The Outline, a new, VC-funded media company started by The Verge’s founding editor Joshua Topolsky, celebrated its launch on Wednesday night with a party that reflected its cool-kids motto: “It’s not for everyone. It’s for you.”
“We just launched something that is crazy and weird and we’re learning a lot,” Topolsky said during his brief remarks. “I would also like to say we have really insane investors who spent real money on this thing, which is completely strange,” he added.
In August, Topolsky, who oversaw Bloomberg’s digital redesign in 2015 before butting heads with Michael Bloomberg, announced that he had raised $5 million in funding for what he billed as a new approach to digital media.
“The way we present stories is very, very markedly different than how most news sites see their job. Our job is not to funnel words into someone else’s product,” Topolsky told WWD. “Our job is to create our own experiences and our own narratives.”
But for all the talk of a new approach to storytelling, The Outline’s content isn’t exactly revolutionary. The stories, which are a mix of aggregation and original reporting, sometimes told through video or audio, sometimes told through text or flashing interactive features, fit into three broad areas of coverage: culture, power and the future. What sets it apart is its design, which is brightly colored and “swipeable” à la Tinder, is engineered so that readers get lost scrolling or swiping — it’s more effective on mobile — through the site, seamlessly going from story to ad to story.
Like the web site’s content, the basic formula of the event was familiar media fare. People in glasses and button-downs drank and gossiped at an event space in far west Chelsea. But also like the company it celebrated, what distinguished the party wasn’t exactly its content, but its design elements.
High above the city skyline, the event space’s glass walls were covered with logos for The Outline and pasted above those logos were even more logos for Cadillac, Method and Under Armor — the brands sponsoring the launch. Mirrored side tables were covered with print editions of Cadillac Magazine, a car company’s attempt at a luxury lifestyle publication, and iPads set to display the dynamic design of The Outline’s vibrant homepage.
Instead of trays, the hors d’oeuvres were nestled on boughs of birch or inserted vertically into holes in white plastic walls so large they required two servers to carry them through the crowd. Soft pretzels dangled from the spokes of an open umbrella ready for guests to pick them. Innovative? Perhaps. But also unwieldy. Still, it made each appearance of each round of prawns or burritos into an event.