Conde Nast in October is bringing down the curtain on its Web-only brand Men.Style.com and launching sites for two of its print titles, GQ and Details, according to an Advertising Age story and subsequently confirmed by a company official.
Ad Age gives the impression that the move is part of the publisher's overall strategy to align its Web site brands with its print brands.
But, Conde Nast Digital President Sarah Chubb, in a phone interview with CNET News following the Ad Age report, clarified that rather than shutting down and starting fresh with a brand new GQ.com site, Men.Style.com will be rebranded as GQ.com,will launch its own Web site.
Conde Nast's strategy is not necessarily to align the Web sites with the print brands, Chubb said. Rather, the strategy is to align them only in areas where it makes business sense, such as in the men's market with GQ and Details.
Chubb cited as an example the success of the Style.com Web site, which is geared toward women. Vogue enjoys a large presence on Style.com, but the Style site is also huge on its own. Traffic to the Vogue section of Style.com is probably 10 percent or less of the site's total traffic, she said. Overall, Style.com had around 182 million page hits in March, she added.
Men.Style.com is also a big site, noted Chubb, with around 38 million page hits in March. But in this case, GQ accounts for around 35 percent of that traffic.
Based on the traffic and success of the sites, Chubb said it made sense to keep Style.com as its own site but transition Men.Style.com to GQ.com.
"The GQ brand is well known to advertisers," said Chubb. "So we decided to keep that brand vs the Men.Style brand. That was a business decision very specific to the men's market vs our other brands."
Chubb also delved a bit into the history behind Conde Nast's various Web sites.
In the past, Chubb ran a division called CondeNet, which managed Style.com and Epicurious.com--the site for food lovers. Initially, the model for these big, overall sites was to leverage the magazine brands. But the sites were not about the magazines themselves. Chubb said this strategy worked well for a long time.
Then about three years ago, the company looked more closely at the companion Web sites aligned with specific magazines, such as Self.com.
"We found that these companion sites to the magazines proved to be very good at selling subscriptions," said Chubb. "These sites produced good results toward the health of the print publications."
Chubb felt Conde Nast could take some of the branded sections that were part of the larger Web sites and give them their own individual sites. "The goals of these individual sites would be to connect with the readers, sell subscriptions, and encourage renewals," she said.
W magazine got its own dedicated Web site, as did Gourmet and Bon Appetit. And Chubb noted that all of these sites have done well, while the big sites, Epicurious and Style.com have continued to grow.
Though the new magazine-aligned sites were proving successful, they all were managed separately and not handled under the CondeNet umbrella. Further change was needed.
"We pulled together all of the digital assets at the beginning of the year," said Chubb. "Part of the reason was that as a company, we had CondeNet to do business online, and we had other Web sites that were trying to support the magazines. As a result, we had different technology teams and different strategies."
In January of 2009, all of the company's digital properties were reorganized into one division called Conde Nast Digital. One of Chubb's goals with Conde Nast Digital was to look at each Web site, see if it was healthy, and decide what to do with it.
The strategy has now led to the upcoming new GQ and Details Web sites. "When we looked at the content on Men.Style.com, we realized there was overlap between GQ and Men.Style.com," said Chubb. "If we were to create a separate GQ site and keep Men.Style.com, neither would grow beyond a certain point. It would be redundant to have two sites with men's lifestyle and fashion on them."
Finally, another of Chubb's goals is to turn some of the print-aligned Web sites into something greater. "We want to take some of those Web sites away from the original concept of simply being a companion to the print magazine and make them destinations unto themselves," she said.