the online arm of parent Advance Publications--has announced plans to develop Style.com as an encyclopedic site to serve every fashion need.
"We want to be the site of record for fashion," said Joan Feeney, the director of Style.com who has also launched every CondƒNet Web site. "I want it to be for consumers, for trade. I want it to be about content, about commerce, about news. I want it to be about everything."
Feeney also wants Style.com to be about more than just Vogue.com.
"We launched with Vogue.com first for several reasons," she said. "First, Vogue is Vogue and also, very candidly, I had a short list of names that I was interested in for the larger brand, and you can't just decide you want one and get it the next morning."
What CondƒNet got was Style.com, a URL owned by Express, a division of Columbus, Ohio-based apparel retailer Limited. Under the deal, Express will control the site until CondƒNet's official launch of the site early this summer. Until then, though, Style.com will feature a link to Vogue.com.
Fashioning Style.com to feature original content as well as specific title-related links should give CondƒNet the flexibility necessary to succeed, said Roger Krakoff, managing director of new media for Veronis, Suhler and Associates, a New York investment banking firm.
"They're trying to exploit both the community they have in place and the standing they have with their advertisers and extend that to connect to the ability to create commerce," he said. "We think it is a very powerful model that we're going to be seeing increasingly."
For, he said, after watching entrepreneurs attack various vertical markets online, many print publishers have begun awakening to the idea that they can do it better.
"Content builds audiences and that's what publishers have," Krakoff said. "It's not only a way publishers should go, but it's a way they need to go in order to preserve their affiliation with their audiences."
Until recently, however, the timing was not right for a CondƒNet fashion site, said Feeney: "The connections were too slow, the digital photography was not good enough. There really weren't enough consumers out there who were really interested, and the advertising market wasn't there, frankly."
According to Krakoff, launching both individually should help CondƒNet extend its fashion reach. "And depending on how they view the balance point, they may increase the notion that it's Vogue.com or they may try to develop the independent brand more," he said. "On the Web, you learn very quickly what works and what doesn't."
Already, though, Krakoff calls Style.com a very promising venture, noting that "it has a lot of resources, it has a lot of experience to be shared from other CondƒNet properties, and it's got the backing of one of the strongest institutions and brands around." n