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It took a unique idea to attract cable TV vet Michael Klein to the cannabis industry.
Having held senior-level positions at cable networks Travel Channel, SundanceTV and MTV, Klein is also no stranger to the digital side, serving as executive vice president of programming and content strategy for publisher Condé Nast Entertainment’s digital channels for four years (ending in April 2016) and helping craft its digital strategies.
But when cannabisMD, a consumer-education platform, approached Klein last summer, he saw an underserved need in the sector, realizing, “No one owned the health and medical benefits angle.”
The legalization of cannabis by more states spurred the creation of consumer-focused online advertising platforms such as Mantis, Leafly, Traffic Roots and 420network.
To date, cannabisMD has raised $4 million from investors in the U.S. and Canada, including Paterson Partners’ G. Scott Paterson, former chairman of the Toronto Venture Stock Exchange, and the company said it expects to raise another $50 million in the next 12 to 18 months.
CannabisMD does not anticipate announcing any advertisers until the second quarter. The company is not targeting endemic brands, such as dispensaries or manufacturers of edibles. Rather, its strategy is to tie advertisers in sectors including consumer-packaged goods, beauty, finance and wellness to related editorial content on its site.
Klein used issues with sleeping as an example, saying a mattress company would be a good fit to advertise on a story on the topic, which would also touch on room temperature, number of hours and the potential use of CBD (cannabidiol) to help people sleep.
“We want to insert them in the cultural conversation,” he said. “This is a big moment in culture. People can finally enjoy their recreational cannabis. The cannabis-curious is a far more intriguing pool. They’re not going to find information they need on those other platforms.”
Content on the site from mostly freelance editors and writers around the world is all original. Klein said medical advisors write original content and team up with institutions for research, but while much of the subject matter is ailment-specific, there are lifestyle stories, too.
CannabisMD also holds more than 12,000 cannabis-related web domains, which provide original content and information about their respective topics and drive traffic to its main site. One example is God’s Greenery, which is aimed at CBD-curious Christians.
Each partner website includes a widget called the Patient Knowledge Navigator, which connects web surfers with information about the potential health benefits of CBD, while enabling cannabisMD to collect data on those people.
Klein stressed that the data is made up of basic information available through public profiles on social platforms and other websites.
“Part of the play that we have here is the data we’re able to collect and learn about these consumers,” he said. “Most of the data that has been collected is on recreational users. Machine learning helps cannabisMD lean more about audience behavior—the more they’re engaging, the more we learn.”
He added, “Brands may not be prepared to have campaigns ready to run on this platform, but the data is informing them on how to speak to this audience.”