Interview by Ronit Pinto; written by Jaime Lubin
Life moves fast for Michael Klein. The veteran media executive’s favorite turns of phrase are “urgent content,” meaning content that’s instantly accessible, and “race to premium,” meaning consumers’ drive to find and creators’ need to provide the highest-quality content across all forums. In just over a year as CEO of Miraculo, an integrated media company housing a portfolio of cannabis brands, Klein seems to be speeding his way to new heights in a revolutionary industry.
At Miraculo, he oversees full-service community engagement platforms that are truly the first of their kind. CannabisMD is the world’s online authority for consumers on medical cannabis and CBD; God’s Greenery is an unprecedented digital community for Christians sharing CBD-based health and wellness stories; and Knowledge Navigator analyzes the growing body of digital cannabis data to identify what people want most from different brands. The former two offer a range of articles, videos, podcasts, and more. Within the Miraculo universe, the keywords are information, connection, and empowerment.
“What I find so interesting about this industry,” Klein says, “from medical to adult consumption, is that it’s a real passion play for people… What I love particularly about digital content is… when somebody has discovered something and they can share it with their friends and community. So when I saw what was happening around cannabis [and] when this opportunity was put in front of me, I thought it could make a difference.”
Klein comes to cannabis from an impressive storytelling background. He has previously been MTV’s Executive Vice President of Original Content; an Executive Vice President and member of the Senior Leadership Launch Team at Condé Nast Entertainment, responsible for developing film, TV and digital content for over 20 iconic brands; and many more experiences in senior leadership positions from SundanceTV to the Travel Channel and TLC. Fashion and food enthusiasts may recall his work on hits such as What Not to Wear and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
“My entire career from television and digital content is all about discovering an underserved audience, creating a great content experience, and scaling that audience,” Klein notes. “If you say 15 percent of the population has a relationship with cannabis, that’s great. It’s the other 85 [percent], our mothers who are reading about this stuff and hearing about it, but they don’t see themselves going into a dispensary. They don’t [go] to one of these other sites that maybe full of stigmatizing language or images of weed… So what we’re doing at cannabisMD is building a non-advocacy site [and] really taking that health and wellness point of view for the lens of medical cannabis and CBD. That’s [an]underserved audience… We don’t have a bias toward use. We’re giving consumers all the positive stories and research, and not so positive stories and research with the intent of empowering them to make decisions that are right for them.”
Visitors to cannabisMD will find testimony by experts such as Dr. June Chin, an internationally renowned integrative medicine practitioner, and content engineered by creative veterans like Jennifer Romolini, who became the company’s Chief Content Officer after successful leadership tenures at Shonda land and HelloGiggles. Top knowledge resides in every category. The platform’s food editor Andrea Drummer is the executive chef at Lowell Café, the nation’s first cannabis restaurant.
“In my mind, there are some of the best digital creators in the world [here],” Klein asserts proudly. “They’re the best writers in the world, the best salespeople and the best technology people. I was really fortunate to tap into my network from entertainment and digital, bring in executives from Viacom, Condé Nast, ESPN, BuzzFeed, etc, that are bringing their expertise from other industries into the medical cannabis and CBD realms.”
Miraculo was founded in 2018 by Canadian entrepreneur Rory Millikin and venture capitalist G. Scott Paterson. Millikin’s brother, left quadriplegic after a hockey accident, had experienced life-changing effects from medical cannabis, but switched from THC to CBD because he didn’t like being high. When Rory discovered the incredible benefits CBD had for his brother, he saw the potential for a global library of accessible information about medical cannabis. Partnering with Paterson, the two eventually acquired over 12,000 keyword domains related to cannabis and CBD which would form the basis for cannabisMD.
“That’s where I came in,” Klein recalls. He joined Miraculo roughly six months into its formation. “They wanted somebody that understood audiences and how to deliver on audience needs.”
Paterson and Millikin had found a perfect match, as Klein mentions “need states” with close frequency to his discussions of “urgent content.” He is a true cultural anthropologist who can instantly predict how trends in data are correlating to people’s daily lives.
“We did a piece of work looking at relative search terms in the U.S. over the last five years,” he describes. “Beauty and food are [among] the highest-searched terms on the internet; wellness spikes in January… You look at CBD [and] two years ago you see the hockey stick where it goes up to now being one of the most searched terms on the internet. 100 percent growth year over year just demonstrates that consumer acceptance and interest has completely outpaced any regulatory body… The FDA [is] just now getting involved, and for consumers there’s that lack of authority voice, and that’s where we can insert ourselves to help them navigate the amount of misinformation that is out there… In many ways we’re a next-generation WebMD, but [within] the medical community, it’s growing but more research needs to be done. And a new category has been born that crosses every demographic. My mother uses a 3-to-1 THC cream on a sore knee that allows her to golf at 83 [years old]. My 21-year-old niece who just graduated from USC’s dance department uses CBD as part of her recovery routine. Two totally different need states, very different audiences, but both now have social currency. They discovered something new and they take it out to their community.”
This confusion-to-discovery quest has unearthed one particularly interesting revelation. According to Klein, the number-one driver that causes people to seek out CBD treatments is fear. He explains that this can mean “fear of a sore back, fear that I’m not going to get enough sleep. Fear of the impact it has on my health and wellness… We can arm our editorial team with that information because we know there’s a need state for these consumers that we can provide.And we can take that to [non-cannabis companies too], for how they can be inserted into this cultural conversation in a way they haven’t been able to before, because they were fearful of putting their brand [amid] a stigmatizing image, which we do not have on cannabisMD.”
Conversely, the response to God’s Greenery stems less from fear and more from faith. Not just faith in God and the plant’s abilities to heal, but in Christian fellowship to accept the accounts from those sharing them. The platform has been received with overwhelming positivity, Klein reports. Managed by acclaimed Christian writer and editor-in-chief Natalie Gillespie, God’s Greenery enables the religious community to bond over stories of PTSD recovery, parenting chronically ill children, care giving for the elderly, and other health and wellness areas where CBD can make an impact. Most of the personal tales are very emotional, Klein attests.
“[Gillespie]was on her own journey with CBD,” he observes, “for one of her children who suffers from epilepsy. So as an editor-in-chief, she’s naturally going through this journey of discovery and able to talk to the audience about that. Very authentic, which I love. You look at the race to premium, the race to authenticity – if you don’t have that, you’re not going to survive.”
Excitingly, Miraculo will soon be helping the God’s Greenery audience thrive in more physical ways. Spring 2020 will see the company roll out news epecially-formulated lines of CBD products combined with herbs and plants that have healing properties mentioned in the Bible. The products will be available directly online and are referred to as “God’s Greenery home parties,”encouraging visitors to the platform to engage their communities in real life as well.
As mainstream media continues its training in speaking the language of cannabis,Klein feels grateful, confident, and inspired to be part of an enterprise that’s so ahead of the curve. “CBD is an incredibly emotional decision [for families],” he states. “You’ve also seen some really interesting, innovative businesses grow out of this… We have to keep consumers safe. The FDA has to regulate in some way in order to do that. You hope, though, that they can do it in such a way that protects the interests of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Here’s an example where you’ve got this significant category, one of the most searched terms on the internet, and it didn’t come from some massive corporation. It came from a lot of small independent visionaries, and that is really exciting.”
And so for Michael Klein, who has built a creative career guiding us on what not to wear, how to take travel risks safely, how to savor life as if each day is your last, telling pragmatic stories about transformative new healing methods is the next logical step. He and his team of miracle workers are not merely finishing “the race to premium” – they’re charting whole new courses for the world to follow. The fun will be in seeing who can keep up.