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InsideFMM | July 28, 2014

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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?

Comments

  1. melanie

    I think this concept was just a matter of time waiting to happen with the right partners finding each other. In the fashion industry it really does happen all over, with designer collaborating with retailers to make uniques brands only for them, car dealers signing on with specific car company’s etc..
    The key is to get it right, and I feel all company’s so far, magazines vs on -line have made a great connection. As a person who still actually loves to have a magazine in her hands, it was cumbersome to see something that I liked then go to the computer and look for it on line, only to see that the majority of the time is was not in stock yet. This partnership allows the reader to save time, and see a product that is immediately available. making the sell through of the goods much faster, allowing for new product to replace old product probably within a few days rather a month once it hit the sales floor.
    I also think that when a publication backs a site or even a product it is validating it and giving it a sign of approval. This is an area that customers still want. they want to now that a fashion leader or innovator (editorial or celebrity) has endorsed this product one way or another. The customer feels saver buying it and that it is not that much of a risk if a high profile endorsement is behind it. I can go on and on…

    • Marguerite Darlington

      Melanie, I think that you are absolutely right. This has the potential to be a huge boon for the publishing industry, if the make the right partnerships and–this is the part that I’m concerned about–maintain editorial integrity. For example, will GQ be able to cover an up-and-coming designer if they have a line that competes with something being sold on Park & Bond? Part of the reason that readers trust the editors of fashion magazines is that they are theoretically objective and will pick the most attractive of all the competing lines. Will these partnerships limit the editors’ to choose? I’m not sure how it will shake out, but it’s food for thought…

  2. Mrs. Darlington,

    This is a very interesting topic that you have chosen to address in your post. As someone who has always kept up with the latest trends through fashion magazines, I find the relationship between e-commerce and e-publishing the next step in creating a convenient and easy way for readers to shop. This relationship can provide something to customers that online sites have never done before; the ability to shop only the most current in-style and trendy items of the season. The fact that women and men do not need to put effort into understanding or even recognizing trends make this combination of e-commerce and e-publishing ideal, saving customers’ time and money. As seen during this year’s New York Fashion Week, technology has played such an important role in the success of these companies like we have never seen before. After reading about Burberry’s revolutionary use of social media sites, like Twitter (which caused the company to become a worldwide trending topic), I cannot help but notice the importance for fashion company’s to have an online presence to capture readers’ attention. You touched on this subject in your post when you quoted “I think a runway show is now looked at as shopping event” by Moda Operandi co-founder Magnusdottir. As a result, I think that e-publishing has had a positive influence on the reader, and in turn, will lead to more sales online and within the stores. I wonder if you have also found the new “boom” in social media definitive in the success of magazines and in expanding their online presence? Do you see magazines becoming more than just monthly publications and more of a consistent source for fashion information?

    Overall, I feel that the fashion industry’s ability to keep up with technology will only make the industry as a whole more successful. Although there has become less incentive for retailers to buy print ad space, I believe that magazines will become outdated as e-readers become less expensive, and more advanced as the years go on. E-readers have opened an entirely new gateway for advertisers as magazines are now able to embed video clips sharing the “editor’s note” instead of text on a page. These interactive options have made e-reader versions of popular magazines highly successful. By blending e-publishing and e-commerce, many magazines will gain more traffic, publicity and followers. This is an option that many customers have been waiting for as most fashion magazines are already treated as catalogues. To close, I do not see any negative effects of this combination and cannot wait to see the positive effect that this new division innovation has on the fashion industry as a whole. I only wonder what is your opinion on the fashion industry’s adaptation to the latest technological advances and whether you think that it is helping or destroying the industry? Also, do you believe that magazines will die out and be completely replaced by e-readers? Thank you for shedding light on this phenomenal trend within the fashion industry, I cannot wait to see how this combination further develops in the future.

    • Marguerite Darlington

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Shelby! Let me be clear, I don’t see the trend as negative, but I do see it as a fundamental philosophical shift for the writers. I was educated as a journalist, and in our ethics classes objectivity–having absolutely no financial affiliation with a subject that you write about– was stressed, to the point that the writer must disclose any financial affiliations.

      I’m all about technology, and I greatly admire companies like Conde Nast that stay on the cutting edge of content production, ensuring that the brand of their magazine will endure once the paper magazine has disappeared forever. In answer to your question, yes, I do believe that the paper magazine will cease to exist, in part because of this new financial model. Multiple handbag manufacturers will not advertise in a magazine that partners with just one, which means that the old-fashioned ad revenue model based on “objective” journalism is a dinosaur, just like print runs of 30,000. I do believe that magazines will continue to publish, but I imagine it will be on demand, and perhaps even in book format.

      I think it’s a really exciting time to be in publishing, and I love keeping up with the trends. Especially social media. And video. :)

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