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Nov. 14, 2016, 8 a.m.

How Racked redesigned its site with distributed platforms in mind

The Vox Media shopping site is also trying to diversify its audience beyond young women.

Vox Media on Monday is launching a redesign of Racked, the company’s fashion and shopping site, to try and grow its audience beyond young women while also rethinking its distribution strategy with a renewed focus on email newsletters and Facebook video.

“We’re training our team — our reporters, our editors, and our video team — everyone who is bringing their ideas to Racked, encouraging them to think in a platform-agnostic way,” Racked editor-in-chief Britt Aboutaleb said. “What is the story you want to tell and then from there what is the best way to tell that story? That might mean a 2,000-word feature, it might mean a video, it might mean a newsletter-first feature.”

Racked’s refresh comes as Vox Media as a whole is looking to expand how it approaches off-platform and distributed publishing. The Verge, earlier this month, refreshed its website and the graphic identity it uses on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The tech site also earlier this year launched Circuit Breaker, a gadget blog that’s published on Facebook through Instant Articles and videos. Vox.com and Eater, meanwhile, are each hiring or recently hired email newsletter editors.

Aboutaleb joined Racked in February, and has led a number of other initiatives since then to remake the site. Racked didn’t have a dedicated video staff, but now it has six people on its video team. It’s hired reporters to cover menswear and beauty. Racked also jettisoned its local sites in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco to focus instead on its main site.

“The previous Racked palette and logo speaks to a very specific young woman who is spoken to quite often on the Internet,” Aboutaleb said. “While I hope to keep her, I’d also welcome a host of new readers to the brand.”

Racked’s email newsletter, for instance, had previously just been an RSS feed of the site’s stories. While everything it publishes will eventually live on the site, it’s thinking of stories that will primarily be read in email. Its holiday gift guide, for example, will be first published in the newsletter; Racked asked 30 people — from Rihanna’s personal chef to a dominatrix — for suggestions, and it will publish one a day leading up to the holidays.

Racked has about 350,000 email newsletter subscribers, Aboutaleb said, though many of those came from combining the now-shuttered local newsletter lists and through partnerships. For now, it only publishes the one daily email, but Aboutaleb said the site would like to launch other newsletters for specific topics or writers.

It’s also introduced affiliate links into its emails as an additional way to generate revenue, Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell said.

“Racked is a really great service model for journalism, providing that opportunity for people to say: I want to learn about this and then I want to be able to buy it and take action on it,” Bell said. “We want to make sure we can do that on our website, in our newsletters, on Facebook even. That’s exciting to us, the fact that we can really create similar experiences in newsletters to what we have on our website is also a strong draw.”

On the editorial side, Aboutaleb said Racked, led by director of programming Annemarie Dooling, is acting “like a little lab” to figure out the best places to publish. The site will post videos to both Facebook and YouTube, but it is prioritizing Facebook — if you click on video on Racked’s homepage, it takes you to its Facebook account.

Its Facebook strategy, Bell said, is modeled after The Verge’s Circuit Breaker, which has grown to have more than 500,000 followers in less than six months since it launched. And Vox Media is going to continue to experiment across its eight brands and plans to share learnings between the sites as they look for ways to continue to grow their reach.

“It’s a great opportunity, but also a really big challenge, to understand all the platforms and how you program to them differently,” Bell said. “What we do is spend a lot of time trying different experiments across our brands. We have the advantage of having eight different brands and so we can try different approaches to different platforms depending on which audiences we’re trying to pursue, and then learn from those experiments and helping to train the other brands on those capabilities.”

POSTED     Nov. 14, 2016, 8 a.m.
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