When 27-year-old stylist and fashion journalist Liana Peterson moved to Boston from New York City five years ago, she spent the first six months hiding in her bedroom, reading the Internet and being depressed: it was 10 degrees outside and there was nothing online about Boston fashion.
“I mean I guess the Globe has their blog. And there’s the Bostonist,” Peterson says. “But everything that I was reading about that was regularly updated was police blotters, politics and sports. And none of those apply to me.”
Despite her occasional penchant for a gritty police blotter report, none of Peterson’s daily blog go-to’s – Fashionista, The Cut and Racked – were Boston natives. No blog offered a comprehensive guide to the fashion landscape of Boston.
So Peterson took it upon herself to change that, crafting a space on the Web to fill this gaping void. Her answer: New Brahmin, a part-newsletter part-style diary documenting Boston fashion.
“We want to be a go-to for Boston and for Greater Boston,” Peterson says. “Unless something directly affects Boston, we don’t comment on it. If we didn’t witness it, it didn’t happen.”
Their formula: maintain a balanced mixture of fashion news items and editorial opinion. They feature local designers, shops and personalities as well as items and trends they recommend. All non-Boston fashion headlines are relegated to a one-liner and link in the Daily D’s.
While other local blogs spend graphs upon graphs reflecting on runway shows and red carpet fashion, Peterson says: “Everyone does that, why would we? The only time there’s ever been a celebrity on our blog is the time I saw Beyonce at a Celtics game.”
Now two years old, the site is finally getting up and moving. Run by four staff members – executive editor, managing editor, beauty editor and Web editor – along with a smattering of contributing writers, the venture recently set up shop in a South Boston studio space leased by the Fort Point Artist Community.
Her first objective: to create a social media presence.
“I sat them down and said ‘OK, there needs to be a fan page and there needs to be a Twitter,’” Sutton says. “But we’re contemplating now how much presence we want to have– we don’t want to be so in your face like follow us here, follow us there. From a blogger’s perspective that can get kind of annoying.”
As for incorporating more innovative aspects of new media, particularly video, into their coverage, Peterson says it will simply come with time. Right now, creating a consistent and reliable stream of content is their utmost priority.
“We just re-launched, we’re still trying to get our momentum per se about posting,” she says. “We do five posts a day sometimes six, and that’s not easy to do. There’s not a lot going on in town to really write about every day when it comes to style and fashion and shopping. Some days are harder than others where we have to pull teeth to try and fill in the blanks, but we’re getting better at it.”
With the recent addition of managing editor Janine Stafford they’re getting closer to that goal. In January the middler communication studies major from Northeastern University decided to make the up-and-coming blog into a six-month co-op. Now, rather than constantly stressing about getting up enough posts before the end of the day, Stafford (also known as the ‘whip cracker’) works as an idea generator crafting weekly budgets to keep everything on a strict schedule. When generating content, Stafford looks at what is happening in fashion at large and cuts it down to an idea that is digestible to their Boston readership.
“You see gold all over the runway,” Stafford explains. “And then Jeannie [Vincent, their beauty editor] pops in and says ‘Here’s how to do it; here’s how to take thing that are crazy on the runway and should stay there and turn them into something that you can do yourself. But please, don’t have like blue eyebrows just because they’re on the runway.’”
With this service in mind, Peterson lovingly named their target reader Patty D. after a friend of hers.
“She works in a bank, in like community relations and works 8:30-4:30 in Downtown Crossing and wears uncomfortably ugly heels and suits to work and has that spark, that interest in shopping and fashion and style but doesn’t necessarily have the confidence for it.”
It’s taking things from the runway along with things that they like personally, and laying them out in a format for which the reader can digest.
“If you like it, cool. If you don’t, cool. We’re here to start a conversation. Tell us why you don’t like it,” Peterson says.
As for making money, the girls agree: after the re-launch they have to smoothe out the kinks before settling on any kind of advertising plan. But it’s definitely something they’re looking into as their out-of-pocket budget for rent, photoshoots and other production costs becomes somewhat draining.
“We don’t just want traditional ads either,” Peterson says. “People don’t pay attention to that. I have no problem with sponsored posts.”
Peterson says she sees such sponsored content as a win/win situation – New Brahmin can afford to pay its rent, and the featured product (only ones that merge with the website’s message, of course) are seen by their recently measured readership of 4,500 unique views per month.
Stafford admits, the numbers aren’t sky high, but since their relaunch less than a month ago the figures have already doubled. To keep with that increase, they’re focusing on features and editorials that will reel in more interest around town. And for a blog with such a niche audience, Stafford says she’s not upset by the numbers.
“We’re not a general interest blog,” she says. “We are pretty niche and although 150+ unique a day isn’t huge we certainly aren’t unhappy with that number.”
Ideally, at some point, New Brahmin will pay for itself. But for now their focus is the product: a site that can act as an effective reference point for the fashion scene of Boston.