Graydon Carter’s Air Mail is launching a beauty vertical, its first editorial expansion since the launch of the digital publication in 2019. Air Mail Look will publish monthly and be edited by Linda Wells, Air Mail’s beauty columnist since 2021 and founding editor of Allure magazine.
Air Mail Look will land in subscribers in boxes on the first Friday of every month with a mix of investigations, reported pieces and columns covering the gamut of the beauty and wellness industry including makeup, skin care, fitness, sex, sleep and mental health. Wells will also occasionally contribute pieces, with stories from Air Mail staffers and freelance commissions. Wells’ Eye of the Beholder column will continue to appear within Air Mail. Like the flagship title, each issue of Look will have a single advertising sponsor; Tom Ford Eyewear is the inaugural issue advertiser.
“We want to uphold the Air Mail [standard] of really going deep into a subject and exploring in a way that is not really common in [the beauty] world,” Wells explained. “The audience for beauty used to be very specific. And now it’s Silicon Valley billionaires trying to bio-hack their way into a long life and flat abs. Everybody seems to be engaged in this subject in some way or another.”
Air Mail raised $17 million in series B funding in 2021 in order to propel an expansion that will eventually include multiple editorial verticals, podcasts and possibly a book imprint. Carter told WWD that readers can expect to see more verticals coming online in the fall. Additionally, Arts Intel Report, an arts and culture search engine, is “getting a major retrofit and will be available to readers by the summer.”
The success of Wells’ column — which averages more than 250,000 page views and is consistently among the Air Mail’s top five stories in views, unique visitors and time spent — was the catalyst for Air Mail’s first editorial vertical.
“Linda is a double threat,” Carter said. “A funny, engaging and informed writer and a brilliant editor. We plan to build all our new titles around editors. And in her field, there is none better or more followed than Linda. Without her, we would never have created Look.”
In her Eye of the Beholder column — which mixes reportage and journalistic skepticism with product endorsement and wry ruminations on the psychology of beauty — Wells has delved into the esoteric world of perfume-making, the pursuit of sleep in an anxious world and the microbiome skin care trend whose most dedicated adherents eschew almost all soap.
Wells and the Air Mail team began in earnest to plan out Look only last January. “It’s been a very fast turnaround,” she said, although the impetus for the vertical was apparent early on.
“It really was based on the success of those early columns for Air Mail and interest from Air Mail readers in the subject, which I think was a happy surprise.”
Of course, the beauty industry has exploded as social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, have become inspiration destinations for consumers and creators alike, supercharging brands and launching myriad beauty and wellness trends.
“Once people started taking pictures of themselves, and social media allowed a way to communicate that to an enormous audience,” she said, “it changed the way that people thought about the way they looked and the way they presented themselves to the world.”
The trillion-dollar beauty and wellness industry also has become a key commerce driver for publishers. Carter predicted that Air Mail’s online shop Air Supply — which is billed as a “highly selective storefront” — “will be the dominant revenue driver within three years and…Air Mail Look will become a significant part of its growth.”
Air Mail launched in 2019 with $15 million in series A funding. It now has more than 500,000 readers globally, according to a company spokesperson. Carter would not comment on when Air Mail is expected to become profitable; the company’s revenue mix includes subscriptions (readers pay $80 annually), advertising and commerce. With personal care retail sales in the U.S. alone generating nearly $54 billion in e-commerce sales in 2021, according to Statista, the beauty market is a reliable revenue driver.
“It’s astonishing how much [the beauty industry] has changed,” Wells said. “When I started Allure, the reporters who wrote about the launch said, ‘How are they going to fill an issue every month with this narrow subject?’ It’s only gotten bigger, and it’s only gotten broader. Once we thought beauty was makeup and hair and skin care. Now it’s wellness, it’s lifestyle, it’s behavior, it’s culture. And all of those things, when they collide, make for very lively reading and reporting. It’s a very vital subject in a really literal way because it’s really about living.”