This is what it looks like when a website dies. Sort of.
When TypeF.com launched in March 2011 in partnership with former model Tyra Banks, expectations were high. The site was billed as a highly personalized fashion and beauty experience that equipped with Banks' brand would draw other recognizable talents in the industry such as former Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley.
By all accounts, Banks' branded work, especially her video contributions, helped the Demand Media property gain recognition via YouTube. Two of the site's "Fa-Fa-Fashion" videos, which feature Banks, netted over 150,000 views. The problem: like much of the TypeF.com's content, the videos are nearly two years old.
In fact, a casual look at TypeF.com shows all the signs of a website in steep decline, with two-year-old articles spread all across the site. The most noticeable absence of course is Banks, whose image is nowhere to be found on the site the fashion figurehead helped launch. The homepage, which claims to feature "What's Hot Now," is marked with today's date, but its lead article, "Oversized Sweater? Glam It Up!" links to a piece with the same title from June 30, 2011. Another lead article on TypeF's homepage, "The LBD and More: Minimalism in 2013," is also decidedly not from 2013. Clicking through on the link brings the browser to an article from Nov. 18, 2011—a curious bit of link-bait time travel that feels engineered to fool readers.
Looking at YouTube and social media, TypeF's YouTube channel, which has a respectable 12,000-plus subscribers and well over 1 million video views, hasn't uploaded a video since the presidential election (since Nov. 4, actually). On Twitter, TypeF doesn't update with the frequency of many sites, posting between five and 10 times a month. The account hasn't tweeted since Jan. 24, but according to WildFire's analytics, the site has remained relatively stable follower-wise, shedding only 1.4 percent of followers over the past 3 months. Undoubtedly, Facebook is the site's most formidable social presence, with over 66,000 likes, a figure that has continued to rise despite TypeF's lack of new content.
Numbers from comScore also add some confusion to the mix for the Demand Media property. In the past year, TypeF has grown in unique visitors, albeit from a tiny base, from 170,000 in January 2012 to 255,000 last month, which is confusing given the lack of new content on the site (TypeF's New York Fashion Week coverage directs to a page from the 2012 event, more than a year ago).
Most likely, it would seem that TypeF is all but rolled up into Demand Media's eHow Style property, which has grown from 3.6 million uniques in January 2012 to roughly 4.5 million one year later. It's likely that links from the far more popular eHow portal and Demand's knack for SEO gamesmanship are accounting for TypeF's growth.
When asked about the decline of TypeF's original content, a Demand Media spokesperson told Adweek, "It’s a smaller site, and we produce a limited amount of content to it. We publish more of our beauty and fashion content to eHow.com Style." The rep added, "We did have a partnership with Tyra Banks for the initial launch of the site. Since then, we’ve moved to a model across our content creation platform and our websites that focuses on integrating topic and digital expertise at the contributor level."
All told, TypeF's story demonstrates the difficulty for online publishers to break through and the important lesson that glitzy star endorsements only go so far in the content game. Though TypeF.com continues to grow and will most likely live on in the eHow machine, it's a far cry from the big ambitions Demand Media laid out for the property nearly two years ago.