Hearst’s Real Beauty Queen

stagg headshot Hearsts Real Beauty Queen“Hair is really a big motivator for women,” said Nicole Stagg, a curly-haired brunette and Hearst Digital Media’s director of content strategy. She was on the phone with the Observer after Hearst Corp’s Monday announcement that the publisher of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar would launch a new digital venture called RealBeauty.com.

An early version of the site, meant to be a one-stop destination for women looking for hair, makeup and beauty recommendations and products, will launch in September (probably at the end of the month, Ms. Stagg told the Observer). 

Ms. Stagg said hair and beauty tips are among women’s top searches on the Web, and after surveying readers from “age 17 to Good Housekeeping,” Hearst has been working on the site for the past year and a half.

Ladies will get news on which products will relax fall frizz and whether black is still the “it” nail color via articles roped in from Hearst magazines, commissioned content and other pieces specifically for women of color from partnering publishers, including Latina Magazine and Hype Hair Magazine, that “have expertise we just don’t have access to,” Ms. Stagg said. 

But it won’t be all lipsticks and skin cremes, according to Ms. Stagg. “We know that beauty isn’t just cosmetic,” she said, hence the title RealBeauty.com. The site will offer wellness and health information, from diet and nutrition advice to tips for stress relief and getting a good night’s rest. “Everybody knows you can’t look beautiful when you haven’t gotten enough sleep,” she said. “I often say that I feel my ugliest when I’ve pigged out on cookies the night before.”

An official launch in November will bring a feature that Hearst thinks will differentiate them from their competition, like fashion blog giant Glam Media and e-commerce sites.

It’s called the “The Beauty Book,” a toolbar that will hover at the bottom of the site and give users recommended beauty and wellness tips based on their personal profile. Users answer questions about their age, ethnicity, hair color, product preferences. Hearst, as well as advertisers, give them more honed recommendations in return. 

“I have curly hair so what works for me isn’t going to work for a woman with straight hair,” she said. Her Beauty Book will probably have more product reviews of curl relaxers or de-frizzing products, for example, and nix the tips for women with perfectly blown-out straight locks.

The toolbar will carry over onto other Hearst Web sites and social networking sites like Facebook. “It’s kind of like a traveling makeup kit while you’re browsing the Web,” Ms. Stagg explained.

Users will also have their say on the site. Along with allowing users to comment on blog posts and review products, columns titled “Real Beauty’s What I Do” will mix in tips from readers, along with experts and editors.

Ms. Stagg also revealed to the Observer that the site will launch more social networking featueres in early 2010. They’ll be called “Beauty Circles” and users will join predetermined groups like, say, “The Curly Hair Circle,” as well as ones they can create themselves (Perhaps a “Reporters Circle,” we wonder?) and pass around tips and share hair cut ideas.

Ms. Stagg, the former senior editor of Rodale Interactive, will have an “editor in chief-like role” on the site, editing articles and honing its authoritative but “chatty” voice. She joined Hearst in 2006 and launched their food and recipies site, Delish.com, last year. She is familiar with women’s beauty sites after spending more than seven years at top ladies destination iVillage and overseeing its eCommerce channels. In 2000, she spearheaded the $200 million joint venture between iVillage and Unilever, the manufacturer of products from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, to launch a new beauty site.

So how has beauty changed over the years? “The searches are still enormous and that has not changed,” she said. The teens were into celebrity news and hair. Older women, the Good Housekeepers, were more about health and nutrition. Now the gap is closing. “I’ve definitely seen much more of a wellness side as it relates to beauty,” Ms. Stagg said. “Their attitudes about their hair, skin and makeup were equally important to taking care of their bodies and their well being. There wasn’t really that much of a gap between the ages.” Looks like 14 is the new 40–and vice versa.