From Mass to Niche | An Interview with David Gale

By Amy Davies ● February 06, 2015 08:55

Before the CFC Media Lab welcomed David to the role of ideaBOOST Board Advisor, he was at the helm of a new cross media group re-shaping the way MTV incubated, developed and produced content that spans beyond conventional TV and digital. As an ideaBOOST Board of Advisor and entrepreneur, David now supports aspiring technology and content companies here in Canada, lending his own brand of experience to their initiatives.

CFC Media Lab Associate Director Amy Davies had a chance to chat with founder and CEO David Gale during his most recent trip to Toronto (in the middle of winter no less). 


We live in an age of information overload. Over abundance of data and information has led to the advent of sophisticated recommendation engines and niche aggregators that cater to niche interests. Gale has tackled this challenge head on with the launch of We Are The, a platform that supports the military and veteran community, their families and those who support them.


What motivated you to launch your site

Well, you could say it was “a confluence of events”. While at MTV, obviously a big media brand, I had really always been thinking about good media being a good brand – which means having an audience that’s interested in what you’re doing and the stories you’re telling. I also spent a lot of time (8 years) thinking about the new media landscape and where entertainment and media were headed.

Having left MTV, a serendipitous series of events happened. People were sending me content related to the military community, when I had an epiphany: Nobody had ever created a media brand focused solely on the military community. This was at a time where there was enormous need in that community. I’ve always looked for doing something that would have a social benefit, while also being a good/viable economic model. It struck me had that this opportunity would be both.

What does ‘new style of media company’ mean to you?

I think that it means being a very nimble company – one that can connect to its audience in ways that almost everybody is expecting. That means really integrating social media into distribution, marketing and business/monetization models that allow you to never feel like you’re getting behind, and sticking with one singular model while drawing successes of previous models, and watching very carefully for what’s working. BuzzFeed and Vice Media are working for example. The Huffington Post and Netflix are now almost traditional forms of distribution. There are so many different ways to engage your audience, tell your stories, and create something that is more than just a singular path/platform to reaching your audience.

There isn’t really a singular media model anymore, as whatever model you come up with today, it’s going to change tomorrow. One of my favourite quotes is by Jeff Bezos.

“You have to live your life in a state of perpetual BETA.”

Jeff Bezos was conceived almost 2 years ago, and it’s changed three times since then, and it will continue to change. A good media company today is willing (and always ready) to change, and continue to iterate.

What advice would you give CFC Media Lab startups?

Do a lot of prep before you startup. Don’t just say “that’s a brilliant idea - give me some money”. Almost everything you do is going to require a level of expertise or knowledge. You need insight(s) that you will have limited knowledge of yourself. I went on a road trip, so to speak, to meet with the military community because I needed to know what was going to work (and what wasn’t). Ask yourself, “How can I speak to the experts (the audience/ users/creators)?” You need to ask your audience: “Is this viable?” “Is this a good idea?” “What do you think?”

I had a lot of positive feedback for the concept, which was encouraging to know. At the very least, it’s a good idea to the people who matter. But speak to your skeptics too - in case you’ve missed something, or if someone has already attempted the same concept. If you’re not the first person to have the idea, you better have a better version. But if there is no precedent for your concept, you have to work twice as hard to have the answers for people who are going to be asking questions.

Can you talk a little bit about your business model(s).

What’s interesting is how often I come up with a new revenue stream! But at its core, almost every media platform is advertiser-based. Sponsors/Advertisers are in the same bucket. The “big win” however, is expertise in particular demographic or group, which you can then sell to sponsors at a premium rather than just a general population. Try to create a premium audience for premium sponsorship, while scalability will also allow you to make money just on sheer numbers. But that is not your big win. Having a ready-made audience with a really good story is what gets them (TV network/studios/sponsors/advertisers) excited.

Listen to the entire interview: