London, United Kingdom — These are uncertain times for fashion magazines. Last year, Condé Nast closed men’s style magazine Details, cut staff from Glamour, GQ and Self, and moved the entire Teen Vogue team to the Vogue.com floor at One World Trade Center. , sparking speculation that the teen title’s days are numbered.
In the UK, mainstream magazines have not seen an industry-wide annual increase in print advertising since 2005, according to the Advertising Association and Warc report, which tracks data on advertising expenses. Last year, the Magazine Media Association of America (MPA) stopped publishing its annual ad page count, making it harder to gauge industry performance and sending signals that all is not well. Good. And according to media intelligence firm Kantar Media, print advertising revenue in consumer magazines in the United States fell 6.2% year-on-year in the first half of 2015.
Meanwhile, fashion and luxury supplements – the glossy and advertising magazines that are distributed for free as part of a newspaper – are booming. Over the past decade, supplements such as T: The New York Times Style Magazine, WSJ. at the Wall Street Journal and How To Spend It at the Financial Times, bucked the depressing trends of print media, constantly growing their advertisers, increasing their page counts, rolling out more editions and turning a profit.
Since its launch in 1995, How To Spend It, the Financial Times’ bible on all things luxury – from handbags to speedboats to cigars – has grown from four issues a year to 32, and has added American, Asian and Italian editions. . WSJ. launched in 2008 as a quarterly with 51 advertisers; it now has 12 editions a year and 250 advertisers including Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. “Last year, we increased magazine advertising by 18%, which is unprecedented in the US market,” said WSJ editor Anthony Cenname. “It has never been as profitable as it is today.”
The supplements are “extremely” profitable, agrees Tiffanie Darke, creative content director at newspaper publisher News UK, who was editor of Style, The Sunday Times’ weekly fashion supplement from 2002 to 2014. (The The Sunday Times is published by News UK, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) “Newspapers being in the state they are in, they have to do more than wash their faces,” says Darke. According to the Financial Times, How To Spend It has been profitable since its first issue. (Representatives for the publications featured in this article declined to provide specific revenue figures.)
So what’s behind this oasis of profitability in the print media landscape?
Supplements took off in the 2000s, at a time when many newspapers were expanding their cultural coverage and weekend content. In 2003, The New York Times launched T after seeing the success of the fashion and culture content of the newspaper’s Sunday Magazine weekly supplement, as a bet on the revenue opportunity presented by luxury advertising. “I think it was just a financial thing. They were doing so well [in terms of advertising revenues] that they decided to add it as a standalone,” says Deborah Needleman, editor of T.
For advertisers, the supplements were a revelation. While luxury brands wanted to reach the huge readership of newspapers, the newspaper environment – where advertisements could sit alongside news stories about, say, crime or advertisements for everyday products like washing-up liquid – was a challenge. “It’s everything from the quality of the paper to the context in which you see the message and the company you keep,” says Tanwa Edu, commercial director for brands such as Estée Lauder and Coach at the London advertising agency. M2M. With their high-level editorial content and higher-quality paper, the supplements created a place where luxury brands could feel “comfortable”, she says.
In some ways, supplements are similar to standalone fashion magazines. Like a magazine, the supplements have their own editors and a dedicated staff, separate from the newspaper staff. And while most cover a range of topics like art, design or food and wine, fashion is central to their content – last year Madame Figaro, a weekly women’s supplement to French newspaper Le Figaro, featured Olivier Rousteing, Karl Lagerfeld and Victoria Beckham on its cover. “Fashion is probably what we do the most,” adds Deborah Needleman of T.
Fashion is also crucial for ad revenue. Fashion brands are top advertisers from T, and fashion numbers from WSJ. in March and September are the most profitable. In 2013, The Sunday Times relaunched Style – which until then had also covered topics like food – to focus on fashion and beauty, after suffering a drop in advertising revenue following the financial crash. “We knew advertisers wanted a comprehensive fashion and beauty magazine,” says Tiffanie Darke. “It restored a lot of the [advertising] share that we had lost.
But supplements also have key advantages over fashion magazines. First, there is the public. Newspapers have a larger readership than monthly magazines: American Vogue’s total average circulation for each monthly issue is 1,237,939, while American Elle’s is 1,125,536 — The Wall Street Journal’s Daily the mintage is 1,392,470.
Newspaper readers are also older. The average age of American Vogue readers is 38, compared to 45 for the Wall Street Journal. And while many readers move from fashion magazines to other publications as they age, newspaper readers are often lifelong loyalists. But more importantly, the readership of premium newspapers is made up of luxury customers. The income of Sunday Times Style readers is 19% higher than the UK average. And when WSJ. Launched in 2008, company executives said its female readers spent more than $3.5 billion on women’s clothing in the past year, more than the readers of any women’s magazine. including Vogue.
In the UK, according to Tanwa Edu, supplements generally charge advertisers higher rates than glossy monthlies. “When it comes to quality press, brands are very aware that it can lead to direct purchase,” she says.
Luxury supplement readers are also rich in education and life experience, as well as wealth. “Part of what appealed to me about coming to The New York Times is that it has perhaps the smartest, most sophisticated audience in the world,” says Deborah Needleman. “They’re not ambitious readers, they’re not lifestyle-watching people. They are more interested in it, which makes a difference for advertisers. »
They’re not ambitious readers, they’re not lifestyle-watching people. They are more interested in it, which makes a difference for advertisers.
“You see a terrific fusion of relevant and interesting topics for someone of means,” adds Anthony Cenname. “We give people ways that fashion magazines simply don’t have.” This is partly because newspapers have a more democratic audience that is not necessarily fashion enthusiasts – but it also has to do with the journalistic culture of supplements, versus glosses, which have been accused of distributing editorial favors. to their advertisers. “Sunday Times Style magazine comes with the rigor and authority that comes with Sunday Times journalism,” says Tiffanie Darke, but admits that after Style was relaunched in 2013 due to declining advertising revenue, “We decided not to be rude to our advertisers.”
The distribution also makes the difference. Monthly titles like Vogue are much bigger than supplements in terms of pages (British Vogue’s March issue has over 400 pages, compared to How To Spend It, which averages 90). But unlike magazines, supplements – which are given away for free inside a newspaper – don’t have to convince the reader to shell out £4 at the newsstand. According to Deborah Needleman, this gives supplement publishers the “luxury” of making covers or stories that “do not have to please someone in a split second on the newsstand”.
However, supplements are not immune to the pressures faced by stand-alone magazines. Newspaper and magazine publishers are looking for new sources of revenue. The Times newspaper runs Times Plus, a membership business, where readers pay for access to exclusive events and offers, while WSJ. hosts its annual Innovators Awards, a star-studded ceremony that honors talent in areas such as fashion, technology and design. Meanwhile, Condé Nast rolled out brand extensions, including colleges and restaurants; while Hearst’s sources of revenue include licensed products, such as vitamins under the Men’s Health magazine brand.
Another pressure is the need to move online and create more content to feed digital streams. But while most supplements have launched digital products, according to these editors, print remains the best format for luxury. “I think the magazines, Vogue and Condé Nast, just talk about online content and online projects. And I think they kind of forget their own DNA,” says fashion editor Godfrey Deeny. at Figaro. “The DNA of magazines is the same as the DNA of luxury goods: making beautiful objects and reflecting a certain amount of intelligence.”
“Eighty percent of fashion and luxury [advertising] the revenue is still in print,” adds Needleman of T. “The value of the print magazine if it’s a luxury item doesn’t go away.