Magazines or Retailers? Fashion Websites Push the Boundaries
In September, Suzy Menkes wrote in The New York Times: “The ultimate challenge for all luxury brands is to go digital—without losing their key attributes of individuality and identity.”
The same is true of high-end fashion magazines. As publications transition from monthly paper editions to a round-the-clock, dynamic social online presence that keeps them vital and in the public eye, publishers have to figure out how to generate revenue without changing who they are at the core: objective arbiters of taste, aficionados of style, no matter whom the manufacturer.
Turning digital presence into digital profits
Fashion magazines have always known that they needed to establish an online presence. The one thing they didn’t know, however, was how to turn a profit with high-profile, sometimes expensive digital departments.
It appears that this year publications may have found the answer: e-commerce. Top fashion publishers have signed deals with top retailers to create curated e-commerce sites recommended by the world-renowned editors. This trend will change the face of both e-commerce and digital publishing, not to affect the future of print magazines for better or worse.
E-commerce, meet e-publishing
In July, Allure launched e-commerce with Quidsi, the company which owns Soap.com and BeautyBar.com. Linda Wells, Allure’s editor in cheif, told WWD, “We know that women have always shopped from the magazine.”
Cheryl Wischhover of Fashionista wrote about the deal and decided that it was a win/win situation: readers have the opportunity to weigh expert opinions against friends’ opinions and make decisions.
Better yet, acquiring that product is easier than ever. Instead of ripping a page out of a magazine and carrying it to a local department store, a reader simply has to click a “buy now” button to purchase the editor’s recommendation.
Magazine publishers think it’s a winning situation too. After years of losing advertising revenue, corporate partnerships are a life preserver in the ocean of a weak economy. Retailers think it’s a winning proposition because those editor’s recommendations make the products that they sell stand out in the crowd of seemingly identical online offerings. But what about the editors? Those theoretically objective folks choosing the best quality items to present? How do they feel about these deals?
Magazines, choose your partners
In January 2010, in honor of New York Fashion Week, Vogue curated a section of the Gilt Groupe website after New York fashion week, highlighting items for less than $500. The placement was so successful for Conde Nast that the company expanded its agreement with the e-tailer, and other companies followed suit.
This summer, Condé Nast’s GQ partnered with Gilt Groupe to launch Park & Bond, an e-commerce site with a GQ online store featuring items picked by the magazine’s editors. In September, the selections were also marked in the magazine and on GQ.com, which both directed shoppers to Park & Bond.
GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson told Adweek that the Gilt partnership is a natural one for the magazine: “Our readers have always shopped from our pages. We’re just making it easier for them.”
Hearst Magazine’s Esquire teamed up with J.C. Penney’s Growth Brand Division to launch Cladmen in August, a website that offers e-commerce and editorial content. Esquire will also produce a mini-magazine called the Clad Report four times a year.
“What magazines have always done is to create desire in consumers,” David Granger, editor-in-chief of Esquire told The New York Times. “The next logical step is to fulfill that desire by selling the product. If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to.”
In September, Details partnered with Mr. Porter, the Net-a-porter offshoot, for a special e-commerce section curated by its editorial team. The products will appear on both websites, and readers can click to buy the featured products on Mr. Porter.
Dan Peres, editor-in-chief of Details, told WWD that he believes the collaboration is “fresh and engaging,” and the right fit for the magazine.
In September, Amazon and Hearst inked a deal that could mean one-click shopping for Hearst publications like Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen. The companies signed a multi-faceted deal that gives Amazon customers access to Hearst’s magazine content and provides Hearst access to Amazon’s growing and evolving e-commerce platform.
“This bridge between one of the best platform and technology companies and our premier media and content company gives Hearst and Amazon a launching pad to take both our businesses to the next level,” says David Carey, president, Hearst Magazines. “Amazon values exceptional content and we are excited about the possibilities. We look forward to working with the Amazon team.”
Expect news about upgraded digital content from Hearst and e-commerce tie-ins to roll out in the coming months.
A new magazine on a dying market
In fact, magazine placement is such an integral part of retail that Style.com is preparing to launch Style.com Magazine right after spring 2012 runway shows end Oct. 5, Adweek reported in August. Published by Fairchild Fashion Media, the first issue will feature items from six designers that will be available for purchase on Style.com.
The magazine is being developed by Dirk Standen, the editor of Style.com, aided by creative director LinaKutsovskaya, late of Nylon and Teen Vogue, as well as Style.com’s Nicole Phelps and Tim Blanks.
The website will begin selling clothes in November.
Magazines are now e-tailers
Beginning this season, fashionistas finally have the opportunity, to buy pieces from the new collections of designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Derek Lam directly from the Vogue magazine website.
Vogue partnered with Moda Operandi, an e-commerce site that will allow customers to pre-order the styles they see on the runways. The website, an online version of a trunk show, and launched its partnership with vogue as part of New York Fashion Week Spring 2012. Moda Operandi co-founder Aslaug Magnusdottir explains that the website was conceived to help fashionistas connect directly with designers–cutting out department stores and mass market retailers all together.
“I think a runway show is now looked at as shopping event, rather than as just a press or trade event, as it was in the past,” Magnusdottir told Sylist. “The runway is now looked at as a store window. With this change in perception of the runway, customers are beginning to expect designer product to be made available for pre-order immediately off the runway, and M’O is glad to help meet this demand. There is nothing more satisfying than calling up a designer right after a runway presentation to say, your collection is amazing and, by the way, here are the five items you need to start making NOW.”
A shift in the advertising landscape
“There are no boundaries anymore,” consultant Howard Socol, the former chief executive of Barneys, told The New York Times. “There’s competition for everything. But it is kind of interesting if you are a store, because you’re advertising in a magazine that is competing with you.”
Brandon Holley, the editor-in-chief of Lucky, told The New York Times that magazines still had to be careful about what they endorse, because they could lose the trust of their readers.
On the other hand, a reader should not have to go searching for a product that Lucky recommends.
“If I’m showing you a great boot online, and you can’t buy it right there, that’s not all right anymore,” Holley told The New York Times. “The reader expects to be able to buy it where she sees it.”
Last fall, Net-A-Porter and New York Magazine partnered for a co-branded page that aggregated social media updates from Spring 2011 fashion weeks in cities around the globe. They aggregated Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare and Twitter content from fashion experts including designers, editors, buyers and bloggers from some of the most sought after runway shows in the world. Will innovative partnerships with publications other than Details be off the table for Mr. Porter in light of its new partnership?
A nail in the coffin of print magazines
As media moguls pat themselves on the back for a job well done as they rake in partnership revenues for their online deals, they may be surprised to see revenues from print advertising plummet even further. While the partnerships between magazines and retailers may be extremely convenient for consumers, they remove a good bit of the incentive that retailers have for buying a print ad. Why would Neiman Marcus buy and ad in Vogue when they know that online readers will click to buy through Moda Operandi?
Change is inevitable. Change is good. We’re watching a major shift in the way that fashion is both reported in the media and sold online. Soon bloggers may be the only “objective” journalists left reporting.
What do you think of the new blending of e-commerce and e-publishing?