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10 April 2015

Triumph of the Verticals
By Richard Edelman

Written by: Richard Edelman, President and CEO at Edelman

Culture, Media

A while back, I spoke with Michael Silberman, who runs digital for New York Magazine, at a party for Chartbeat, a metrics provider for media. In a follow-up call, I learned about a six-year transformation of the brand that would take it from being New York City-focused to national, from master brand to a focus on the vertical brands. I also was impressed to know that there are now 27 million unique visitors a month to its sites, which have no pay wall and are supported solely by advertising. I was told that the readers go via mobile optimized versions of the website; apps “are expensive to build, difficult to maintain and hard to get people to download,” Silberman said.

New York Magazine is owned by the Wasserstein family and was founded in 1968 by Clay Felker. Political coverage has been trenchant, with deep analysis of the impasse around the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. From its sections, very successful vertical blogs have been spawned, including:

  • Vulture (as in Culture Vulture)—Begun in 2007, this is now a real rival to Entertainment Weekly. It covers TV, movies, books and art. It has nine million unique visitors a month.
  • Grub Street—Begun in 2006, this is the food and restaurant vertical. It is quite New York City-centric but has engaging pieces on celebrity chefs, food TV shows and the best restaurants in town. This site has 1.5 million visitors a month.
  • The Cut—Begun in 2008, this is the fashion and beauty vertical. It grew out of early coverage of Fashion Week with slide shows of the runway. Now it has added beauty and street style, international style and celebrity style. There are also stories on body image and diet. (Note that with each of these additional sub-groups comes a broader advertising opportunity with brands). This has 6 million unique visitors a month.
  • Daily Intelligencer—This is a news blog and anchors NYMagazine.com. It has “a little media, a little business, a little Wall Street, a little technology,” Silberman noted. Monthly, it has 3.5 million unique visitors.
  • Science of Us—Begun in 2014, this is a sociology and psychology site. It offers research based articles on issues such as Human Behavior and Society. From a standing start in May, it now attracts as many as 2 million unique visitors a month.
  • NYMagazine.com—This is the master site, with between 9 and 10 million unique visitors a month. It takes articles from the print edition and best of the group’s blogs.

There is a combination of playful, short-form content and longer-form, in-depth stories. “We want to get a richer reading experience via the deep immersion in long form,” Silberman pointed out. “But we also want to make things that people want to share and link to.”

He said that editors are constantly using Chartbeat to “see what is taking off. We check headlines. We see that a story is taking off on Vulture and decide to put it onto the main NYMagazine site,” Silberman said.

The creation of these robust vertical products tells you much about how today’s reader consumes content. I graze horizontally in my largely mainstream world; the next generation is vertical, fast and visual. That is why The Economist has launched Espresso as a paid, short-form play in app and digital editions for a daily breakfast read so that there is more consistent connection to readers. The New York Magazine story is an example of relentless progress a step at a time.

This article originally appeared on 6A.M., Richard Edelman’s blog on trends in communications, issues, lessons and insights.

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