Derek Flanzraich, the 25-year-old Harvard grad founder and CEO of Greatist, has had a pretty productive summer. Greatist, the online health and wellness hub he launched a little over a year ago just skipped past one million monthly uniques. And Mr. Flanzraich, whose PR rep pointed out that he “looks like an Abercrombie model,” (duly noted) procured himself a set of six-pack abs, albeit temporarily.
“It took me six weeks to get a six-pack and one-and-a-half weeks to lose it,” Mr. Flanzraich told Betabeat last week of the “#Absperiment,” he documented on the site.
Greatist has been going through a growth spurt since last December, with audience size increasing an average of 30 percent a month, primarily from users sharing advice on social networks. Over the last 30 days, the site clocked 1.3 million uniques. Chalk it up to Greatist’s emphasis on well-researched guides. “We’re obsessed with the quality of our content,” Mr. Flanzraich said by phone. “I think that’s why we’re different in the space. Every fact is cited by a PubMed study. Every article is approved by multiple experts.”
The site wants to offer a practical alternative to the SEO-addled content farms that populate Google search results for workout questions or the ADD headlines from fitness magazines that seem to contradict themselves every other month (i.e. 5 Ways Coffee Is Slowly Killing You! Caffeine: The Secret to a Longer Life!)
To capitalize on its growing user base, last week Greatist began offering “scientifically based” workout plans from professional trainers–Dan Trink of Peak Performance and Tony Gentilcore of Cressey Performance–based on readers’ fitness levels. The startup is calling them Greatist Workouts of the Day or GWODs for short. “It’s a mouthful,” Mr. Flanzraich admitted.
Rather than target the self-quantifying early adopters, Greatist, which is in the process of closing the paperwork on a seed round, is “focused on normal people. Normals, as they say.”
“Most of our traffic does not come from New York City and California,” he explained. “It comes from the South, and it comes from real people who are really trying to figure this out and, for the first-ish time, have a place they can go to that they can rely on.”
Greatist’s target demographic is the 18-to-35 range, which Mr. Flanzraich considers underserved. “The health space has been focused on people who are older, because that’s where the money is. Or at least that’s where the money has been thought to be,” he said, adding, “We think this group of people are becoming more serious about their health and wellness–not because they have to, but because they recognize its importance in preventing having to in the future.”
Currently, site’s readers skew female. “It’s about 60/40,” he said, “which is remarkably good in terms of the male percentage.”
Those daily workout plans may become a jumping-off point for Greatist to take its mission mobile. “GWODs are good example of more we can do in the future, we really think we can become the guide for people in terms of what apps, what tools, what experts and what products they should be considering,” he noted.
Mr. Flanzraich got the idea for the site based on his own longstanding interest in healthy living. “If someone said, ‘How are you able to do so much and stay positive and happy?’ I would always point to health and fitness, despite having no idea what I was talking about,” he said. “I realized the impact I could have and [it] also blew my mind that there was no place for them to go that would be much better than me.”
The site’s manuals on subjects like Crossfit, good posture or high-protein snacks read like a conversational digest of what the experts are saying, rather than pushing one solution. “It doesn’t have to be, ‘Well here’s the answer!’ Because the truth is most of the time there isn’t an answer,” Mr. Flanzraich said. “We are content with saying: Look some people think this, some people think that, here’s where the majority of the research is pointing to.”
Take that #Absperiment, for example. Mr. Flanzraich said he’s “considering sort of a follow-up about the disaster that has been the weeks following,” to give readers an idea of what happens after. “We’re not just seeking the sexy headlines. That kind of click-through thrust. This isn’t a page-view game.”