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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PopSugar, a Web Site for Women, Gets a Makeover

PopSugar, the blog that is eye candy for celebrity and fashion-obsessed women, is getting a makeover.

The redesigned site is still photography-heavy, with big pictures and headlines like “Kate Middleton Shows Her Baby Bump” and “Reese Witherspoon’s Leg Workout.” But now, all topics â€" including fashion, parenting, cooking, gossip and fitness â€" are combined under PopSugar instead of at separate blogs, and posts offer ways to shop for everything from shoes to nursery decorations.

The message, said Brian Sugar, PopSugar’s co-founder and chief executive, is that it has grown up and matured beyond its previous existence as a blog network.

“We were a blog network, and what we’re trying to be is a real destination that women check on a daily basis,” Mr. Sugar said.

PopSugar is Exhibit A for several of the trends that are currently reshaping digital media.

One example is online video and video advertising. PopSugar originally described itself as a digital Conde Nast â€" a collection of lifestyle blogs, similar to Conde Nast’s various magazine titles. But it turns out that the magazine business is not the best model to emulate anymore.

That is largely because advertisers are willing to pay more for video ads. Each month, PopSugar produces 250 videos, ranging from live red carpet interviews to 40-minute online workouts, and people watch them 50 million times.

To make video that was good enough that people would want to watch, PopSugar spent $10 million on video studios and focuses on live video that viewers cannot find elsewhere online. It had its highest viewership during last year’s Oscars, when 1.2 million people tuned in to its online show.

“In the future, you gotta believe when you turn on a TV, whether you’re on a channel or a URL, does it really m! atter” Mr. Sugar said. “So as a media company, we need to be prepared for that and invest in it because that’s the future for high-paying advertiser content.”

Like other Web companies, PopSugar was forced to shift from relying solely on advertising to finding another revenue stream, e-commerce. Now it makes half its revenue from e-commerce, including fees retailers pay when a shopper clicks on an item on PopSugar and a $35 monthly subscription box it sells to 12,000 readers.

“It’s a challenge to create a business today solely based on display advertising,” Mr. Sugar said. “A person that reads articles is worth less than a person who watches video who is worth less than a person who clicks to a retailer and then actually buys things from us.” PopSugar is also starting a new daily show, PopSugar Live, that will air every afternoon.

The site wants to become a new kind of search engine. A big search box dominates its shopping site, but unlike Google or Amazon.com, some of theresults PopSugar shows are handpicked by editors.

As for other companies, mobile is a challenge for PopSugar. A quarter of its readers don’t visit on desktops, but it has not yet figured out how to make as much money on mobile readers as it does on desktop ones.

“The desktop is just over,” Mr. Sugar said. “But I think we’re all struggling with it. It’s difficult to make as much money on a smaller screen.”

Still, he said the six-year-old company, which changed its name to PopSugar from Sugar Inc. as part of the redesign, is profitable.