If you've typed www.fashionologie.com into your browser over the past week, you might've been surprised by where you ended up.
That's because PopSugar, the company that owns Fashionologie, as well as ShopStyle, FabSugar and 12 other fashion, health, celebrity, shopping and fitness sites, has rebranded.
The identities of those 15 individual sites have been folded into PopSugar, the company's biggest and most successful brand. (ShopStyle is now under PopSugar Shopping, and Fashionologie is under PopSugar Fashion News.) In fact, ceo Brian Sugar and editor in chief Lisa Sugar—who happened to be husband and wife—even changed the name of their company from Sugar, Inc. to PopSugar, Inc. The company reports that, as one site, PopSugar draws 30 million users a month, generating 250 million pageviews. That's huge for a women's interest publication.
Why the drastic change in strategy? I talked with Lisa and Brian Sugar last week about the new face of PopSugar.
Fashionista: Why this new format, and why now? Brian Sugar: When we started the company [in April 2006] we thought that we were going to be like Conde Nast or Time, Inc.—big publishing companies that run websites, or blogs. But what we’ve found is that video has essentially just taken over in pageviews. It’s the future for us in terms of display advertising. It does better than galleries or polls: high production, a-list quality video. [With everything rebranded as PopSugar], it's like having one cable channel that has a bunch of different programming throughout the day—workouts, shopping, recipes. We look at ourselves more like an ESPN, or insert some awesome cable channel here, except we cater to shopping, celebrity and fashion and so on and so forth.
You got into the affiliate marketing game earlier than most with the acquisition of ShopStyle in 2007. Now you talk a lot about combining content and commerce. How is that reflected on the new site? Lisa Sugar: We’ll be tailoring the site to those who are already coming with their credit cards in hand by blowing out more shopping content. We’re capitalizing on what ShopStyle has already done—there will be headline changes, and more chances to execute on shopping.
BS: The voice stays the same. As for the editorial direction, think of PopSugar as the prominent example of content and commerce coming together. We want to make it easy for people who are going to buy something to be able to go and buy it. We’ve learned, because we’ve been doing it for so long, that getting people who are reading celebrity, fitness, entertainment, and fashion stories to buy something is really difficult. So we need to make sure that every time you’re on the site you know that you can shop. When the time comes that you want to go shopping, you’ll know where to go.
It sounds like having one brand to sell across all platforms would make working with advertisers easier. But there are other sites out there that are launching new domains instead of new verticals. What do you think about that?
BS: It’s hard for me to comment on the strategies of others. Selling banner ads with sponsorships is the least profitable way of making money on the internet. We have three vibrant revenue streams: display advertising, search advertising and commerce. With 15 different websites, getting Fashionologie folks to do other things was not as efficient as we’d like. We continue to create the same great content, but now we can market one brand to everyone, and have a halo effect across the brand.
How does your revenue break up? BS: It's 45% display, 45% search and 10% commerce. We think commerce has the biggest potential for growth. Last year, we launched a subscription box service. It went from 0 to 12,000 subscribers in six months.
And how much revenue did you bring in last year? BS: We're a private company, so we don't reveal those numbers, but I can say that we brought $450 million in retail sales to our commerce partners last year. [Most of that was through ShopStyle.]
There's a lot of competition in this space. Who What Wear, and Refinery29 in particular. Who are you watching closely? BS: I'm keeping an eye on Meredith and Time, Inc. merging.
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