Last week, Fairchild started showing ankle on the site with demonstrations of some of WWD.com's features, which aggregate the title's strengths as a trade publishing powerhouse as well as the eye-candy appeal of its subject.
The partial unveiling came against a backdrop of what WWD.com executives call a "restructuring" of its staff, which resulted in the loss of 13 jobs on the tech side and two on the edit side.
The technical positions were eliminated as Advance.net, the Internet arm of Fairchild's corporate parent Advance Publications, came in to handle technical details. Rochelle Udell -- who founded epicurious.com and is thus responsible for one of Fairchild corporate sibling Conde Nast's few unalloyed online triumphs -- said the edit-side layoffs were wholly related to the Advance.net move.
"The parts of what they were working on are now automated," she said. "Our strategy is absolutely the same -- totally on target."
Yet some uncertainty, unsurprisingly, persists among WWD.com staffers, even as crunch time for the testing and groundwork that must be laid for the site's debut looms. The size of WWD.com's full-time staff -- including edit-side, tech and business employees -- after the layoffs is about 25, said Ms. Udell, president of the Internet division.
All of which may distract attention from the site, which doesn't lack attributes. Aside from breaking news, WWD.com augments the title's extant print archives -- which date back to 1994 and currently cost users $2,000 for yearly access. The archives will now be included with subscriptions, as will photo archives dating back to the 1950s. Ms. Udell said 80% of the site's content will be original and not appear in the print product.
Individual subscriptions cost a hefty $895 a year, although group discounts and site-license fees reduce the tariff for companies requiring multiple subs. Three-month trials are available for $295.
Advertising opportunities will include sponsorship packages, and many are expected to be sold in tandem with other products across WWD's stable of products, said Ed Menicheschi, president of WWD Media Worldwide. Perhaps acknowledging the financial failures of sites counting on online advertising, he said he expected WWD.com's revenue stream to come "overwhelmingly" from subscriptions. No ad packages for the site have yet been sold, and pricing levels are still undetmined, but discussions involving both are under way.
So far, Ms. Udell said, subscriptions totaling into the "four digits" have been sold to a range of fashion and financial players from Versace to Goldman Sachs, from Burberry to Bear Stearns.
Hoping for broad audience
A key hope for executives is that the site's subscriptions will enable them to reach a broader international audience than is feasible with the print product. WWD's circulation is about 45,000, which a spokeswoman said was about 95% in the U.S. Print subscriptions range from $99 to $195. Fairchild would not divulge subscription revenue for WWD, nor its split between circulation and ad revenues.
Few observers have seen the site, which is in a testing phase and cannot be accessed outside Fairchild headquarters. Yet one industry executive admitted to a can't-wait attitude -- if not exactly for business reasons.
"They'll put on one hell of a launch party," he said, in a year that's seen few.