On 4 October Condé Nast announced the launch of Them, an LGBTQ-specific multi-platform online publication aimed at chronicling and celebrating inspirational stories ranging in topics from fashion and pop culture to news and politics.
Having launched on October 26th, the project was created by Phillip Picardi, acclaimed digital editorial director of Teen Vogue and Allure, who will serve as the chief content officer of the new, independent brand.
Conscious of the young generation’s power to shape culture, especially in the fields of gender and sexuality, the 26-year-old first pitched the idea to Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and artistic director at Condé Nast, as they talked about the company’s next digital moves in August.
“Wouldn’t it be incredible if Condé Nast were the first publisher to really step up to the plate and want to be the ones who were telling those stories in an authentic and personal way?” Picardi asked her, as reported by the website Business of Fashion.
Wintour recently commented, “We’ve been reimagining our titles and creating new ones to more broadly reflect our culture today, and Them is a perfect example of how we’re thinking differently about our audiences. Phil has brilliant insight into how people are engaging with each other through the content they read and watch, and he has once again identified important and influential voices and stories to bring to the forefront.”
Picardi, who was listed by the American LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate as one of the ‘50 Most Influential LGBTs in Media’, has boosted Condé Nast’s digital transition by growing Teen Vogue’s unique visitors per month from 1.4m to over 9m. He explained that LGBTQ-themed articles are among the website’s most popular content.
Pamela Drucker Mann, chief revenue and marketing officer at Condé Nast, was also instrumental in the development of Them, saying, “Them is all about the future of culture and speaks to the heart of the most influential demographic – Generation Z (the demographic cohort following the Millennials)”.
According to a study by trend forecasting agency, J. Walter Thompson, more than a half of Generation Z identifies as queer. In addition, the National Retail Foundation discovered that Generation Z wields $44bn in buying power (over £33bn), including their influence on family spend. 60% of these consumers also support brands that take a stand on issues they believe in, as revealed by a Barkley/FutureCast research.
Instead of following the fast-paced rhythm of most media brands, Picardi is adamant that Them will work on longer, “uniquely engaged and extremely impactful” storytelling experiences, delivering weekly video features, podcasts, data graphics and social media content. The platform will particularly encourage reader submissions in order to spark a stimulating conversation. Physical experiences will play an important role too, from merchandise by queer designers — part of the sales will be donated to charities — to events such as book clubs and appearances at Pride parades.
GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism winner Meredith Talusan and agender media personality Tyler Ford will anchor the editorial launch team.
However, not every aspect of the project was positively received. Many turned to social media to express their dislike of the platform’s name, which, as some people suggested seems to imply an ‘Us vs. Them’ narrative.
No representative from Condé Nast has addressed the controversy yet.