Then-editor Janice Min brought me in to come in and launch a website for Us Weekly, which —unthinkably—didn't yet have one in 2006. This celebrity weekly was struggling with the basic economics. The business had been built around exclusivity (i.e., if we have a scoop the competition doesn't, we'll trounce them at the newsstand this week. But digital upended all of this: Once you put something online, it's available for everyone to use, pilfer, reference, etc., with or without attribution. There was no easy answer, as the entire magazine industry would soon learn, but your choices were to figure out an online strategy or lose all your traffic to the Perez Hiltons and TMZs of the world, who weren't constrained by needs to "hold this until Tuesday."
We launched the website on the very day that the new baby of beloved celebricouple Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes was first revealed to the world, after four months of waiting. Vanity Fair had obtained the rights to publish the Annie Liebovitz photos first, on their print magazine cover, and had signed a deal with the CBS Evening News and Katie Couric to broadcast the first glimpse of the new magazine—the public's first glimpse of this long-awaited child. Shut out, we simply covered the coverage: We took a still photo of Suri's debut on a big-screen TV and posted it to our new site two minutes later. (Vanity Fair themselves didn't post the photo until the next day.) We were off and running with what was effectively a digital exclusive, for a few moments anyway. Traffic grew very quickly over the next few weeks: It turns out people who love gossip want it instantly, not weekly. About a month later Jann Wenner (owner of Wenner Media) called me into his office and invited me to edit a much bigger online title: Rolling Stone.