Mae Cheng is editor and publisher of Mansion Global, a Barron’s Group publication.
Cheng is responsible for the luxury real estate brand’s editorial and business strategies, as well as its P&L. She joined Mansion Global in 2016 after it reached an audience record and exceeded its sales targets for its first year.
Mansion Global is an important part of News Corp.’s growing digital real estate business, which includes Move Inc., the operator of realtor.com in the U.S., and an investment in PropTiger in India, as well as a majority stake in the REA Group, which operates Australia’s leading property websites and portals in Europe and Asia.
Previously, Cheng developed major digital initiatives at The Wall Street Journal, Cablevision and Newsday, and worked alongside many business units.
Cheng spoke with Talking Biz News about Mansion Global as it celebrated several awards this weekend at the National Association of Real Estate Editors annual conference. What follows is an edited transcript.
How did Mansion Global get its start?
It’s about four years old. May 1 was our four-year anniversary. It was incubated by News Corp. Robert Thomson, the News Corp CEO. When he was at the Journal, he started the Mansion section at the paper and it was wildly successful. And he always has had a passion for real estate. So he continued to fuel that passion. He thought there was a void for a real estate platform that spoke globally.
So it incubated there, and when Barron’s Group formed, it was brought under [the group] because we have a startup culture where we are very nimble. I joined it a year later shortly after it was brought to the Barron’s Group. Because News Corp, has so many real estate focused properties around the world, and existing publication with real estate arms, we at Mansion Global have been working with all of these News Corp properties to syndicate our content.
What did Dow Jones see as a niche that wasn’t being filled?
The niche was this global proposition. So let me take a step back. We started first as a digital publication. We didn’t launch the print magazine until Spring 2018. We focus on high-end real estate around the world. And for people interested in high-ed real estate, the geographical borders that mean a lot to us don’t mean the same thing to these people. They have two or three homes around the world. So having a platform publication that is border agnostic is the niche we were trying to fit.
In addition, we also have a business where brokerages pay to put their listings on the site. So going to Mansion Global, you can read about markets you are interested in with features and hard news, but you can also do research and look at the high-end properties in those markets. A lot of the high-end brokers around the world put their listings on the site. So it’s very comprehensive. That global proposition and one-stop shopping is what we thought would be successful.
How big is the editorial staff, and how much content gets published each week?
On a weekly basis, we produce about 50 unique pieces of content and publish seven days a week. And that doesn’t include content that is syndicated from other News Corp properties. That is content we produce ourselves.
And we have a huge number of freelancers around the world. On staff, we have editors and a couple of writers, web producers and a designer, about 10 core people on staff.
Who are the main readers for Mansion Global?
We speak to a lot of high-net worth individuals and professionals. We also speak to people who are just real estate enthusiasts. Our geographic breakdown is pretty broad. About 40 percent of our digital audience is in the United States. About 27 percent is in EMEA and about 21 percent in APAC. So we are very diverse.
When we started the magazine, we wanted to make sure we had a global footprint. We have distribution through our sister publications, such as the Times of London, FN and Private Equity News and independent distribution in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubai outside of London and the U.S.
About 50 percent of our audience plans to build or buy a home in the next 12 months. Our readers enjoy that luxury lifestyle. Twenty-nine percent fly first class and they spend a lot on luxury automobiles.
Does its content sometimes appear in other News Corp properties?
Yes, like the New York Post, FoxNews.com. The Times of London, Mansion Australia, Barron’s and MarketWatch also take our content.
How do you juggle being both editor and publisher? Does that ever cause issues?
It’s a lot of fun because a lot of our goals align. I came up through the newsroom. I realize that people come to Mansion Global because of its journalism That is the differentiator. We take great pride in the content we produce, and that’s the case we make to advertisers. So I don’t look at it as juggling. We are transparent with the information we get about luxury real estate. We really work hard to get scoops and enterprise stories.
We do lighter features like interior design and travel pieces about different markets every week. But we also have harder news stories that add value to our coverage. We have a Tax Talk column to answer questions about property taxes. We have a weekly feature called The Take that is an analysis piece that comes from the perspective of a real estate investor, someone with two or three homes. Beckie Strum, one of our writers, won a NAREE award for one of her Take columns.
Is the primary revenue producer for the site the listings?
That is one portion. Like every other site, we sell display advertising. We have a pretty diverse commercial proposition, so we do events with clients. We have a separate arm producing custom content. So our revenue streams are pretty diverse.
Is there an area that you’re focusing on improving in the next year?
We’ve been for the last 10 months, since last summer, rolling out a redesign of our website. Even though it is only four years old, it felt outdated. So we have been rolling out a redesign, and we started with the articles pages and the home page, as well as the section fronts. We have saved the best for last, and that is the new development section. We have not yet rolled that out, and probably that will be between September and November. We have developed this area that speaks to the global audience. So that is what we are going to put a focus on in the upcoming months.
Tell me about the NAREE awards. What does that signify for Mansion Global?
It’s tremendous for us. We believe were are putting out quality journalism each and every day, and it’s so great to have out work validated by NAREE and it makes us feel good. Every single story we look at to see if it’s a good story journalistically. So people might think that real estate stories are fluff and pretty pictures, but we take great pride in reporting out each story. Our staff takes great pride in getting it right, producing something visually, but that has some heft.
What else should I know about the Mansion Global?
We are going to undertake in the next few months a redesign a magazine as well. In the luxury space, print is still very relevant to the audience. So in the next few months, a redesign will make it more luxurious than what it currently is. So we’re really excited about that as well.