For years, The Week didn’t concern itself much with the web. It’s a publication, after all, that already performs the same basic function as most blogs and aggregators — curating and contextualizing the news cycle; only it does so in print, and on a weekly basis rather than a daily one.But over the past year, the 15-year-old current affairs magazine, created by eccentric British publisher and Maxim founder Felix Dennis, has been ramping up its online efforts, culminating today with the announcement of six new digital hires.
Among them, Dale Hrabi, formerly deputy editor of the now-defunct news and pop culture magazine Radar, has been named editorial director of TheWeek.com. He brings with him two fellow Radar refugees — Jebediah Reed (founder of the website Infrastructurist) as deputy editor, and Hailey Eber as associate editor. (Radar magazine folded, for the third and final time, in October of 2008.)
UPDATE: We almost forgot, but a tipster reminded us that former Radar editor-in-chief Maer Roshan also did a stint as editor of TheWeek.com, however briefly.
Deidre Depke, meanwhile, the former editor of Newsweek.com, has been named general manager of TheWeek.com, a newly-created position.
“What we need to do is be more smart and inventive about giving people the perspective they need in a really quick way,” said Hrabi of his goals for the site, during an interview Monday afternoon at a cafe in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. “Part of the reason The Week exists and why I love it is, it’s very time efficient. I don’t have time to read seven websites on everything I want to know about.”
Hrabi, who has also worked at Details and Blender, was initially brought on as a consultant in June 2009. At the time, TheWeek.com “was sort of skeletal,” he said, with minimal content, few dedicated staffers and an average of about 500,000 unique monthly visitors.
Sixteen months and one redesign later, the digital staff has grown to 12 (including non-editorial folks), and the monthly uniques to 1.7 million as of August, according to Steven Kotok, president of The Week. Digital ad revenue, said Kotok, now comprises 10% per cent of The Week’s overall revenues, which he declined to specify, up from “only a fraction” last year. It’s expected to triple from what it was in 2009, he said.
The online gains are consistent with growth on the print side. The Week’s U.S. edition, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, had a paid circulation of a little more than 515,000 as of June, up from about 510,000 in June of 2009. (Though its circulation was around 517,000 in December 2009.) Print ad revenue has grown every year for the last five, said Kotok.
“The one goal above all is to be profitable,” he said. “The website is bringing in more revenue than we spend. We want to continue adding capabilities. There’s a lot of visual stuff we want to add — slideshows, infographics, maybe more tech writing.”
Advertisers and readers of The Week, Kotok said, have been demanding a more relevant website for some time. The trick was creating one that didn’t simply replicate the approach of the print edition.
Hrabi said he achieved that by “embracing the multimedia potential of the web to provide perspective through video, through image, through text, and [down the road] through computer animations and interactive graphics.”
Yesterday’s feature package on Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta mega-church founder accused of coercing teenage boys into sex, for instance, included a servicey biographic article, an “opinion brief,” a collection of related tweets and a video about the scandal, albeit one that was simply pulled from CNN.
“It’s a little Wikipedia-like because you’re led to other things you want to read on the same topic,” said Hrabi.
But TheWeek.com still has a ways to go if it wants to catch up with sites like Slate or The Daily Beast, which Kotok named as competitors, and which in August pulled in 7.3 million and 2.6 million uniques respectively to TheWeek.com’s 1.3 million, according to comScore (whose numbers tend to skew lower than internal metrics).
Kotok said inbound traffic from portal sites like Yahoo and AOL has been making a dent.
“If you’re a news site, we are the perfect complement,” he said. “We’re not gonna compete with you. We’re not trying to beat you to get something up 30 seconds faster. But we are providing all this content around what you’re doing.”
In addition to Hrabi, Reed, Eber and Depke, The Week.com has also hired an audience development manager, Jessica Hullinger, and a digital marketing manager, David La Cross.
And dust off your resumes, because Hrabi said he plans to hire additional editorial staff.
“I need more people,” he said. “We’re a tight little team, but we’re all working very, very hard.”
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