AUGUST 31, 2009
Hearst Signs On in Beauty Contest
By SHIRA OVIDE and EMILY STEE
Hearst Corp. hopes a new Web site and growing interest in the Internet among beauty-products makers will translate into a fresh source of advertising for the publishing giant.
In September, Hearst plans to launch a site called Real Beauty, which will focus on makeup, hair care and other beauty topics. The venture is an effort by Hearst to create a one-stop destination for consumers who want to research and buy beauty products. It will be competing with a vast field of more specialized beauty blogs as well as sites operated by various cosmetics brands and retail chains.
Daily Makeover, whose virtual makeover program, above, lets women try out beauty products and hairstyles, is among the new Hearst venture's rivals.
Hearst says the site will mix advice from customers with product reviews and information from its magazines, which include Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and Harper's Bazaar. Users of the site will be able to customize information so, for example, a woman with curly hair won't see articles about straight hair; she also may get discount offers from salons specializing in taming frizzy locks.
Beauty brands have been slower than other marketers to advertise online, largely because of concerns that the Web could never match the in-store experience of trying out beauty aids.
Companies spend about $6 billion a year to hawk personal-care products, a category including beauty, shaving and hair care, but only 3% is spent online, excluding search ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence, an ad tracking firm owned by ad giant WPP.
However, research released in May by Google and online-data firm Compete, owned by TNS, found more shoppers get beauty information from Web sites than from magazines.
"We found over and over again, especially in these challenging times, that women are spending more time doing their homework," says Agnes Chapski, publisher of Allure, the beauty magazine owned by Condé Nast Publications.
The Web also is a less expensive way for beauty-products makers to reach consumers than slick magazine ads. That's a boon for the industry at a time when consumers are keeping a close watch on spending. In 2008, spending on beauty products slipped 2%, according to NPD Group Inc. and Information Resources Inc. The data exclude sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Technology is also catching up. Privately held Daily Makeover spent the past decade tweaking technology that lets consumers upload a picture to the Web to virtually try on thousands of hairstyles and cosmetics. It can show nuances such as a lipstick's shimmery finish. Hearst says Real Beauty also will have a virtual-makeover tool.
Hearst will face stiff competition for readers and ad dollars from ventures such as Daily Makeover, which is the second-most-popular destination after AOL's Stylelist site in a broad category of beauty, fashion and style Web sites, according to comScore. Other rivals will include Glam Media -- the largest collection of Internet sites targeted at women -- and influential bloggers that analyze the latest beauty trends.
Hearst is betting that women also want information from magazine editors or other sources they perceive to be independent and trusted.
Rob Master, director of media for North America at Unilever, says it is important for the company's brands, such as Dove, Pond's and Sunsilk, to advertise with Web sites of publishers that consumers say they trust, such as Hearst, Condé Nast and Meredith Corp.
Some sites already combine user reviews, magazine articles and how-to videos. Allure's Web site features a busy beauty blogging area, a Facebook page and a standalone site called Allure Virtual Store, where users can watch videos on how to create a "tousled" hair look. Allure offers the video showcase as part of ad deals with brands such as Procter & Gamble's Herbal Essences hair- care line.
But Mr. Master said Unilever also has found some "unsuspecting places" across the Web that are good outlets for beauty advertising, such as music videos on MTV.com or groups on Yahoo that exchange beauty tips.
Another site that's become a beauty hangout is Google's YouTube Internet-video service, where Lauren Luke, an amateur makeup devotee from England, has created a buzz with her homemade video tutorials on makeup application. Ms. Luke recently parlayed her online popularity into her own cosmetics line sold at Sephora, a division of French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.