LONDON, United Kingdom — BoF can report that NowManifest, the online portal owned by Condé Nast that hosted some of fashion’s most prominent blogs, has been shut down.
The bloggers that used the platform, including Susie Bubble, Anna Dello Russo, Derek Blasberg, BryanBoy and Fashion Toast, were given notice of its termination in November. Going forward, they are expected to continue to blog independently from their own websites and take control, once again, of their advertising partnerships, which had previously been managed by NowManifest.
"We are redoubling our focus on expanding our industry-leading site, Style.com," a spokesperson for Style.com told BoF. "We thank the NowManifest bloggers for their contributions to the portal."
NowManifest first came to Condé Nast in 2012 when Fairchild Fashion Media (then a Condé Nast subsidiary that owned Women’s Wear Daily, Footwear News and Beauty Inc) acquired Fashion Networks International, a digital media company co-founded in 2009 by business partners Christian Remröd and Elin Kling, which gave birth to NowManifest. The 2012 sale of NowManifest to Condé Nast — which brought some of fashion’s most significant independent voices (and their website traffic) under the umbrella of a major media conglomerate — took some of the bloggers by surprise, as not all were consulted on the transaction.
Last August, in a bid to focus on its consumer brands, Condé Nast (which, in 2005, assumed control of Fairchild Fashion Media, then rebranded as Fairchild Fashion Group) sold the company to Penske Media Corporation, but retained ownership of FFG’s two consumer-facing properties: NowManifest and Style.com.
This, along with today’s news, is part of a wider question mark hanging over Condé Nast’s digital strategy. Like many legacy media companies, Condé Nast has been hit hard by falling print circulation, dropping advertising revenues and the declining value of its assets. Condé Nast sold Fairchild Fashion Group to Penske for a reported $100 million, having purchased it from Disney through its parent company, Advance Publications, for $650 million in 1999.
Indeed, the media giant appears to be in the process of rethinking its digital strategy and today’s news is the latest in a succession of changes, as the company tries to redefine its online operations, monetise its content and create new revenue streams.
In January, the company set up a sponsored content studio called ‘23 Stories’ and announced that its editors would work with advertisers to create branded content, a major step away from the publication’s long-standing ‘church and state’ divide between editorial and advertising.
The company has also set up an e-commerce division, set to launch this year, with the aim of ultimately making the content on its websites shoppable. And, in August, it spun off Lucky Magazine as a separate, “independent” company (though still backed by Condé Nast) after its advertising revenues continued to slide, combining the magazine with e-commerce platform BeachMint, which was also struggling.
In particular, today’s announcement raises questions about the future of Style.com, which was originally set up as the online edition of the magazines Vogue and W and published some of their content online, before Vogue developed its own website. Last year, it was announced that Style.com would no longer publish its semi-annual print magazine and, following a leadership reshuffle, the site is once again operating under Vogue, with its publisher Matt Rice reporting to Vogue publisher Susan Plagemann and its editor-in-chief Dirk Standen reporting to Anna Wintour. With Vogue.com and Style.com producing content with some degree of overlap — both host extensive street style and fashion show galleries, for example — Condé Nast’s strategy for Style.com remains unclear.
In other developments, five days ago, Condé Nast appointed Ky Harlin, BuzzFeed’s former director of data science, as its vice president of growth and data science, a new position at the publisher. In a press release, Condé Nast digital director Fred Santarpia said Harlin was going to “devise unique business solutions and identify new growth opportunities.”
As for the former NowManifest bloggers, they will now have to strike advertising arrangements without the help of Condé Nast. Reached in Milan after the Stella Jean show, Anna Dello Russo was sanguine and happy to continue blogging outside the Nowmanifest platform. Susanna Lau of Style Bubble said that she was happy to once again oversee advertising on her site, and that her relationship with NowManifest was amicable.
At the time of writing, the NowManifest website is still currently online: its last post, sent on Monday, was a street style shot by WeWoreWhat, showing the blogger clad in denim, on a slush-streaked New York street.