More NewsQuestions for Catherine Levene

Questions for Catherine Levene

The former strategy veep at New York Times Digital has been helping Glam Media construct its fashion blog network.

Tucked between AOL’s buyout of the Weblogs Inc. Network and VNU’s distribution deal with Gawker Media was another hot blog development. Digital media upstart Glam Media announced a new blog network focused exclusively on fashion.

It’s the first blog network with a vertical focus, and at first glance would appear to hold serious appeal for the marketers of apparel and accessories — many of which have been reticent to jump into online advertising. Also interesting: the blog network’s content will be woven into Glam.com and the blogs will carry some Glam content.

Catherine Levene, a former strategy exec at New York Times Digital and current independent consultant, is one of the driving forces behind the new network, having worked with Glam since early this summer. ClickZ recently caught up with her to get some details.

Q.Do you think launching a media company now creates any kind of advantage, in the sense that you can bake community features into the offering? Is Glam adding so-called Web 2.0 capabilities to the network?

A. I think it’s a great time to be in the media business for many reasons. There is a tremendous amount of creativity and involvement by the community in the publishing business and Web 2.0 technologies and applications have made that possible. Whether that be citizen’s media such as blogging, RSS distribution, social networks, or tagging, media companies can take advantage of the Web as a platform and interact much more directly with their audience, promoting joint content creation, feedback and discussion.

As for Glam, we are indeed building Web 2.0 capabilities into the blogging network as well as into the Glam.com site. We will be integrating conversations from our blog partners into relevant areas of the site, offering RSS feeds, encouraging more audience content creation and tagging and in general embracing the open nature of the Web. Stay tuned for more on this.

Q. The week Glam launched its blog network, the two other dominant blog networks reach separate deal with big media. What’s your take on those deals, and what do they bode for Glam Media?

A. I think both deals are very positive, both for the companies involved as well as for the blogoshere in general. Essentially, these deals mark a significant point where blogs move from the edge of the network to being embraced by more mainstream media, audiences and advertisers. Both deals provide these blogs with more distribution and, I presume, access to a greater array of advertisers.

As for the Glam Blog Network, these deals could not have happened at a more perfect time. Fashion blogging is becoming more and more popular, audiences are growing and advertisers are now beginning to embrace blogs as a powerful advertising platform. While these networks offer a broad array of topics, the Glam Blog Network is really the first vertical blog network, specifically focused on fashion conscious women shoppers.

Q.What has been the response of advertisers and agencies you’ve spoken with and done deals with?

A. We are just bringing the network to advertisers now. Our first goal was to build the network and aggregate the audience. So far, the response has been very positive.

Q.What do you think is the advertising opportunity in blogs, as opposed to other forms of online media?

A. Well, on some level, blogs are similar to other forms of media. Advertisers look to communicate with audiences that are aggregated in some way, via some form of media. Blogs do just that by providing a platform for advertisers to reach specific audiences. However, where blogs begin to differ is in their interactive nature and their format. Blogs are a multi-way conversation, where readers can interact with writers, and perhaps at some point, with advertisers. This of course provides an opportunity for advertisers in that they can insert themselves into a conversation with their most vocal customers, but it also means they must be open to hearing that conversation, which is really controlled by the bloggers and readers.

Additionally, blogs focused on specific verticals can be a targeted way for advertisers to communicate with an audience that is, by default, interested in their industry. It makes perfect sense for a fashion brand to advertise on a fashion blog, for example.

Q.Why leave the New York Times to work with a start-up?

A. I had a fantastic experience at The New York Times for a total of nine years, seven in the Internet and two in magazine publishing. The Times has a great future with its digital properties. I feel truly lucky and honored to have been able to work for such a respected and well-known brand and to have been a part of the team of talented people that created and grew The Times’ digital presence.

However, on a personal level, I was ready to be in a start-up again, to create and grow something at a very early stage, with the ability to shape the product, the messaging, the business model and the culture of the company. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur and I was just ready to jump in again. Glam was a perfect mix for me because I get to leverage my background in the consumer Internet space to help develop a new, innovative media company.

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