I Want My E360TV!: An Exclusive Interview With Cannabis Media Mogul Aaron Heimes
A PotNetwork Exclusive
Cannabis culture is changing.
Where stoners, bongs, and basement smoke outs once dominated marijuana’s cultural landscape a shift to a more corporate structure with publicly traded pot stocks and mergers and acquisitions is now the new normal. Still, as more countries (or, in the case of the U.S., states) legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use, there continues to be a gap in the way cannabis is presented in the media.
In the digital age, e360tv strives not just to change the media landscape for cannabis, but to make it over in its own image. An on-demand network that is available anywhere consumers can find a screen, it’s media for the modern-day viewer. In their own words, e360tv is “geared towards the audiences that live in the mainstream, but whose hearts and minds are on the fringe.”
We recently spoke with the President of e360tv, Aaron Heimes, to discuss his work in the niche cannabis media market. Our conversation revealed that the company is focused on more than just providing cannabis content, but that they are also focused on creating content that addresses social issues. It’s a bold mission in an era where social media prizes the self-absorbed, and one worth exploring a little deeper.
Aaron, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us today. Let’s start at the beginning —how did you come to be in the cannabis space?
I have been in the cannabis space for eight years. I started off in the corporate world working for big banks for years. I came into the cannabis space because I wanted to do something different. I had that mid 30’s itch, I was working for the man since I was 14 years old basically, so I decided to open a hydroponic store.
Me and my buddy from work self-funded the store. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. There was not a lot of money in it because it was retail. This opened up a lot of avenues when it came to cannabis because I could use my skills from my previous career in business development and project management. There is a need for that in the cannabis space for launching products and taking them to market.
I’ve helped a couple of companies in slumps, so I have kind of made my way around project to project. I have launched a product called Tiresias Mist which was the first spray to go to market. We got the 2012 High Times product of the year for it. We were able to get it to global distribution in nine months.
We were able to learn a lot from that experience which lead to noticing some of the biggest problems when launching a product in the cannabis space. There is a lack of options when trying to get a product out because cannabis businesses can’t rely on Google searches like other businesses. You have to find different ways around advertising because you can’t use AdWords, so most of the time you’re stuck with just being able to advertise on cannabis websites. It can be challenging.
And with e360tv you’re really looking to change the way cannabis interacts with media. Tell us how you came about the idea for e360tv.
The opportunity came about through circumstances. We wanted to give cannabis companies the opportunity to advertise through video versus just static ads and to expand through the top market which is your Apple TV and Amazon Fire. We looked to help solve the advertising problems that we experienced when we came to this space. That is why we formed the company.
It was also why we put e360tv out which is our own media. This is also why we have the content we have on there. We’re trying to help solve the advertising and content problem for cannabis companies. We had to keep in mind that the vast majority are mom and pop shops with just a regional or local presence. You don’t see a lot of national brands in the industry, so we had to structure it in a way that pricing-wise it would make sense for those businesses. We couldn’t do this in a way where we had such a high overhead that we had to pass it on to the customers or content providers. We didn’t want to price ourselves out of the market.
We understood that $1,000 per month for advertising would come out of their own pockets. We wanted to ensure that businesses would get some bang for their buck. We also wanted to make sure we were performing the way we said we were going to, so we can build relationships and expand those relationships.
We officially launched in January and have continued to tweak our system to improve the audience experience, and we continue to add content. The vast majority of our system is done we are just working on putting the bells and whistles in place.
Is something like “cannabis media” a niche market, or does it have more broad-based appeal? Who is your target audience?
We are looking at the post-prohibition crowd when it comes to cannabis. Mainstream cannabis users can’t identify with the stoner stuff. They’re not into the bongs. They’re really into the lifestyle programming. When you look at it the biggest growing group of cannabis consumers, they’re in their low to mid 40’s and above. Cannabis is part of a bigger package now which is healthy living, offbeat viewpoints, art, fashion, as well as up and coming music. I compare it to how you don’t sit around the table and discuss alcohol. You just enjoy it. Alcohol is not the central point of your conversation, but cannabis is part of the conversation.
We like content that talks about organic and green living. We want to become a Mecca for content producers which is why we began to focus on niche content. We give the content providers the opportunity to monetize which is helpful because YouTube has kicked off the “Weed Tubers.” We wanted to give content providers in the cannabis space a platform to monetize and be able to sustain their art through subscriptions and advertisements. This allows them to better position themselves to be sponsored by brands.
We also have distribution —we’re up on Apple and Roku. There is a collective good that allows them to get their content out and sponsored. We have great relationships with our content providers. They are passionate about what they do, and so are we.
And speaking about monetizing things, how does the financial relationship work with your content providers?
Our relationship is a revenue share with them. When ads are running through their content we give them a healthy percentage of that revenue, and it depends on the quality, how long it’s been around if there is exclusivity of the content. It’s designed to give them the means to do what they love. For most content providers this is a side thing and not necessarily to pay the bills. We want to help them cover the cost of their production, so it’s really about helping them justify what they’re doing so they continue what they are doing.
Why did you go into the over-the-top media space and with what mainstream media source would you compare e360TV?
We moved into the over the top tv space, so we could better monitor and collect data on our product and also because a lot of people are cutting cords and watching tv through this platform.
We are just like Hulu but cannabis friendly. We curated content, supported it with ads and eventually subscriptions. Once our subscriptions are on a mass scale, we are going to produce our own content, but we’ll still do that through our content providers because we are not in the business of producing our own content.
Cannabis content is fractured if you want good information you have to go to like five different sources. We want to centralize much of that content with high-quality reliable information. I see us bringing information to one central location. We want to provide a platform that benefits advertisers and content providers.
Let’s talk about the future —can you tell us about some of your current and upcoming projects?
There is a program called 3rd Coast Ink which is about a tattoo shop based in Wisconsin for people who were in sex trafficking rings. The shop is owned by a former cop, and they cover up tattoos for people. We have another program about some local Phoenix comics and a dispensary. We also have Trusk8board about up and coming skateboarders and legends.
Some more original content we’re working on is an autism special in conjunction with Autism Speaks and Inclusion Films about people with autism and how to help them get involved in their community and vice versa. Also, what for-profit companies are doing to integrate people with autism into their workforce because there is about a 90 percent under or unemployment rate for kids with autism.
We like content with meat —not Hollywood. We’re all about independent-with-a-heart-to-it content.
And, finally, speaking of the future, what do you see long-term for e360TV?
I really want to create a tribe of people where we can support them as they create content with a heart behind it.