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To build brand in home decor, Wayfair adds blog overseen by former Better Homes and Gardens editor

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 16, 2012 08:05 AM

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Back in October, Back Bay e-tailer Wayfair hired Kristine Kennedy, the former East Coast editor for Better Homes and Gardens, to oversee its new content strategy. The home goods site has always been at the top of its class when it comes to attracting searchers to its site, but has never maintained a design blog before.

Now, Wayfair is starting to promote Kennedy's new My Way Home blog, which features design ideas from about a dozen contributors that she calls the Wayfair Homemakers. There are subtle links at the bottom of each blog post for anyone interested in purchasing some of the items featured, like an Aalto vase.

In June of last year, Wayfair brought in its first outside capital — a ginormous $165 million round — and ditched its somewhat generic original name, CSN Stores.

I asked Kennedy a few questions via e-mail.

Scott Kirsner: What's the vision for the My Way Home blog?

Kristine Kennedy: This is Wayfair’s inaugural content launch and is just a fraction of what will end up being introduced across the site in upcoming months. The idea was to create a non-corporate corporate blog. I think most corporate blogs are boring. When you’re writing from the corporate “we” voice, it’s hard to make the content be about the reader. And content is only valuable if it somehow helps the reader. Instead, I wanted to create a community — a place where already established bloggers who have some expertise in some sub-category of home offer insights and advice to the reader. I also want the readers to feel engaged and to offer their own comments, advice, and conversation.

SK: Are the contributors to it freelancers, or Wayfair employees? How many are there?

KK: The contributors are freelancers. We chose people who already have social reach. Most contributors have their own blogs, one is a stylist/producer, and another is an HGTV personality. Our contributors promote their Wayfair relationship across their social maps, and they benefit from the exposure to Wayfair’s 8 million unique visitors per month. We have about 10-12 regulars right now and are just starting to take on “guest” bloggers who may post with varying frequency. The only employee contributor to the blog right now is me. But I’m writing from my own point of view and not from the omniscient corporate “we.” I’m taking a chance that my trials and tribulations in fixing up my rental duplex will be more compelling to home enthusiasts than Wayfair’s business strategy, for example.

SK: How often are you adding new content?

KK: Five times per week consistently, and we will be increasing the frequency as we add guest bloggers. Many people have reached out to work with us.

SK: Though I am a Wayfair customer, it seems like the blog doesn't really target men as readers.

KK: Wayfair, and the former CSNStores, has already done a pretty good job of serving male customers and the way men typically shop. Up to now we’ve been very successful as a straight-forward transactional site. What we haven’t been great at is giving female home enthusiasts inspiration and guidance as they shop. It’s mostly women who shop for the home, and our initial content initiative is targeted at establishing a relationship with that customer. The female customer is a huge opportunity for us. To that end, the first iteration of the blog is probably more female-focused. However, as Wayfair establishes its association with the home category, we’ll be able to branch out with content pieces in some of our traditionally male categories, such as DIY, fitness, recreation, and parenting.

SK: Are you using the term "Homemaker" ironically?

KK: I wrote about this in my first blog post, because the name Homemaker is a little controversial. Some people thought it was a derisive term that invalidated the professional breadth of our bloggers. But I want to turn the notion of Homemaker around. As I said in my post, I want to restore the nobility of this term and widen its meaning. Wayfair wants to take the term “Homemaker” back as a description for someone who is passionate about his or her home and the life that happens there. I work long hours in a high-rise office building in downtown Boston, and I’m a Homemaker. I think about my home all the time. I chose our rental duplex largely because it has a deep porch and a proper foyer. I looked for a place that signaled welcome and would encourage kids to come over and make friends with my transplanted 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. My fabulous husband, Pete, a writer, has always stayed home with the kids. He’s a Homemaker. He cooks the food, makes the fires, and is currently building a window seat in my daughter’s room. He owns his role and feels extremely lucky to experience home and family in a way most guys don’t get to. All of our Wayfair bloggers are such homemakers that they’ve been able to create successful careers out of their passion. It’s a term that really resonated with all the professionals at the Design Bloggers Conference.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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