In late 2016, Self pivoted to digital-only following a successful monthly print edition that ran for 39 years.
Carolyn Kylstra’s editor-in-chief tells Folio, “We realized very quickly that running a website is not the same as running a brand. There are things you can do on a website, when it isn’t the focal point, that you need to step back and reexamine when the website becomes the brand’s flagship.”
Multiple industry accolades are a subjective measure of Self‘s digital success since Kylstra took over. For the more empirically minded, traffic to Self.com is up 18 percent in the past year, attracting record highs of more than 7 million unique visitors in January and February (according to data from comScore), and Kylstra says the brand’s Q1 revenue was up 61 percent from 2017.
How did it accomplish this? Self quickly acknowledged that they frankly weren’t equipped to function as a breaking news organization, instead focusing on the ways the brand could cover its key topic areas—fitness, health, nutrition, beauty, culture—in a way that was unique, service-oriented, and science-based.
“We realized that traffic just for the sake of traffic wasn’t doing us any favors,” she continues. “We aren’t writing about celebrity haircuts anymore. Even though you can argue that those stories are about beauty and self expression, there just wasn’t a way for us to do them in a way that made it clearly a Self story.”
Kylstra acknowledges that all of the brand’s different distribution channels have played their part, from its private but highly engaged Facebook group, Team SELF, to its beauty-focused email newsletter that regularly achieves open rates over 70 percent, to its Snapchat channel that’s weathered that platform’s widely-panned redesign to the tune of 10 million impressions each month.