ANNA WEAVES HER WEB: Just what Anna Wintour needed: another project. On the eve of New York Fashion Week and a mere two days before her brainchild, Fashion’s Night Out — which, while ostensibly having little to do with Vogue, has more than five of the magazine’s staffers working on it full time — she is unveiling the new vogue.com.
And it’s about time — the world’s most influential fashion magazine is late to the online game. For the better part of a decade, Vogue’s online presence was limited to a shout-out on Style.com (originally dubbed “the online home of Vogue and W” but now a brand unto itself). And when vogue.com launched a freestanding URL in November 2009, its offerings were slim. Only in the last year or so has it filled out with editor blogs, basic slide shows, behind-the-scenes videos, weekly best-dressed lists and bits of reportage from the shows. But that is about to change. The new vogue.com — created in conjunction with Code and Theory, the digital development company behind the streamlined Web sites of The Daily Beast, Interview magazine and NBC New York — has such elements as an oversize features carousel (which integrates advertisements) with images that are three times larger than before, a locking navigation bar (essentially a traveling table of contents), plus Vogue-inspired typography and lots of white space, or “breathing room,” as Caroline Palmer, editor of vogue.com, put it.
Contentwise — in addition to ramped-up collections coverage and original features from the likes of creative director Candy Pratts Price — the site is set up to showcase high-quality videos and photos. “Enhancing the sense of community on vogue.com” was another priority, said Palmer. Along those lines, users now can comment on stories, connect to most social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook), create “lightboxes” with their favorite looks, vote for the Ten Best Dressed and see what’s happening elsewhere online via The Aggregator, which pulls fashion news from across the Web.
As for what exactly spurred the relaunch, Wintour told WWD in an e-mail: “The Vogue reader is completely engaged in the world of technology…I felt it was crucial that in this era we take the authority, quality, and beauty of Vogue and bring those values to the digital realm. The fashion world moves so quickly now, everyone here at the magazine wants to be able to bring it to the Vogue reader on an hourly, not just monthly, basis. Also, there is just so much — too much, almost — out there on the Web. Vogue.com isn’t going to be covering everything — just the right things.”
For this, the site’s first season, the “right things” include the runway collections of “under 100” designers, from across the four main fashion cities. “We’re giving them a deep treatment,” said Palmer, who has shepherded the relaunch internally. Plus, there will be street-style pictures from Street Peeper’s Phil Oh and galleries of off-duty models courtesy of model-cum-photographer Hanneli Mustaparta. Palmer said the magazine tested 60 photographers before settling on a small mix of scenesters (such as Rachel Chandler) and “actual photojournalists” to shoot parties and events for the site.
On the advertising side, Burberry, Estée Lauder, Gucci, L’Oréal and Nordstrom signed on to be the site’s launch sponsors through the end of the year. Susan Plagemann, Vogue’s publisher, said the five slots sold out in less than two months. The benefit? Advertisers are guaranteed exclusivity on any given page of the site (ads for Burberry and Gucci, for example, will never appear side by side) and have access to five unique ad units, most of which are integrated into editorial (usually smack in the middle). Units include click-to-buy shopping modules and video-capable ones, as well as more advertorial-esque options. Each sponsor has its own landing page on vogue.com, which is populated with stories and videos relating to its products. “We’re working very, very closely with edit to make sure that these pages are seamless,” Plagemann noted. If all goes well, Plagemann said she hopes to sell exclusive annual sponsorships — signing up anywhere between 10 and 15 advertisers — next year.
Future plans for vogue.com include the launch of Vogue Archive, a searchable database of the magazine’s archives (from 1892) in 2011 and a Vogue-centric encyclopedia called Voguepedia.
If it seems like no expense was spared, that’s because there wasn’t. (While numbers are hard to pin down, insiders said Condé Nast has spent significantly more on the relaunch of vogue.com than it has recently on any other site.) “We’ve been given all the resources that we need,” Palmer said.
Those are words rarely uttered in publishing these days — and ones that no doubt will raise the hackles of some of the magazine’s stablemates at 4 Times Square.