The Association of Magazine Media

Associate Member Spotlight: The Sterling Woods Group


Rob Ristagno
Founder and CEO, The Sterling Woods Group

The Sterling Woods Group was founded by Rob Ristagno, who has served as a senior executive at several niche media and e-commerce companies. Our founder most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of America's Test Kitchen, considered to be the gold standard in the niche media world for building diversified – and often digital – revenue streams that enabled the company to be free from advertising dependence. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and Company and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. ​You can email Rob at








1) How does your company partner with member publishers to help them succeed?

MPA members need to drive more digital revenue, but managing a publishing business is complex. We get that! We’ve been there!

This is where The Sterling Woods Group comes in. We simplify things for you. Think of us as your concierge with a complement of services and solutions for launching paid digital membership sites.

We start by working alongside you to carefully define your digital membership strategy and its place alongside print. Then, we execute – we get you up and running on our technology platform, repurpose content, and build and launch a marketing plan.

As your long-term business partner, we continuously identify more ways to add value to your digital subscribers through new content, products, and services.

2) What “known unknowns” do you see on the horizon for the industry? 

Making money through digital advertising will continue to be a challenge. CPMs continue to decline, ad blockers are on the rise, and Google and Facebook keep changing the rules.

Winning requires diversification of digital revenue streams. I firmly believe publishers have a major advantage here, provided they leverage their two largest assets: exceptional content and a loyal audience. We can help you tap into this potential.

3) What had the greatest impact on your business this year?

Seeing more and more consumers pay for digital content. People are tired of “click bait” and don’t have the time to sift through multiple sites to find what they are looking for. They will pay for quality, curated content from a brand they trust.

4) If you were a magazine brand, which would you be and why?

Consumer Reports. They say, “Imagine if every decision could be this simple. Doing research takes time. Choosing the wrong product wastes money.” At the Sterling Woods Group, we have decades of experience in media. We’ve seen what works, and we’ve seen all the mistakes. You don’t have to waste time or money figuring it out yourself.

5) Is there anything we haven't asked you today that you wish we had?

I’ve been passionate about the media industry ever since I was 11 and launched a neighborhood newspaper. I’m on a mission to reinvigorate the economics of our industry. They key is diversification of revenue streams. I hope publishers who had disappointing results with digital in the past try again. It’s a requirement for survival and growth.