This Gen Z-Focused Publisher Only Uses Social Platforms (10 of Them) and Doesn’t Even Have a Website

Obsessee is locked in on the app generation

Emma Watson is a strong voice for young feminists in this collage from Obsessee.
Obsessee

It’s the Gen Z girl’s world, and Obsessee is just living in it.

Launched a little over a year ago, Obsessee is a lifestyle publisher that focuses on fashion, beauty, culture and social justice. But unlike most of its competitors, it doesn’t have a website; instead, you can only find Obsessee on social media platforms—10 of them, to be exact, including Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr and even Spotify.

“When we launched, we wanted to create content for where people were already consuming it,” said Alex Taylor, president of digital at Obsessee parent company Clique Media Group, which also operates sites like Who What Wear and MyDomaine. “Instead of using social media to achieve mass scale, or as an instant growth play, we get to evolve and grow where our Gen Z girl goes.”

Obsessee’s newsroom is essentially an expanded social media team. With a small full-time editorial staff of four, most of Obsessee’s posts and voices come from its 50 Gen Z-aged contributors. There are layers of reporting and news intertwined with original graphic design and personalized captions and stories from its writers.

"Our stories feel like updates from a friend."
-Naomi Nevitt, editorial director, Obsessee

“Our stories feel like updates from a friend rather than traditional journalism because our content is created by and for our Gen Z community,” explained Naomi Nevitt, Obsessee’s editorial director.

The kind of content that the brand’s editors create ranges from fashion and beauty fare to inspiring stories and breakdowns of major news events. One of Obsessee’s most-engaged-with Instagram posts in May was a slideshow explaining FBI director James Comey’s firing that included an action item—the phone numbers for the Department of Justice and congressional switchboard as well as suggested talking points—in case followers wanted to speak out about it.

Obsessee’s content is customized according to the platform; for example, while its Spotify account might have a “Governors Ball Jams” playlist to prepare fans and listeners for the music festival, a digital graphic of that track list would appear on its “Rock Star Style” Pinterest board.

Jordyn Woods, one of Kylie Jenner's BFFs, is a model, designer and Gen Z icon.
Obsessee

Comment sections and the ability to tag, transform and share Obsessee’s content are part of the brand’s overall experience. With new features and functions being frequently added to platforms, Obsessee and its staff of Gen Z-ers will be the first to adapt and fully utilize them.

“Websites are, clearly, highly relevant content-delivery systems for other publishers,” said Taylor. “For us, we wanted Obsessee to be an innovative process and experiment with platform monetization. This is a different stand against the rise of clickbait in order to drive traffic.”

Within each platform, Obsessee develops brand integrations as its revenue strategy. Companies like Hollister, American Eagle and Samsung have all worked with the publisher to connect directly and personally with the Gen Z audience.

Obsessee's branded content, like this shot of Aerie products, looks just like any teen girl's bedroom so it blends into social feeds seamlessly.
Obsessee

While it’s clear that social media is where Obsessee’s target audience spends most of their time online, keeping editorial content solely on social platforms instead of a traditional site can be risky, according to digital marketing and media analyst Rebecca Lieb.

“They may have many subscribers, but the ‘who sees the post’ algorithm can change,” said Lieb. “The publisher doesn’t own or control those platforms, which of course are subject to change at any moment.”

The social-only approach could potentially add an extra hurdle for advertisers, too. “There’s going to be difficulty in pinpointing what audience is on which channels, and how much overlap there is between channels,” added Lieb. “Collaborations with brands would be very native to both the publication and the channel. That makes the sales and execution process more complex and arguably less scalable.”

Lieb also noted that most publishers rely on social platforms as primary traffic sources, which makes Obsessee an “interesting experiment” instead of a “sea change in digital publishing.”

Despite an audience of just 140,000 to date, Obsessee’s plans to increase investment in video content would appear to indicate that the experiment has been a success so far.

“We’re finding new ways to tell stories and engage with audiences,” said Taylor. “We’ll be aggressively diving into video and dynamic formats, even as millennial and Gen Z consumption habits are evolving.”

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.