New Domino Editor Michelle Adams Talks E-Commerce, Print and Condé Nast

The beloved shelter returns to start-up mode

Headshot of Emma Bazilian

Adweek: What got the ball rolling on the rebirth of Domino?

Michelle Adams, editor in chief of Domino: I sold Lonny in July 2012, and I was looking for a new challenge, so when Condé Nast approached me to do this, I thought, “Of course, this is my dream job!” We transitioned a lot of the team from Lonny [a digital shelter magazine founded by Adams]—they were used to working with each other, used to a shoestring budget, and used to the content flow. It was a proud moment when we brought our first print issue to Condé and they actually stood up and clapped.

Last year, Condé Nast attempted to revive the Domino brand by repackaging recycled content from the magazine in special newsstand issues. Is there any link between that and the Domino you’ve been working on?

No. We felt like we were starting where [the original] Domino left off, not with the whole recycled content ones. We really wanted to bring back Domino as the reader remembered it [when it folded in 2009]. But obviously, styles have changed since then—we’re not telling readers, “Hey, why don’t you lacquer your walls red and wallpaper everything you see!” There’s more of a back-to-basics, earthy aesthetic now.

What’s Condé Nast’s involvement in the Domino now?

They’re a minority investor, but still a big investor. They print the publication for us, give us full marketing and advertising support and email lists. A lot of their titles this fall will have ads for Domino. Condé is there when we need them, but we also have the autonomy to move quickly and make decisions based on reader feedback that would have taken a longer period of time to make at a larger organization.

Is it hard staying consistent with the feel of the original Domino?

Now, in terms of budget, that’s where we have some challenges, because back in the editorial heyday, we were able to spend millions and millions creating this content. It didn’t matter if a sofa didn’t fit through the door—we hired a crane. Now, we don’t even have the budget to ship a lamp to a house we’re shooting, let alone send a truck full of merchandise to get that consistent look. Also, I’m not blind to the fact that there were very, very sophisticated and talented people creating the content in the original Domino, and going from that size staff down to four people has also been challenging.

So many shelter and lifestyle magazines have tried to do e-commerce, but it seems like no one’s really cracked the code yet. What makes Domino different?

A lot of brands use affiliate networks and they say that it’s a shoppable experience, but it’s not; the reader gets pushed to another website, and sometimes the retailer doesn’t have the item in stock or it’s to the trade only. At Domino, we’re able to say not only “Here’s the item,” but we can also deliver it and, in most cases, provide free shipping by next Tuesday. We’re the first, to my knowledge, to have all of the market pages in the front of the book be shoppable.

Had you had experience with e-commerce before?

I started two companies [after Domino folded in 2009], Lonny and an organic upholstery company. I built out the upholstery website and sold direct to consumer fabrics. And at Lonny, we had our tech-team built product boxes that popped up, but they sent you to the company’s website to buy the product, so we didn’t have the ability to do transactions.

How does print factor into the Domino brand now? Is it still important to Domino readers?

Absolutely. There’s been a lot of talk about “Oh I wish this wasn’t $12,” but in this day and age, content creation is really expensive, and so is printing. We want to provide this to our readers, but it comes at a price. It’s also great to have people see the print magazine at the airport or the grocery store so that they realize it’s back. 

Why publish quarterly print issues rather than use a regular monthly or bimonthly schedule?

We have so few people on a small budget creating so much content that we knew if we tried to jump into a monthly or bimonthly schedule, it’d be too much in the beginning. But this print issue means a lot to our team, and if our readers demand more of it more frequently, then we’ll absolutely move in that direction. 

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.