In the world of digital publishing, sites, brands and podcasts saw tremendous growth this year thanks to politics, partnerships and social media. By being true to themselves and leaning into what they do best, destinations like BuzzFeed’s Tasty and Teen Vogue resonated with their audiences even more.
Website of the Year
Under the leadership of digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue’s attention to politics and inclusion (see: Lauren Duca’s much-cited story about President Donald Trump’s “gaslighting” from early this year), combined with its youthful point-of-view, has made it a go-to digital resource for Gen Z while proving to readers of all ages that teens are looking to be actively engaged in the world around them. All told, the brand has seen its web audience grow an impressive 66 percent YOY—and its mobile audience an even more staggering 118 percent. —Sami Main
Hottest in News
The Washington Post
The Washington Post’s bet on a digital future, led by a digital-first owner, is paying off. Since Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the publication in 2013, the Post has added nearly 50 staffers in the engineering, design and product teams. Thanks to its must-read coverage of the Trump administration, digital-only subscriptions have more than tripled in the past year, topping 1 million as of September. The Post regularly gets about 1 billion page views a month, sees 100 million monthly unique visitors and averages 36 million video views across platforms including Facebook, MSN Video, AOL Video, YouTube and Apple News. And while the Post is breaking news on the national stage, the rest of the world is reading, too: its website attracts 30 million global visitors every month.—Chris Ariens
Hottest in Branded Content
In addition to producing hit podcasts like Crimetown, StartUp and Reply All, Gimlet Media has made a name for itself as a successful branded content shop. Companies looking to use Gimlet’s storytelling chops to reach new audiences can partner with the publisher’s in-house native studio, Gimlet Creative, to produce branded podcasts like Microsoft’s .future, eBay’s Open for Business and Tinder’s DTR, to name a few. —S.M.
Hottest in Lifestyle
January 2017 was GQ.com’s strongest month ever, with 14.2 million unique visitors flocking to the newly redesigned site. (Traffic is up an average 12 percent every month this year vs. 2016.) With the launch of its Best Stuff email newsletter and other product-focused content, GQ is also making a big play in the commerce space, driving revenue from affiliate links up 166 percent YOY to its peak in September. Its fastest-growing platform, however, is video, which has seen huge growth (up 290 percent between January and September YOY) thanks to viral shorts and series like special correspondent Keith Olbermann’s The Resistance, which had drawn more than 355 million views as of September. —A.J. Katz
Hottest in Sports
Sports publisher Bleacher Report has evolved into a digital powerhouse over its 10-year life span. The brand now reaches roughly 265 million people each month across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, with roughly 75 percent of its audience under age 35 (and many of them part of the hard-to-reach male millennial demographic). Bleacher Report’s website, where journalists and bloggers cover professional and collegiate sports with a focus on providing opinion-oriented analysis, currently averages 50 million unique visitors each month and has become a top publisher in driving social engagement across multiple platforms. —A.K.
Hottest in Food
Delivering more than 4.3 billion video views and 108 million engagements across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the first quarter of 2017 alone, Tasty has one of the largest digital reaches of any food brand. Since launching in 2015, it has dominated nearly every social media platform with its “hands-in-pans” videos, spawned 10 sub-brands (including Tasty Vegetarian and the U.K.-centric Proper Tasty), created branded content for countless advertisers (including Nike and the Today show), launched customizable cookbooks and even created a recipe app that connects to its own smart cooking device, the Tasty One Top—all of which have helped make Tasty BuzzFeed’s fastest-growing revenue source. —S.M.
Hottest in Travel
Insider (Business Insider)
Business Insider’s travel spinoff Insider takes consumers to global hot spots with first-person footage, digs up hidden gems and covers destinations from foodie haunts in big cities to swimming holes only accessible by days-long hikes. According to analytics company NewsWhip, Insider’s travel videos receive three times more engagement than the next most-engaged-with brand, NatGeo, while Insider’s Facebook page (which counts 6 million fans) gets more than 200 million views a month. —A.K.
Hottest in Thought Leadership
The New Yorker
The New Yorker’s influence in the digital space this year can be summed up in just two words: The Mooch. Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s explosive (and expletive-laden) call with Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza was the political scoop of the summer, generating 4.4 million unique views in just four days. But it’s the website’s always-thoughtful analysis of everything from entertainment, tech, international relations and more that’s kept readers coming back, boosting the magazine’s online audience 33 percent YOY to 21 million average monthly unique visitors and increasing average time spent by 27 percent. —Emma Bazilian
Hottest on Instagram
Food52, an independent digital publisher for all things food and kitchen, has made a name for itself on Instagram, where it attracts an audience of 1.7 million followers. As one of the pioneers of the naturally lit food photo phenomenon, Food52 encourages its fans to post their own creations using the hashtag #f52grams, which it curates and shares. The brand has also been a frequent user of Instagram Stories, creating popular content that feels natural to the platform. —S.M.
Hottest in Fashion/Beauty
The Cut (New York magazine)
New York magazine’s fashion and lifestyle vertical, which sees more than 8 million monthly unique visitors, isn’t afraid to tackle topics like politics and gender in addition to its seriously smart takes on style, beauty and wellness. A mobile-first redesign, which launched earlier this year (and drew Saks Fifth Avenue and Cartier as launch partners), is helping The Cut give readers more of what they want—like expanded video offerings and an even stronger voice, courtesy of recently named editor in chief Stella Bugbee. —S.M.
Hottest in Entertainment/Celebrity
Vulture (New York magazine)
Whether you’re looking for deep dives into the Marvel universe or hilariously snarky Real Housewives recaps, Vulture has it. The New York magazine entertainment site reached record traffic this year, with 13.3 million unique users in August. Fans can interact with Vulture content across platforms online and IRL, from its Snapchat Discover channel that launched this year to a new series on the Facebook Watch platform to the annual Vulture festival, which sold 13,000 tickets in its fourth year this past May and is expanding to Los Angeles next month. —S.M.
With 16 million downloads in its first week, S-Town was the breakaway hit of the podcast world this year. Created by Serial Productions, led by Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder (who launched the worldwide phenomenon podcast Serial in 2014), it follows a reporter who begins investigating rumors of a murder in a small town in Alabama only to discover a much bigger story. S-Town was ranked as the No. 1 podcast on Apple Podcasts in 10 countries and captivated audio fans with its patient storytelling and vibrant characters. —S.M.
Hottest in Wellness/Fitness
For readers interested in expert opinions and articles on various health and wellness-related lifestyle content, mindbodygreen has become a major leader in the space. With about 10 million UVs per month, the website helps brands reach its millennial audience through influencer integrations, in-person retreats, podcasts, newsletters and classes they can attend online. —S.M.
Hottest on Snapchat
One of the earliest publishers to partner with Snapchat Discover when it launched in 2015, CNN has emerged as a key source of breaking news on the platform, offering content like The Update, a daily show that provides a quick rundown of the day’s biggest stories. In August, Snapchat CSO Imran Khan noted that CNN has a global monthly audience of 12 million on the network, proving that younger news consumers are out there—and CNN has figured out how to successfully reach them. —A.K.
Check out our complete Publishing Hot List coverage:
- How Martha Stewart Built Her Media Empire From Scratch and Kept It Relevant for 30 Years
- 17 Magazines Shaking Up the Publishing Industry, One Reinvention at a Time
- Fred Ryan and The Washington Post Are Reshaping the Future of the News
- With Michelle Lee at the Helm, Allure Is Blowing Up How Our Culture Defines Beauty