The company trying to disrupt the mattress industry has a new product: a website focused on sleep.
Van Winkle's, which is funded by Casper and lead by editor-in-chief Jeff Koyen and editorial director Elizabeth Spiers, launched Tuesday with a collection of aggregation (Alan Alda Explores Sleep at the 2015 World Science Festival), lists (12 Overused Dream Sequence Clichés), short write ups of medical news (Can 400 Pairs of Twins Help Scientists Prove Fibromyalgia Exists?), and a 2,800 word feature on the rise of benzodiazepines being prescribed for sleep.
The site has a small staff — three editors and a staff writer — but is commissioning pieces from freelancers, a process that started two months ago.
"It's the first editorial venture of its kind, no one has treated sleep as an editorial vehicle like food and nesting," explained editor in chief Jeff Koyen, a veteran journalist who has worked at magazines, websites, and startups. "We're looking at a larger culture, is there a shift of consciousness about sleep? We are there to create set and advance that conversation," he told BuzzFeed News.
Van Winkle's started when Casper, the venture-funded mattress startup (it shares some investors with BuzzFeed), started talking last year with Gawker and New York Observer alumna Elizabeth Spiers, who now works as consultant. "We wanted to do a content property that would really own sleep," Spiers said.
"I've worked on content properties before and really good content is the most cost effective form of marketing you can have," Spiers said. To ensure the quality of the eventual product, she stressed the need for independence from its backers, which was important "if you want to have good content people want to read."
So, they settled on a site set apart from Casper, although it's funded by the company and works out of its offices. The branding on the site is very light — at the bottom of the page it says "published by Casper" and the site's about page says "Van Winkle's is published by Casper Sleep, Inc."
Right now, the site doesn't have any ads, but the long-term goal is to "generate revenue through ad support," Philip Krim, a co-founder of Casper and the company's chief executive, told BuzzFeed News. "We just have to create the best editorial content out there and build a big stand alone site that will resonate with people."
But one thing you won't see on Van Winkle's is writing about mattresses, whether they're ones made by Casper or its competitors. Koyen said the mattress industry is on a "black list" of subjects the site will not write about. "There are deeper issues, wider issues," he said. "There's not a lot of journalism to be done about mattresses."