“I certainly wouldn’t rule out making additional hires,” said Jen Sargent.
It was Monday afternoon, and Ms. Sargent–CEO and co-founder of the entertainment news Web site HitFix–was on the phone with The Observer.
Recently, Ms. Sargent’s year-and-a-half-old Web site made a serious splash in the entertainment-reporting world by hiring away the highly regarded TV critic Alan Sepinwall from The Star-Ledger, where Mr. Sepinwall had spent his entire career (and where he famously landed the exclusive interview with Sopranos creator David Chase on the heels of the HBO series’ mind-bending finale).
“Sooner or later, a man’s got to put a second line on the resume,” Mr. Sepinwall wrote last week in his goodbye column, explaining the move.
“From our side, we knew that great writers like Alan bring great audiences,” said Ms. Sargent. “We’re looking to grow aggressively.”
Where’s the money come from for such big-game poaching?
Ms. Sargent said that HitFix launched in December 2008 with roughly $1 million in initial private funding from angel investors in New York, led by Golden Seeds.
According to Ms. Sargent, HitFix in on the verge of closing a second-round of A1 funding, which will be larger than the first influx of capital. She declined to name her new investors. “The market is still not that great for fund-raising,” said Ms. Sargent. “But we’re in good position because we hit our milestones. This is what is allowing us to expand more rapidly.”
Ms. Sargent and Gregory Ellwood, who is both co-founder and editor in chief, conceived of HitFix in the fall of 2008, after they met at Variety–where Mr. Ellwood worked as a consultant, and Ms. Sargent served as a marketing exec. “We saw some really clear gaps in the market,” said Ms. Sargent.
The idea from the get-go was to create a gossip-free site that combined breaking news and analysis about movies, music and television with proprietary calendar technology, providing location-specific updates on entertainment events, such as movie premiers, DVD releases, and concerts. “We thought it was hard to be a fan of entertainment without a little bit of planning,” said Ms. Sargent. “There’s a really nice synergy between letting fans find out about the news and then immediately getting over to the calendar to plan their entertainment life.”
HitFix currently has a staff of 10, half of whom work in editorial, and all of whom work from home, either in L.A. or New York. According to Ms. Sargent, 95 percent of the company’s revenue comes from advertising, primarily from entertainment companies. The rest comes from content syndication deals and bounties from calendar recommendations. The company is not yet profitable, according to Ms. Sargent, who hopes to get there within the next twelve months.
Along the way, don’t be surprised if HitFix makes another big-ticket hire or two.
“We’re definitely going for the quality not quantity type model,” said Ms. Sargent.
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