On Monday, Vox Media’s smallest property, fashion and shopping site Racked, started shifting its focus to its newsletter and Facebook channel. It was an acknowledgment that people are increasingly finding news and information in their in-boxes and on social media.
Racked has made the articles and videos featured in its newsletter and social platforms shoppable, plus it has given its website and logo a facelift. In addition, it has bolstered its video operations, like many other publishers, motivated by the ad dollars that video is increasingly attracting. Video ad spend in the U.S. is expected to reach $28 billion in 2020, up from $9.9 billion last year, according to e-Marketer.
The main idea behind the shift is to reach a new audience and push content to where people are consuming news: in social feeds and through email newsletters, rather than on a homepage. A majority of U.S. adults—62 percent—get news on social media, according to a Pew Research Centre report, which also stated that 66 percent of Facebook users get their news from the social platform.
It’s not about driving readers back to Racked.com, said editor-in-chief Britt Aboutaleb, who joined the site from Yahoo Style in February. She said that the site will be less about inspiration and more about getting readers to shop by clicking links in stories like “The best places to shop online” and “Where to shop for work clothes.”
“We hope we’re attracting not just a larger audience, but a more grown-up, sophisticated audience,” said Aboutaleb. “There’s a lot of content out there for millennials, like ‘How to get a celebrity look,’ but there isn’t much speaking to a working woman who isn’t buying off the runway and is asking how to build a modern wardrobe at a reasonable price point.”
Vox Media’s publisher, Melissa Bell, said Racked won’t be focused on generating revenue through affiliate links, but will continue to generate most of its revenue through sponsored content and banner ads. Current advertisers include Calvin Klein and Buick.
To push into video, Racked recently hired a video team of seven. It also launched a new series on Monday called “Clothes and Tell,” which goes inside the wardrobes of social media influencers and celebrities. The weekly series will live on Racked.com, Facebook and YouTube, and will be hosted by Racked’s new editor-at-large, Aminatou Sow. Other current video series include “First Person,” which features guests like Ashley Graham and Nasty Gal’s founder Sophia Amoruso answering questions that appear on-screen. Bell said Racked will continue to monetize its Facebook videos through sponsored content and editorial sponsorships.
Going forward, only a few staffers will be dedicated to creating content for Racked.com, while the 21-person editorial team will prioritize content for its morning email newsletter, which has 350,000 subscribers according to Racked, and Facebook. Publishers are increasingly turning to email newsletters to connect with readers on a more personal level: They often feature a more chatty and friendly writing tone, plus they allow readers to read stories on their own time.
Racked’s audience is relatively small compared to other fashion publishers, ranking 30th among fashion, beauty and style publications monitored by comScore—it had 1.9 million views in September 2016. To compare, the most popular, Yahoo Style and Beauty Network, had 44 million views in September and Refinery29, number two, had 28 million views. Racked has also hired dedicated menswear and beauty reporters to grow its audience beyond young women interested in fashion.
Using social media to grow its audience mirrors what many other publishers are doing. Being overly reliant on social media platforms has risks, though. Platforms have control over what users see and publishers’ ability to monetize their content, and publishers can be susceptible to algorithm changes.
“We see a lot of publishers are starting to think about a world in which their owned-and-operated site doesn’t contribute to the majority of their readers,” said William Johnson, chief operations officer at VigLink, an affiliate links provider.
Bell isn’t concerned about being overly reliant on Facebook. She said Racked’s smaller audience and revenue, compared to other Vox Media sites, makes it a good place to experiment.
“Racked was in a stage of growth that’s still pretty nascent,” said Bell. “It’s also a testing ground to the wider Vox Media company. What we learn on Racked we can apply elsewhere.”
Image via Net-a-Porter.