This week, New York Magazine officially launched an online home for the Strategist, the magazine’s shopping recommendation section. A recommendation page has had a home in the print publication for years, and now the mag has an e-commerce site that lets it make money on the items readers like and buy.
On the site, fashion plays a key role: “The best white t-shirts” and “the most flattering jeans” are among the product categories listed at the top of the homepage.
According to New York Magazine, it’s service journalism: Two editors scour the Internet to find fashion pieces, beauty products, home decor and other obscure items, then they write about them and provide links to the products. The idea is that readers will buy the products, and the magazine will pocket an undisclosed percentage of the sale. Its main affiliate providers are Amazon, Skimlinks and BamX. The Strategist posts three to four pieces a day.
“In this day and age, most things we want to write about are monetizable,” said one of the Strategist’s editors Alexis Swerdloff. There are two editors dedicated to the print element, and now two for the online site. It also relies on a big team of freelancers and editorial staff from New York Magazine’s other properties, including The Cut, its women’s fashion and beauty website.
Fashion plays a big part in the content featured, and fashion and beauty are two of the top sellers, said Swerdloff. However, it’s not necessarily pieces that are trendy or in fashion that are popular—the magazine staff highlights wardrobe staples that will likely appeal to a broader audience. “We’re not focusing on trends and news. It might be a black-and-white T-shirt for both men and women. We want to skew more basics,” she said, adding that they’re trying to capture readers who may be shopping for a mattress topper or an electric turkey carver at the same time.
So far, the top-selling fashion items have included a very basic blouse by the label Equipment, which a freelance writer Jen Doll sold to readers with the sentence, “I own this shirt in four colors.” Another was a pair of jeans from a post titled “Our fashion director finally found a perfect pair of jeans.” The Strategist has also found success in more obscure beauty products. “9 cult korean beauty products you can buy on Amazon” is also on its best-sellers list. Swerdloff estimates that fashion pieces account for a third of the items the team posts.
Using e-commerce to bolster revenue is not a new trick for publishers—many other fashion publishers are trying their hand at the game. In 2012, Harper’s Bazaar launched ShopBazaar as a way to marry its editorial coverage to a revenue stream. Since, it’s been capitalizing on helping readers to shop its content. Another example is the platform WhoWhatWear, which is owned by Clique Media Group. One of CMG’s co-founders, Katherine Power, had a background in magazines and saw an opportunity to make it easier for readers to shop editorial content: Rather than deal with the painstaking process of going to the back pages of a magazine and calling a brand to find a piece, they could just shop the WWW website.
William Johnson, chief operations officer at affiliate links provider VigLink (it doesn’t work with the Strategist) said fashion lends itself well to affiliate links, but only if the site has a voice that resonates with readers. “The good ones, the ones that have a real, authentic voice and discussion around products, help us find what to buy,” he said, adding that consumers are often wary of retailer-provided product reviews. He estimated the Strategist would have a click-through rate of between 10 and 20 percent on its links.
It’s still early to make any claims about the Strategist’s success—but its initial six-month trial period got off to a strong start, judging by the data, Swerdloff said. “Readers are very responsive to the fashion stuff we write about, but we’re still figuring out a way to do it that it feels different than The Cut.”
Swerdloff said the 17 to 18 “things on sale that you actually want to buy” posts are some of the site’s most popular, and she’s hoping the trend will continue through the approaching shopping season. “It’s things I think are a good deal and worth buying. It’s mostly fashion, and that’s the stuff our readers seem to really like. Not a lot of people do sales roundups in that way.”
Photos via the Strategist.