TFD Turns One!

Have you ever wondered how we came about? Or maybe why our name is Twenty-First Digital (which we often shorten to TFD)? With our one-year anniversary hitting in the month of January, it seemed like a good time to tell the story of our business, our philosophies, and our mission.

The idea for Twenty-First Digital as an audience development agency, serving publishers, media companies, and niche brands, really came about by accident. After spending 5+ years at D Magazine and a total of 12+ years in regional and niche publishing, I realized that publishers were being left behind in their efforts to grow and sustain a meaningful relationship with their audiences. And at the same time, the tried and true audience development efforts that had been staples of the industry were beginning to lose their luster. Direct mail, newsstand sales, and even social media exposure became expensive, elusive, and consistently plagued by factors beyond the publisher’s control.

Around 2013, I started believing that publishers had no choice but to drastically evolve their audience development strategies in order to stay relevant and thrive. My time at D Magazine provided a fantastic playground to experiment with different areas of that evolution. During my time at D, I launched the company’s first universal audience database, including audiences from the website, newsletters, print subscriptions, contests, award programs, and even active sales relationships. Up on the 21st floor of a building emblazoned with the D brand logo, overlooking downtown and uptown Dallas, myself and Ashley Mulder took these beliefs and incorporated them into all areas of the business. And we saw results. Cost per acquisition decreased, subscriptions increased, web traffic increased, newsletter lists grew and event attendance soared. We knew we were on to something with our approach.

In 2017, I left D Magazine. My commute was long, I had become a mother during my time at D and my kids were hitting that age where it’s not always convenient (or desirable) to get home at 6:30 p.m. each night. And I thought I might be able to keep making ends meet with some freelance work. But as I started to articulate the vision I had in my head for publishers and media companies, to put audience development at the center and forefront of their organization, I was met with a surprising amount of interest and demand from publishers all over the country. Unable to do it alone, I tapped my former partner-in-crime up on the 21st floor of D Magazine, Ashley Mulder, and one of my favorite jack-of-all-trades Lauren Frappier and Twenty-First Digital was born. With a name that gave nod to the 21st floor in downtown Dallas where the forward-thinking and never-satisfied-with-the-status-quo leadership of D Magazine had allowed Ashley and I to thrive, re-invent, and experiment with new tools, technologies, and approaches to audience development.

Now, our mission is the same but the strategies continue to evolve. In August we hired Natalie Paschall, a biology major with a passion for digital marketing who’s infectious spirit and curiosity made her the perfect fit to the team. We’ve also amassed a team of contributors with deep experience in publishing, circulation, SEO, and development to round out our offerings.

Email marketing, paid search, social media, and search engine optimization all make up the base of our ecosystem ... but we’re not done yet. The beautiful thing about growing your audience is that no area of the business is immune. Content, UX, design, event marketing, and branding all go hand-in-hand with discoverability and growth. And that’s why we consider the job of the audience developer to never be complete.

There’s more to come and we hope you’ll continue to grow with us. If you’ve been a part of contributing our success so far, thank you from bottom of my heart. You’ve made the last year intense, challenging, and hugely rewarding for all of us. Here’s to year two and beyond.





Melissa Chowning

Melissa Chowning MEdia, 1324 Saint Francis Lane, Flower Mound, TX, 75028