If you’re in fashion, you’re on The Fashion Spot. One way or another.
Billing itself as “the web’s largest community of fashion influencers”, The Fashion Spot – or just simply “TFS” – is a fashion news site with a difference; one that’s underpinned by a seemingly all-seeing, all-knowing web forum that is closely monitored by the global fashion industry because of the sheer user-generated efficiency of its newsgathering.
Think of the TFS forum as an army of unpaid, fashion-fanatic research assistants who are trawling the real and virtual worlds for all signs of fashion life – and constantly reporting back to the forum with movements. To give you an idea of how valuable a resource it has become, any model worth their salt not only has their own TFS thread, but checks in regularly to see their latest work – more often than not before even their own agency has laid eyes on it. Little wonder the site ranks number two in the world after models.com in alexa.com’s “Models” category.
Since Dallas, Texas-based internet entrepreneur Andy Robinowitz first switched the TFS lights on in July 2001, the forum’s 69,744 forum members have created 9,249,209 million posts across 143,782 different threads.
Robinowitz, who operates a web forum specialist company called Social Knowledge, likes to keep his cards close to his chest, not even mentioning The Fashion Spot on his LinkedIn account. Never using his full name on TFS – just “Andy R” – he did unmask himself on occasion. Robinowitz was uncontactable at press time.
In April 2008, Robinowitz sold the forum to Los Angeles-based Gorilla Nation Media – whose advertising arm calls itself the world’s largest online ad sales rep firm – with offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, London, Sydney and Melbourne. The company would later rebrand itself as Evolve Media.
The Fashion Spot comes under the umbrella of Evolve’s women’s publishing division TotallyHer Media. Upfront editorial content has since been added to the TFS offer, attracting 80percent of the site’s traffic according to managing editor Jennifer Davidson, who reports TFS drew 533,000 unique viewers a month at the time of acquisition.
According to ComScore data that has been sighted by FELLT Industry, the site attracted 2.4million unique visitors and generated 15million page impressions in the month of May 2014. Those figures increase during fashion month. In February 2014 TFS drew 4.3million unique visitors and 22million page impressions.
In 2011, Evolve Media commenced localizing the ad content, creating local versions of TFS in Canada, the UK and yes, Australia.
And the company is about to ramp up the editorial offer down under.
How does TFS stack up against some of the better-known fashion media brands? If Conde Nast’s media kits are up-to-date then, surprisingly, in fact on par – at least in terms of visitor numbers.
Style.com attracts 2.1million monthly uniques and 184 million page views. In an interview last year, Style.com editor in chief Dirk Standen told Frockwriter uniques can reach three million during fashion month and page views, as high as 270million.
Vogue.com boasts 2.2million monthly unique visitors – and “5billion press impressions”, which is fairly obtuse.
Vogue Australia’s own vogue.com.au forum predates TFS by a year and according to its own official vBulletin stat counter, in fact outranks TFS with regard to two specific figures: members (291,933) and discussion threads (321,781).
However vogue.com.au falls well short on the frequency of posting: 6,046,571 posts, compared to The Fashion Spot’s 9.2million. And its audience and traffic figures are considerably less: 425,000 monthly uniques and 4.6million page impressions.
Coincidentally, vogue.com.au was, similarly, a web forum only until as recently as 2007, when the site’s first editorial director was appointed.
FELLT had a chat with the TFS editorial team to glean a few more insights on the site.
All responses by TFS managing editor Jennifer Davidson, unless otherwise marked.
Where is TFS headquartered and how many staff are there?
The Fashion Spot and Totally Her Media are headquartered in Los Angeles, but we have offices in New York, Chicago, Toronto, London, Sydney and Melbourne. The editorial team is largely based in New York. We have five people on our editorial staff and about 100 freelance contributors from all across the US, Canada, UK, Australia and even Russia. Worldwide, we have about 75 employees.
You have been with TFS for four years. What have you learned about the site over this period?
I’ve learned a great deal about how special and unique The Fashion Spot is. As one of the oldest fashion sites ever, there is so much history in the forums. Our community is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about all aspects of the fashion industry. I am continuously amazed by the insight and uncompromising honesty found here. In fact, it’s our reputation for honest, no-holds-barred discussion that draws members of the industry from all over the world to read our forums — designers check their threads after their shows, modeling agencies check their models’ threads for up-to-the-minute postings of ad campaigns and editorials… Our community truly has their fingers on the pulse of the industry and a well-deserved reputation for being the best.
It is this incredible and rich legacy that drives our editorial content. The high standards our community demands is the inspiration behind everything we do, constantly pushing us to strive to do better, do more.
