At a time when appealing to Millennials, particularly Millennial women, has become a huge objective for the industry, The Cut’s original mix of fashion, beauty, politics, sex and celebrity is hitting just the right tone. Jamie Gavin spoke to Stella Bugbee, editorial director of The Cut, to find out more about the publication’s content, its digital strategy, and how it goes about monetising its audiences.
Please give us a brief background to The Cut…
The Cut is officially part of nymag.com in the sense that it is on the same url, but it really operates as its own website, with its own brand identity and dedicated staff. The title was launched as a daily blog in 2008, and then expanded into the stand-alone site it is now in August 2012. There is also a six-page print section, ‘The Cut’, that runs in the biweekly New York magazine.
Who are your audiences and what type of content do you create for them?
The Cut appeals to a young, sophisticated, predominantly female audience. For the last six months we are at an average of 7.3 million users per month and have 2.6 million social media followers across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. We have added writing about sex, relationships, health and body issues, media, and politics to the fashion mix, and recently re-launched with a fully responsive site and a best-in-class photo experience.
But content – as well as aesthetics – plays a large part. Each story needs to stand on its own merit, which is ultimately a positive thing because it means you need to make better, more interesting content.
And in terms of your business model, how do you commercialise that content? What are your key revenue streams and what types of format are you experimenting with at the moment?
We are primarily an advertising-driven business, and The Cut has been very successful with high-impact, custom ad executions for fashion, beauty, and retail advertisers. For example, we recently ran a campaign for Prada Eyewear. In this instance, we utilised our Interactive Skin opportunity in which we co-created a static skin ad and paired that with a 30-second video that auto-expanded for 10 seconds as a teaser. This prompted users to re-expand the unit to engage with the full 30-second video.
We have also done quite a bit with native advertising on The Cut, and this year have introduced exclusive mobile advertising units. We do have ecommerce affiliate relationships that provide a revenue share for purchases that originate at The Cut, but those don’t impact on editorial decisions.
We use Chartbeat for real-time analytics as well as Adobe Analytics and ComScore to look at everything from popular stories to referrers to recirculation to time spent. We do also conduct in-person focus groups with our readers, and all of this research of course gives us a strong insight into our readers and what they want.
Looking at the industry more generally, what are some of the challenges facing new media brands launching in the market today? And just how important is social media?
Every media brand today struggles to differentiate itself and build loyal readers in a landscape that is increasingly driven by social media. It used to be that your home page was a portal through which you would drive all traffic – now it is likely that readers will come to your story through any number of means, shares, links and tweets.
We use social as both an incredibly powerful tool to drive audiences back to our site (where visits are monetised through the sale of premium advertising), and to engage our community wherever they are spending time. For Fashion Week we’ve used an Instagram-first approach for the past couple of seasons, getting photos up there before they run on the site. We have not gone as big on video as some others, though we’ve had success with some of our fashion week videos. It’s definitely an area that we’re going to be exploring more.
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