More than a year after shuttering its print publication, Self is ushering in a new digital era with a refreshed logo and the debut of its first digital cover and podcast series.
For Self, the updates serve as the culmination of an extended period of soul searching as it sought to find its footing as a now fully digital publication. Since ceasing its print edition, Self has increasingly focused on delivering service-oriented journalism and educational content designed to be shared across multiple platforms, from the site to its social media channels. The new digital issue, which launches today, serves as an extension of Self’s experiment with thematic editorial packages, which will include new video series and special projects, like the monthly podcast. The new logo is representative of this change.
“As a health and wellness brand, our mission has always been to help people,” editor-in-chief Carolyn Kylstra said. “We realize that in order to live up to that mission, we had to really understand the media landscape and take advantage of those changes, and recognize exactly what it was that was missing in the media.”
Despite taking some time to find its way, Self has consistently increased web traffic under Kylstra’s tutelage. The site reported a 36 percent increase year-over-year for unique visitors in May 2018 compared to the year prior, according to ComScore, and now has an audience across all platforms of nearly 20 million readers. At the same time, revenue has increased, thanks in part to the ability to focus exclusively on digital entities and experiment with new platforms, said Craig Kostelic, chief business officer of the lifestyle collection group at Condé Nast.
Fred Santarpia, chief digital officer at Condé Nast, said Self’s rebranding efforts under Kylstra have helped bring the brand “back to prominence” within the media conglomerate. While challenging, the loss of the print edition allowed Self to reallocate resources to build out its digital features. Kylstra’s effort to better engage readers in new ways inspired Self’s first digital cover, taking a cue from fellow Condé Nast publication Teen Vogue, which recently began rolling out special online editions after its print edition was shut down.
At the same time, Self mirrored Teen Vogue’s strategy of responding to reader feedback and tying coverage to the political climate and ongoing diversity efforts across industries. Self’s first digital issue is focused on the fraught way Americans discuss weight loss, and features cover star and plus-size model Tess Holliday. Accompanying editorial includes a series of personal essays about body image written by popular writers on body inclusivity such as Lindy West and Jess Baker.
“Nearly every time I ‘dare’ to exercise in a sports bra in public I get disapproving looks from passers by. So many people believe smaller bodies are the only ones allowed to dress comfortably or be proudly displayed. No matter your size you deserve to be happy in and about your body. You aren’t beholden to any societally restrictive dress codes, especially those based in shame. Oh, and in case anyone hasn’t said so yet, you look cute AF today.” We’re loving this positivity. If you like it, wear it! 💕 #TeamSELFregram from @reneicespieces
Kylstra said the digital issue is reflective of the team’s recent focus on three updated coverage pillars — empathy, accuracy and inclusivity — and builds upon recent work around body inclusivity. For example, Self created its own collection of stock photography after staffers and readers expressed frustration with the lack of diversity in traditional stock imagery.
“Bringing Self and its values to different audiences and different platforms is a luxury we didn’t have when we were dedicating a lot of resources to the size and structure of print operations,” said Kostelic, who oversees five brands, including Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast Traveler and Self. “[Digital] allows us to have nimbleness and fluidity, as far as showcasing the brand to different audiences.”
According to Kostelic, video remains a major focus for luring advertisers, as does the development of more thematic newsletters like Self’s successful beauty newsletter. “It’s the idea of wellness through the lens of different categories and bringing that engaged segment of the audience to different platforms,” he said.
The launch of Self’s first podcast, which will be hosted by Kylstra, will further open opportunity for advertisers via audio, he said. The episodes will be tied to the themes of the digital issues, and cover topics like wellness trends and health tips, as well as debunking common misconceptions.
Kylstra said while her team is still testing out these new forms of digital storytelling and working out the kinks, ultimately her goal is to foster dialogue around important issues in health and wellness.
“What I learned quickly was that running a brand is a little different than running a website. You need more than just the daily grind to make a difference and accomplish your goals,” she said. “It’s not enough to just churn out content every day, and expect it to make an impact and to guide the conversation.”