The Big Crackup: It’s Vertical Vertigo!

If the theory is that users are reading in bubbles, composing their own, customized “general interest” daily reads by clicking through a bunch of finely focused blogs, how can one site become their only must-see destination, and provide spots for the kind of focused advertising that brands are looking for? Launching more verticals with concise content seems to be the answer … for now, at least.

 

WHEN MICHAEL SILBERMAN joined New York magazine as general manager of digital media in the spring of 2007, he was mainly concerned with developing the New York and NYMag.com brands in New York City. But over the past few years, he and his team have been thinking about verticals as a means for reaching a national audience that might want news from a “New York frame of mind … to use the title of a cheesy song,” Mr. Silberman said. “I think about it in terms of, how big can [food blog] Grub Street get?” he explained. “How big can [fashion blog] The Cut get? What can be built beyond the size limit of New York?” NYMag.com’s restaurant listings will likely expand to other cities, for example, he said. And launching a sports vertical? That’ll bring in Mr. Leitch’s enthusiastic following, get some lively discussions going in the comments sections and aid advertisers looking for a male audience, he said.

“We know that we won’t be the first stop for people looking for sports news; they’ll go to ESPN,” Mr. Silberman said. “But if we’ve got the guy that people like and has a smart take on what is happening and can occasionally break news from the people he knows in sports, there’s real potential to gather an audience that maybe we could then introduce to [news blog] Daily Intel.”

As for the Huffington Post, they already have their eye on the national horizon—and a big, broad audience.

The Huffington Post books section will launch on Oct. 5 and be edited by Amy Hertz, who will continue editing books for the Dutton division of Penguin while running the site. The New York Review of Books will be an official partner, Ms. Huffington told The Observer. “The Huffington Post is about having the best of the old and the best of the new,” Ms. Huffington added. “We have the traditional way of covering books with the best of the reviews from The New York Review of Books, and then the readers can interact,” by posting their own reviews, she said. Ms. Huffington will also be launching her own book club on the same day. She is still debating between three titles for her first choice, she told The Observer, and is working out further details on the frequency of her picks.

The sports section will debut at the end of October, with Brown University graduate Whitney Snyder, an associate editor at the Huffington Post, as lead editor and ESPN as a partner, with more to come, according to Ms. Huffington. She’s recruiting some celebrity friends to get in on sports commentary for the site as well.

Of course, the more verticals you launch, the harder it becomes to do them right. Web designers are already constantly tweaking online layouts and codes and features to keep up with the latest user experience trends, while editors fiddle with delivering content through different types of media.

“These are small segments, and you can kind of scoop up the people who have these interests and maybe lure them into other sections of the site, across a much broader area,” said Mr. Nielsen. “But you’ve got to kind of deliver.”

greagan@observer.com