To what degree does news broken by the forum users dictate editorial content?
Our forums definitely inspire our editorial direction. We are constantly asking ourselves, “What would our forums think about this?” Not only do we strive to create content that we think will excite the community, but the forums are an amazing resource for the editorial team. From detailed show lists to emerging models to hot-off-the-presses magazine spreads, there is a wealth of information available to us in the forums.
TFS isn’t the only place on the web where fans upload new fashion content the nanosecond it drops, however it is high profile. Do brands, photographers, magazines etc often get pissed off about leaks? How many times have there been copyright dramas?
Since all forum content is user generated, the occasional complaint does happen. We are committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of others and we prohibit copyright infringement or similar activities by our users. We have a copyright violation policy in place that ensures that complaints are handled quickly. However, for the most part, magazines and photographers are happy to see their work featured and publicized on the site.
How many localised versions of TFS are there? Why Australia in particular?
Our growth in the US inspired us to expand a few years ago and we now have localized versions of The Fashion Spot in Australia, the UK and Canada.
Rebecca Schmitt, Vide President and General manager of TotallyHer Media
We’re increasing our investment in local content for TFS in Australia because of the traction we’re seeing there.
How many staff manage the forum and how much of a headache is forum moderation?
Staff has fluctuated between 15-30 volunteer moderators depending on our needs. We have a strict and consistent enforcement of community rules which makes it easier for moderators to do their job. And according to one of our Mod Team Leaders, most headaches can be remedied with two ibuprofen and a glass of whiskey, but this may vary by moderator.
Who are the key players in the forum? They obviously include people such as Faith Akiyama, who compiles so many of the showlists.
There are many members who spend a lot of time updating threads, finding information, answering questions and otherwise improving the content of the forums. Very few of us are active enough in all the forums to know them all, and I’d hate to slight anyone. The Fashion Spot forum has had many great contributing members over the years. Some of them have moved on in their lives and no longer post, but their contributions remain. There are new members all the time who make a name for themselves with their consistently high-quality posts. The Fashion Spot community is always growing and always evolving. The question should be, who will be the next key player? “Tune in and find out… or become that member yourself!”
Have you met many forum members? Have any ever become staff?
All of us on the editorial team are also forum members, but I haven’t met anyone outside the staff in person. Many of the members I’m in contact with are based outside of the US.
We have had several prominent forum members as contributors to the site. Currently, Pilar Meier, Chrissy Makkas and Mark E contribute regularly to our Forum Buzz column, which reports on hot topics happening in the forums. The amazing Elena Drogaytseva, who is a virtual encyclopedia of model knowledge, also contributes.
What is the plan for TFS? How big could it be?
We’re definitely in growth mode in all the countries we have presence. In the US, we recently were rated the 4th largest site in beauty/fashion, according to comScore. We’re working to solidify that standing in the US and achieve similar positioning in Australia.
Video seems surprisingly underdeveloped. What are the plans there?
Actually, we are beginning to put more focus into video. I think the reason we haven’t jumped head first into video is that we wanted to do it right — we wanted to offer our readers something different, something they won’t find anywhere else. I’m very proud of the “runway to real way” video series we did with MAC Cosmetics and Bumble & Bumble but it’s our new original series, The Fashion Dish, that has me really excited for the future of video on TFS.
The Fashion Dish brings together fashion industry experts from a variety of fields for dinner and conversation. We shot our first round table at the Lion restaurant right after New York Fashion Week in February. We had an amazing group of experts which included stylist June Ambrose, stylist and TV personality Robert Verdi, actress Katie Cassidy, Jaclyn Jones from the trend forecasting firm WGSN, fashion photographer and Conde Nast creative director Chiun-Kai “Chunky” Shih, fashion journalist (and TFS contributor) Laurie Brookins, and our moderator, TFS editor-at-large Julie Bensman. We shot over two hours of incredible, insightful (and often hilarious) conversation on such topics as what drives fashion trends, bloggers at Fashion Week, the importance of Resort as a season, and runway diversity. It’s a real “fly on the wall” experience for people who watch the videos. It’s like having a seat at the coolest dinner party in town. We released the show in a series of 24 short clips over a two-month period, and we’re about to release a more in-depth 40-minute version. I’m incredibly proud of the series and thrilled with how well-received it was on the site. I am excited to see where the series will take us next.
TFS is a really interesting hybrid of digital magazine and crowdsourced fashion intel. Where do you see it sits exactly in the fashion media landscape?
The Fashion Spot is in a truly unique position in the fashion media landscape because of our combination of editorial content and community. There are other fashion sites out there of course, as well as other fashion-related forums, but TFS is the only one to successfully merge the two.