1:03 pm Aug. 8, 2012
Barring any late-night technology meltdowns, the transformation of New York magazine's scrappy fashion blog The Cut to an ornate standalone website covering all topics of interest to women readers will be complete by Monday morning. That's just in time for the magazine's semi-annual fashion issue and the lead-up to New York Fashion Week's Sept. 5 kickoff.
"This was our goal: To create a mashup between a high-end fashion magazine and a blog," said New York's editor-in-chief, Adam Moss, during a press preview at the magazine's Tribeca offices Wednesday morning. "It would have the strong visual impact of a big September glossy and the immediacy of the Internet. It would have the breadth of the best of the women's magazines and the playfulness that is at the heart of all New York magazine digital products."
It would also be a way to reap the fields of digital advertising, which now accounts for 40 percent of New York's total ad revenue, according to publisher Larry Burstein. Five luxury brands have signed on for the Aug. 13 relaunch, including Bottega Veneta, Burberry and Cartier.
"There's an enormous growth trajectory," said Burstein.
He told the assembled reporters, who were treated to an assortment of muffins and croissants from City Bakery, that New York had grown the digital advertising category from 20 percent of total ad revenues in 2008 and 5 percent in 2004, and that the fashion segment now represents the largest advertising category on nymag.com, up 34 percent from 2011. (The magazine's ad pages, meanwhile, are down a little more than 4 percent so far this year, according to Media Industry Newsletter, though ad revenue for the second quarter of 2012 remained flat year-over-year at around $57.2 million, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.)
Of course there are editorial ambitions, too. By widening its coverage mandate and implementing a splashy redesign, The Cut hopes to tap into a broader market of readers who have been flocking to women's websites like Jezebel, The Hairpin and, more recently, BuzzFeed's Shift vertical, while at the same time delivering a richer experience to the fashion fanatics who have been devouring the blog since it launched in February of 2008.
"This has always been an obvious area for us that we haven't really gotten into," said Moss. "By expanding outside of fashion, we're vastly widening our potential audience."
New York's existing fashion channel, where The Cut is featured prominently, is the magazine's third most highly-trafficked web vertical with an average of 1.7 million monthly visitors during the first half of 2012, said a spokesperson for the magazine, citing Omniture metrics. Last year, in a similar bid to scale its online franchises, New York created a standalone site for its erstwhile entertainment blog, Vulture. New York's food blog, Grub Street, got a unique URL, too, while sticking to a reverse-chron format. The three sites together averaged 10.8 million uniques during the first half of the year, according to the Omniture stats provided by the spokesperson.
As of Monday, Cut readers will be redirected to thecut.com, a sleek homepage with five channels and a rotating feature box that occupies most of the real estate above the fold. During a demonstration of the test site, digital editorial director Ben Williams described it as having a more magaziney layout. The Cut's creative director, Stella Bugbee, drew attention to the site's visual emphasis, including a feature with which users can enlarge photos and zoom in on minute details. For instance, you could zero in on a runway model's legs to see if they're freshly shaved, fashion director Amy Larocca joked.
There are beauty and shopping verticals, but fashion coverage will continue to be the main focus of the site, which will become more synergistic with the magazine just in time for next month's runway shows.
"From now on, New York magazine's fashion coverage between the web and print is entirely collaborative," said Larocca.
Celebrity coverage will be expanded in a section called "Fame," while "Love & War," edited by Gawker alumna Maureen O'Connor, will dive into sex, health, relationships, feminism, politics—and possibly other magazines. They're themselves a perennial favorite topic on women's sites, and newly recruited writer Kat Stoeffel, previously The New York Observer's media reporter, told us after the preview had wrapped that they might be in the mix on The Cut, too.
The overall tone of "Love & War"?
"We're really trying to play with that first-person confessional form," said O'Connor, adding that there would be plenty of commentary, reportage and think pieces about current events.
In all, The Cut 2.0 will publish 40 pieces of new content a day generated by 11 full-time editorial staffers (seven of whom were hired specifically for the expansion) and "a heavy use of outside contibuters, more so than on any other section of our site," said Moss.
He said he wants it to be something that will appeal to people all over the world, even the ones who can't read English.
"Enough of the content is, in fact, stories that are told visually," he said, "that we think this is something that can be enjoyed by someone in New York and someone in Shanghai at the same time."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that fashion advertising accounts for 40 percent of New York's total ad revenues. Rather, it is digital advertising that accounts for 40 percent of total ad revenues. We regret the error.
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