Refinery29 is combining newsletters and podcasts with UnStyled

Podcasts and newsletters are two things publishers are very into these days, so Refinery29 is doing both at once.

This week, the women’s publisher launched UnStyled, a newsletter and podcast focused on style that could become one of its biggest moneymakers. While the connection between the two is mostly thematic at this point, uniting the two high-engagement environments could prove immensely attractive to advertisers.

“Both the podcast and newsletter focus on the fuller way a woman’s interests and passions inform each other,” said Christene Barberich, Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief.

While Refinery29 is no stranger to podcasts or newsletters, it hasn’t invested heavily in either one. It currently has 11 newsletters, one of which is focused explicitly on shopping. The company does not disclose much about the audience size of its shopping newsletter, but it notes that its audience has grown 30 percent year-over-year.

It debuted its first podcast, “Strong Opinions, Loosely Held” in February, and since then, it has netted over 600,000 downloads.

But neither of those bear much resemblance to UnStyled. Instead of a collection of article summaries and links, the newsletter feels like an abbreviated version of a women’s magazine, featuring full essays from Refinery29 staffers, a photo shoot from a staff photographer, links to stories on the site, plus a small collection of curated items for sale and a fun fact.

One of the numerous opportunities brands have to integrate into UnStyled newsletter.
One of the numerous opportunities brands have to integrate into UnStyled newsletter.

“We want to draw people into the conversations that fashion and style can inspire,” Barberich said. “Even if it’s not directly about style.”

Refinery secured REDValentino as a launch sponsor. Brands can also buy their way into the newsletter’s so-called shopping cart section, which features a curated list of items for sale. And, as with all the content on Refinery’s website, all of the links included in the newsletter are shoppable, pushing readers who click them right to a store, where Refinery gets a cut of any sale. That affiliate strategy has become a multimillion revenue source for the company since it pivoted toward affiliate links in 2014; the company did not disclose how much revenue it earns from affiliate links currently.

Then there’s the podcast. The show, hosted by Barberich, will release new episodes every Monday, featuring conversations with from fashion luminaries like Norma Kamali. It does not yet feature any ads.

While some other publishers, including BuzzFeed, have ventured into commerce-focused newsletters recently, they have mostly offered items that cost modest amounts of money. The first installment of the UnStyled newsletter includes everything from a $18 tank top to a $1,800 leather shopping bag. And while there are pockets of Refinery’s readers that do buy luxury goods, Barberich stressed that the pricier items in the UnStyled letters might not be for all their readers. “Our audience isn’t buying multiple luxury items per week, but instead once or twice per year,” she said.

“We’ve found the millennial consumer shops high-low,” Barberich added. “It’s a blend of accessible and aspirational, with the context needed to understand and interpret the value of making a luxury purchase.”

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