FACE OFF: Right after Labor Day, Style.com, once the online home of W and Vogue but now a brand in its own right, will face some stiff competition from one of its former comrades, as Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour unveils a major relaunch of vogue.com. And while there may be belt-tightening elsewhere at Condé Nast, it doesn’t seem to apply to the two Web sites: They won’t be pooling resources, and each will dispatch its own reviewers, runway photographers and videographers to the shows. Style.com’s critic crew of Tim Blanks, Nicole Phelps and Meenal Mistry will square off at the keyboard against vogue.com’s recruits, Jessica Kerwin and Sarah Mower (a former Style contributor), as well as senior staffers Mark Holgate and Hamish Bowles and others.
While some media observers wonder if the competition for eyes (and ad dollars) might devolve into a death match between the two Condé Nast-owned sites, Style.com — which is celebrating its 10th anniversary next month — is taking things in stride, according to 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. Bolstering his confidence are the site’s significant upticks in traffic and revenue. According to the company, Style.com now averages two million unique visitors a month, with major spikes during collections (during the fall shows in February, for example, the site garnered 169.7 million page views, a 40 percent increase over 2009). Visitors spend an average of 13 minutes on the site, the company said, and Schutte noted Style.com has the highest visitor return rate of any of his sites.
Perhaps this is why he isn’t fretting about the face-off between Style and Vogue. “In my mind, why not have two of the leading brands in the online space?” Schutte 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 it’s 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.”
To mark Style.com’s 10th birthday, the site is planning to launch an iPad app and live-stream about 20 runway shows (Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Michael Kors and Burberry Prorsum are on board) through a sponsorship deal with Lexus. The site also is throwing a party on Sept. 14 and sending out a branded Airstream trailer the following day to sell $45 limited edition anniversary T-shirts (with graphics courtesy of design houses including Lanvin, Calvin Klein and Prada), which will be available for purchase on Style.com on Sept. 16.
— Nick Axelrod
GOING, GOING…: At times during its expansion years, American Apparel’s print ads — the homemade, Helvetica-heavy affairs that typically feature models in soft-core poses sometimes shot by chief executive officer Dov Charney himself — seemed as much a part of its business plan as terry cloth booty shorts and gold lamé leggings. With the company’s financial straits seeming to grow more perilous by the day (the American Stock Exchange threatened it with delisting Tuesday, a week after the retailer itself said it may not be able to continue as a going concern), it may be time to start envisioning a world with far fewer suggestive plugs for button-downs. In its seriously delayed second-quarter earnings report, the company offered a host of ways it intends to repair its financial structure. Among other standards, such as the potential subleasing of stores and a staffing level review, American Apparel tacked on one option that couldn’t have been welcome news to a certain subset of publishers: “the selective and targeted reduction in the company’s marketing spend.”
So how much do the blogs, specialty titles and alternative weeklies, where the company typically plies its wares, stand to lose if it dramatically shrinks its ad spend? In its most recent annual report, the company listed advertising, trade show and catalogue costs of $15.4 million last year, down from $25 million in 2008. The $9.6 million reduction, it said, was mainly in advertising. The annual report also disclosed that, as of Dec. 31, it had $3.6 million in remaining contractual ad commitments in 2010. The numbers may not seem blockbuster when compared with establishment publishers, but certainly moved the needle in American Apparel’s world. The back cover of Vice magazine, a signature spot for the retailer and one it’s held since June 2003, goes for a little more than $24,000 an issue, according to the publication’s 2010 media kit.
— Matthew Lynch
T IN VOGUE: Sally Singer, the newly installed editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, is rounding out her staff with a slew of former colleagues and famous daughters. Singer has named Ethel Park, an associate fashion editor at Vogue and longtime assistant to Tonne Goodman, to the post of senior fashion editor at T, effective Aug. 30. Joining Park in the fashion department will be Sara Moonves (daughter of CBS honcho Leslie and a former assistant to Vogue executive fashion editor Phyllis Posnick) and Vanessa Traina (daughter of Danielle Steel and a stylist who’s worked with Vogue contributing editor Marie-Amélie Sauvé), both of whom Singer has signed on as freelance fashion editors. “They see the link between fashion and the larger question of what’s relevant in our culture,” Singer said of her new recruits, adding, “They’re also quite connected with the generation of emerging designers, not only in the States, but abroad, as well.”
Meanwhile, those waiting to see how Singer changes the Times glossy will have to wait a few months — she said her first issue will be the Holiday issue, out Dec. 5.