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FACE OFF: Right after Labor Day, Style.com, once the online home of W and Vogue but now a brand in its own right, will face some stiff competition from one of its former comrades, as Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour unveils a major relaunch of vogue.com. And while there may be belt-tightening elsewhere at Condé Nast, it doesn’t seem to apply to the two Web sites: They won’t be pooling resources, and each will dispatch its own reviewers, runway photographers and videographers to the shows. Style.com’s critic crew of Tim Blanks, Nicole Phelps and Meenal Mistry will square off at the keyboard against vogue.com’s recruits, Jessica Kerwin and Sarah Mower (a former Style contributor), as well as senior staffers Mark Holgate and Hamish Bowles and others.
While some media observers wonder if the competition for eyes (and ad dollars) might devolve into a death match between the two Condé Nast-owned sites, Style.com — which is celebrating its 10th anniversary next month — is taking things in stride, according to Drew Schutte, senior vice president and chief revenue officer for Condé Nast Digital, who oversees sales and marketing for Condé Nast’s 26 Web sites. Bolstering his confidence are the site’s significant upticks in traffic and revenue. According to the company, Style.com now averages two million unique visitors a month, with major spikes during collections (during the fall shows in February, for example, the site garnered 169.7 million page views, a 40 percent increase over 2009). Visitors spend an average of 13 minutes on the site, the company said, and Schutte noted Style.com has the highest visitor return rate of any of his sites.
Perhaps this is why he isn’t fretting about the face-off between Style and Vogue. “In my mind, why not have two of the leading brands in the online space?” Schutte said. “There’s lots of competition coming up, so instead of letting someone else become the number-two competitor, I’d like to make one ourselves and have the number one and two in the space.” (He said sales for vogue.com have gone well, noting the site will make its debut with five exclusive advertisers, who signed on through the end of the year.)
And what will the differences be between Style.com and vogue.com? No one’s giving specifics, but Schutte said, “In broad strokes, Vogue sees the world — including politics, Hollywood, culture, the home — through the lens of fashion and it's kind of the final word, if you will. And Style is fashion, fashion, fashion — that’s all it is. I think they’ll complement each other.”
To mark Style.com’s 10th birthday, the site is planning to launch an iPad app and live-stream about 20 runway shows (Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Michael Kors and Burberry Prorsum are on board) through a sponsorship deal with Lexus. The site also is throwing a party on Sept. 14 and sending out a branded Airstream trailer the following day to sell $45 limited edition anniversary T-shirts (with graphics courtesy of design houses including Lanvin, Calvin Klein and Prada), which will be available for purchase on Style.com on Sept. 16.
— Nick Axelrod