In the world wide web of online shopping, the vast array of choices at our fingertips is like unlimited breadsticks, salad and soup from Olive Garden during peak lunch hour. At first it’s all great and wonderful until you feel so overwhelmingly full of carbs, you can’t even see straight while deciding between the Minestrone or the Zuppa Toscana. That, my friends, is the internet. A sort of cesspool of useful (but also useless) information. How do we navigate it all? Luckily, The Strategist, New York Magazine's longtime service-oriented shopping section, has officially launched a stand-alone website on Tuesday in order to help you shop for the best-of-the-best online.
According to Strategist editor Alexis Swerdloff, there's plenty of resources already guiding us through the wild west of e-commerce, like Consumer Reports Magazine, The Wirecutter and Gizmodo. "While I am obsessed and devour all of those, they don't necessarily take into account some of the things that our readers care about, which is aesthetic, style, backstory with humor and entertaining writing," she says.
A prime example of this — and one of The Strategist's most popular posts — is a piece by editor Jason Chen about a nail clipper that he found at a Japanese airport. Sure, it's random and unexpected, but that's the point. And Chen's authentic (and almost poetic) admiration for this impulse purchase is one of his convincing pitches: "The levering system has a satisfying springiness, too, that chops with near-minimal effort," he writes. "Getting my Brookstone clippers to actually make that onomatopoeic clip felt like a negotiation every time." It's something you don't immediately consider in the moment, but when you actually do, it's truly gratifying.
Swerdloff explains that personal stories like Chen’s is The Strategist’s sweet spot. When considering what to feature, she and her team (in addition to Chen and editors Jessica Silvester and Lauren Schwartzberg, Swerdloff also works closely with New York's business development team, led by Camilla Cho) constantly ask themselves, "Does someone actually want to buy this?" while maintaining a mantra to stand by everything that does make it on the site. "As you grow, that gets harder," admits Swerdloff. Her briefs for contributors, which includes writers Molly Young, Jen Doll, Alice Gregory, Sadie Stein and illustrator Joana Avillez, is simple: "What is something that you're obsessed with that you can buy online?" If the item happens to fall within The Strategist's affiliate network as a source of revenue, even better.
Following the launch, The Strategist will double down on holiday shopping season with content geared towards "the hard-to-shop-fors," featuring extensive Q&As with those who are traditionally difficult to please when to comes to gifts. Subjects include a 10-year-old, a grandmother, a cat person, a foodie, an early adopter techie, a fashion person and, yes, a fuccboi. "Basically we grilled these people about what they don't want, what's out, what they got last year but haven't even touched, what their friends have, the lamest thing you could possible get them," explains Swerdloff. "The result is these very entertaining, almost anthropological interviews, but actually surface useful information at the same time."
Swerdloff also has plans to expand upon its recurring column "What I Can't Live Without," which has showcased a number of fashion insiders and their top-pick buys. Hari Nef calls her Swiffer sweeper "iconic;" Rachel Antonoff announces her love for Thomas's English Muffins; André Leon Talley waxes poetic on the joys of shopping for household cleaning items. (For real though, can you even imagine ALT washing dishes?)
"There's always those pieces in magazines where people are talking about things that they like and they never feel honest. But there's something really fun seeing André Leon Talley’s dish detergent and Rachel Antonoff's English muffins. It's also a fun, voyeuristic read in addition to being shopping advice," says Swerdloff. "We want to surprise and entertain the reader, but first and foremost, help the reader."
With that in mind: In need of extra closet space? Try a $50 wall ladder.