery Media Group in 2019?

Harwood: The thing I'm most proud of is we have one of the highest retention rates of employees in the digital media startup space. There are typically a lot of turnovers. I think people really believe that we have their best interests at heart. We want to see them grow, but we care about them and they're happy about coming to work every day. What I want to see in 2019 is as we grow, if we can continue that, that's my proudest achievement.

For me personally, I want to continue to grow as a leader. We've crossed the one hundred threshold mark of employees at Gallery Media Group. We have multiple businesses under the hood now. That's a new challenge for me. That's a new test for me and something that I can't wait to embrace. I challenged myself to disconnect when I need to disconnect. I have two children now and you need some "me" time. My wife would probably categorize me as a workaholic and I've done a really good job this year of "weekends are for the kids" because I used to work every weekend, every day I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm going to continue to challenge myself to like be able to disconnect because I am addicted to work and I do love the challenge. I love the game of winning and being better than our competitors. The game of like feeling that you are able to achieve anything. That high of winning, it's hard to shake off.

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