WPM founder and CEO Will Packer, whose producing credits include “Girls Trip,” “Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man” and “Straight Outta Compton,” said the addition of xoNecole (xonecole.com) is aimed at boosting WPM’s direct connection with its audiences. In addition, he’s look to adapt content produced by xoNecole for TV series and film projects.
“It fits perfectly with what I’m doing with my company,” said Packer. “I was looking for someone I could partner with who has a highly engaged audience and speaks authentically to them.” He added, “Necole is amazingly gifted in her ability to connect with women and deliver much-needed engaging, smart and empowering content that is aspirational and impactful.”
Financial terms of the deal, which closed in late 2017, weren’t disclosed. The staff of xoNecole will remain located in New York (where Kane is based), L.A. and Atlanta.
WPM is investing in the site to expand video, social and mobile content as well as develop a newsletter and launch in-person events, including activations during Fashion Week and educational and networking events. The goal is to turn xoNecole into a multifaceted digital-media women’s brand akin to Refinery29 or Popsugar.
Packer formed WPM last year in partnership with Discovery Communications and Universal Pictures. The company currently has 15 projects in development across 10 networks and platforms. XONecole is the company’s first owned-and-operated digital property, and Packer said WPM is on the lookout for potential acquisitions in the space.
Kane once traded in salacious celebrity dish as proprietor of gossip site NecoleBitchie.com, which she launched in 2008. Then she shifted gears: In 2015, Kane shut down NecoleBitchie and formed xoNecole with a focus on beauty, fashion, lifestyle, career and travel features. The new site’s mission is to promote positive images of women of color, as well as empower, educate and inspire millennials.
Ending her gossip site “was a very risky and terrifying move,” Kane said, but “I knew I wanted to offer my readers content that was more empowering and purposeful, would inspire them to live their best lives, and was deeply rooted in giving women permission to evolve.” She added, “Will Packer is someone I’ve always admired and respected, and he knows my audience. I couldn’t think of a better partnership.”
Packer said he first met Kane when some of the stars in his films were the subjects of items on her now-defunct gossip site.
“I want to be aligned with someone like Necole,” he said. “She’s had ups and downs, but she’s a survivor and a fighter. She’s also vulnerable and admits her shortcomings.”
The xoNecole team will continue to be led by Kane, overseen by WPM co-founder and COO Alix Baudin, formerly SVP and GM of Scripps Networks Interactive’s digital operations. Thanks to changes led by Baudin to streamline the site’s features and interface, xoNecole’s traffic has doubled in the last three months, according to Packer (who declined to provide specific metrics). “We see Necole as the face of a young and empowered generation of women who want to lift each other up and be inspired to evolve,” said Baudin.
In addition to traditional ad sales, xoNecole will be supported by content marketing and branded-entertainment partnerships, as well as the slate of live events, according to Packer.
Pictured above: Necole Kane and Will Packer