Last year Anna Wintour and Vogue decided that rather than ignore the mighty Internet and hope it goes the way of the VHS, they should make their little nook of it as special and up-to-date as they can.
But the Internet being a strange, alien area for the magazine, they hired Blue State Digital, the online consulting firm that made my.barackobama.com, to help her. The new, redesigned Vogue.com will be unleashed after Labor Day.
The biggest difference between Vogue.com now and Vogue.com as we will know it next month is that it won't share content with Style.com. Style.com will become a full-fledged Vogue.com competitor. So it makes sense that Vogue would look outside Condé Nast for digital help: If they have to beat the site that spawned them, they need bigger, better, and, naturally, more expensive resources. Budget cuts presumably need not be felt on the new Vogue.com.
So while Style.com and Vogue.com used to share reviews, runway slideshows, and videos, they will have completely separate resources moving forward. Vogue.com and Style.com will each pay to dispatch their own writers, photographers, and videographers to the shows. Does this mean Vogue.com will crush Style.com into a sad little pancake of identity crisis?
Some insiders believe so. But Condé executives seem to think the sites can co-inhabit the web and thrive separately.
“In my mind, why not have two of the leading brands in the online space?” [Drew Schutte, senior vice president and chief revenue officer for Condé Nast Digital, who oversees sales and marketing for Condé Nast’s 26 Web sites,] said. “There’s lots of competition coming up, so instead of letting someone else become the number-two competitor, I’d like to make one ourselves and have the number one and two in the space.” (He said sales for vogue.com have gone well, noting the site will make its debut with five exclusive advertisers, who signed on through the end of the year.)
And what will the differences be between Style.com and vogue.com? No one’s giving specifics, but Schutte said, “In broad strokes, Vogue sees the world — including politics, Hollywood, culture, the home — through the lens of fashion and its kind of the final word, if you will. And Style is fashion, fashion, fashion — that’s all it is. I think they’ll complement each other.”
Schutte also said that Style.com has the highest visitor return rate of any site, with uniques averaging 2 million a month. Condé says visitors spend an average of thirteen minutes on the site as well. During the collections, Style.com will live-stream twenty runway shows, and plans to celebrate its tenth anniversary by selling $45 T-shirts with graphics contributed by top designers.
But it doesn't seem like it would be hard for Vogue.com to make Style.com obsolete. Style.com never made a whole lot of sense anyway, when it launched as the portal to Condé's women's fashion titles. What people really wanted to see wasn't a confusing and bland aggregation site, but the sites for individual magazines. Vogue.com will have personalities like André Leon Talley and Hamish Bowles writing posts every now and then — what kind of personality will Style.com have? Candy Pratts Price doesn't even do that weird avatar-podcast thing, which so many fashion girls liked so much, for them anymore. And it's clear that posting up-to-the-minute runway slideshows won't be enough to make up for that.
Style.com has one major thing on Vogue.com, which is that it has stuck around for ten years. But as more and more fashion sites launch, it feels less relevant. Yet Vogue is still struggling for relevancy on the web as well. They might compete with each other, but in the larger world of the Internet, it might not matter if neither site is "with it" enough to become the go-to destination for fashion-interested women on the web. Style.com is selling $45 T-shirts to celebrate itself, after all.
Update: Vogue's spokesperson informs us the magazine did not hire Blue State Digital to work on its website, despite previous confirmation of the hire by another Vogue spokesperson.