Although I don't always agree with her critical opinions, I have really been enjoying reading Cathy Horyn's new blog for the New York Times: On the Runway. Not only does Cathy use a more casual (sometimes downright catty) voice than in her NYT reviews, she has also started to attract a real community of fashion lovers who are engaging with each other (and with Cathy) actively through blog comments. Several characters have started to develop in the "On the Runway" community, including Autre, who has clear and well-stated views on many of the collections that Cathy has reviewed and on her reviews themselves. A veritable online frenzy often ensues, debating everything from Miucca's fabrics and Dries' prints to Stefano's cuts and Christopher's crystals.
It was very smart of the NYT to supplement its traditional fashion coverage with this community concept through Horyn's blog. It is the first successful execution I have seen on the NYT site to build a targeted community (read: loyal audience for advertisers) to take it beyond the transactional way most of us use to interact with news media. Instead of quickly digesting articles and then clicking somewhere else, readers are compelled to stay and engage each other in further discussion. This inevitably does lead to more clicks and return visits to the site, and much of it is driven through that oft-spoken-of concept of user-generated content.
I have been seeing this more and more on many news sites, including The Globe and Mail which enables comments for even its regular articles, through which sometimes hundreds of comments are posted. Style.com has also been working with the Sartorialist, who has a dedicated section on the site -- though for some reason, people here don't seem to be engaging as much -- especially when compared to the passionate conversations on the Sartorialist's own blog.
In a previous blog on the business of blogging, I spoke of how many fashion editors are being asked to write blogs in addition to their regular responsibilities. Not everyone is happy about it. But, having seen Horyn's blog and the proliferation of new fashion content on the Internet, this seems to be the only way the traditional players are going to be able to keep up with the upstarts. However, it's the old adage of "Content is King" that still prevails. Only so long as the content remains good will this strategy prevail. I look forward to seeing where Cathy takes the blog in the future.