Bustle Digital Group has made no secret of the fact that it is on the hunt for more assets in the food and health space (as well as the possibility of taking the company public) — and the hope is no doubt that the ideal targets can mirror the path of The Zoe Report.
Almost two years after its acquisition of the fashion site from celebrity stylist and entrepreneur Rachel Zoe and her husband and business partner Rodger Berman, Bustle Digital Group is content with its performance — even in the face of a pandemic that hit much of media hard — and it believes a site relaunch Tuesday will only help to further boost eyeballs to the site.
“Since we acquired The Zoe Report in April 2018 it’s been performing exceptionally well, with revenue growing more than 175 percent since then, and the business turning a healthy profit,” said Jason Wagenheim, Bustle Digital Group’s president and chief revenue officer. “We’re delivering between 3.5 million to 4 million uniques each month which I think is the perfect sweet spot for a niche fashion publication.”
That’s not to say it has only been smooth sailing. Wagenheim freely admits that BDG’s fashion, retail and beauty business “took a nosedive” in the second quarter as the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., but it saw “a major bounceback in the third quarter across the board, which really materialized into an exceptional fourth quarter.” The Zoe Report itself finished the year nearly flat in total ad revenue, fueled by 23 percent growth in the final three months of the year alone.
It also had to pivot when the pandemic prevented it from building a big live events business off the back of the success of Zoeasis at Coachella, but still managed a decent virtual offering, which Wagenheim said “delivered eight-figures in revenue against more than two dozen virtual moments.” Its virtual holiday bazaar, Shop Holiday, welcomed more than 20,000 guests over three weeks.
And whenever live events do return, the business will pivot back. “I think The Zoe Report and its deep reader connection — combined with how much they actually transact with the brands featured — makes live events an important part of our strategy for the publication.”
As for the redesign — the fourth out of five sites in the lifestyle division to have been given a makeover by senior vice president of creative Karen Hibbert — in addition to a more modern look and a new TZR logo, Andra Day, who is about to star as Billie Holiday in the upcoming Hulu biopic “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” was photographed by Erik Carter for the digital cover to coincide with the relaunch. Hibbert said the images are “a representation of where we want to take TZR visually.”
New editor in chief Kathy Lee, who joined the brand from Hearst Magazines last year, has also been focusing on expanding coverage as part of the redesign to include subjects such as wellness and interior design.
“TZR is known for fashion and beauty and it was important to expand that ecosystem beyond just fashion and beauty because our readers are very style minded and its organic for them to be interested in home decor, as well as wellness and fitness,” she said. “So we really expanded the content on our wellness and living verticals, as well as tackling bigger conversations in the fashion and beauty space.”
Fashion and shopping traffic, still its bread and butter, has remained strong despite the fact that editors are not at shows and the way that its presented is different. “They still want to find out about the trends from the runways and how they can apply that to their wardrobe,” added Lee.
Cofounder Zoe, for one, who is now editor at large, is certainly happy with the redesign.
“I have watched the continued growth and success of The Zoe Report under BDG and I am beyond excited for the new site experience and the extraordinary and powerful content it provides,” she told WWD. “The Zoe Report was created for the modern woman and I am confident that the redesign will continue to engage and grow their readership beyond what we ever could have imagined.”
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