Every women’s magazine loves a good makeover story. Today, Cosmopolitan’s website was the recipient of its own head-to-toe revamp, which will eventually be the template upon which all of Hearst’s magazine sites are built.
The cleaned-up, responsive site was built with mobile in mind (about 70 percent of Cosmo traffic now comes from mobile devices), and thanks to a highly customizable CMS, editors will be able to drag and drop breaking stories, article collections and photo galleries anywhere on the site. The top bar will feature stories targeted to readers using an algorithm that takes into account not just the stories they click on, but how far into the stories they scroll. Advertisers will also get prime placement: The new site has ditched the right rail in favor of more seamlessly integrated ad units within the story feed, and any article or collection can be attached to a specific sponsor with a single click.
“The whole philosophy of [the redesign] was that we wanted to get the design out of the way,” said Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media. “It should feel more like Instagram than a website with a lot of flourishes on it.”
To promote the new site, Cosmo used one of its most famous areas of expertise: hot guys. The magazine sent a trio of shirtless men (who also happen to be the stars of Cosmo’s very own “Cats and Abs” music video) to deliver popsicles to Manhattan offices—including those of Adweek—to drum up excitement around the recasting, which was also promoted with the hashtag #CosmoRelaunch.
Cosmopolitan.com has undergone plenty of changes in both its design and editorial mission since site editor Amy Odell, formerly of BuzzFeed and The Cut, took the reins last August. Monthly content production rose 75 percent as the site’s focus shifted away from aggregated articles to original stories, and by this past May, the site’s traffic had risen 200 percent year-over-year, hitting nearly 30 million UVs for the month.
Similar to its print counterpart, Cosmopolitan.com has put increased emphasis on serious reporting of politics and women’s issues, which it hired Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic to oversee last April. (Today, the site debuted the first in a multipart series about the challenges of getting an abortion in Texas.) Odell said there’s also been an effort to produce more fashion and beauty editorial featuring “real” women—made up mostly of Cosmo staffers and their friends—rather than models. Expect to see an increase in the site’s popular TV recaps, too.
In the months ahead, all of Hearst’s websites will be moving to the same platform as Cosmo. Elle and Esquire will make the transition in the fourth quarter, and Young expects to see all the company’s brands on the new platform within the next 12 to 18 months.
Young is also looking at ways to integrate premium content. But rather than asking readers to pay a monthly fee to get around a paywall, he sees Hearst Digital’s premium strategy relying more on micropayments, similar to the model used by games like Candy Crush. For instance, he suggested, a Cosmo reader could pay 49 cents for early access to pictures of Kim and Kanye’s wedding. However, he added, “For us, premium content is more of a 10-year problem.”