The Future of Fashion Magazines

While taking in all the 40th Anniversary celebrations at ALDO Expo at ALDO`s beautiful new flagship location on Montreal’s Ste Catherine Street, Chris Mitchell, publisher of GQ Magazine, opined “Everyone is talking these days about how magazine circulation is down, but the truth is that it is only magazines with no voice or brand that are in the gutter”.

This spurred an animated discussion in which a colleague, chatting over a glass of wine at another Montreal landmark, asked “If what Chris said is true, which magazines in Canada do you think are innovating and differentiating themselves in the face of a declining market? And how are they doing that?”

Good question. This led me to reflect on exactly what fashion mags should be doing to remain relevant and viable in our constantly evolving media environment, and to share them with you.

At Media Experts, we think it important that fashion magazines as a category should be striving to continually differentiate themselves, to stay novel, particularly in the Canadian market where we have less competition and smaller audiences. Flare has done a good job at creating a brand and giving personality to its magazine. Up until recently, Lisa Tant was editing the magazine, and also acting as the magazines’ voice within the fashion industry. The same way people look to Anna Wintour for advice in the US market, the Canadian audiences look to someone at that level with the fashion authority to engage them.

In the US, fashion titles have been very successful in creating personalities of their editors and contributors and that does a great job of connecting readers to the brand, in the same fashion that the creative director Joe Zee of Elle US has done.

Another critical key area of differentiation is a fashion title’s online presence. An awesome website, one that provides a totally different experience from the magazine and gives exclusive access into a world many women are dying to see, is a great way for fashion titles to set themselves apart from the crowd. The pioneering
comes to mind as a great example of a site that has successfully merged e-commerce and fashion. Increasingly, consumers want to visit sites where they not only see the latest styles, but can purchase them right away.

In the past month we have seen a number of publications doing an excellent job of building e-commerce platforms curated by the editorial voice of the magazine, most notably among these are Harper’s Bazaar and Lucky.

Many titles are struggling to boost their digital subscription numbers. Providing unique, online content, such as exclusive access to events, or giving users live, streaming video from fashion shows are the types of things that resonate with readers and are key in attracting consumers. We’d also love to see the editors of Flare, Fashion and ELLE Canada write columns on their respective websites, perhaps selecting items for the season that users can shop for directly on the site.

We think the magazines that have led the way in building shopping platforms reflective of their brands, and investing in unique content will continue to attract consumers, and advertising dollars, provided they differentiate themselves and stay innovative.

Some notable developments that we have seen recently include Flare’s Liz Cabral engaging the magazine’s fans with her personal social media posting and fashion recommendations. Getting a tweet from a fashion editor, sitting next to the runway at the Alexander McQueen show and declaring oxblood to be the colour of the season carries tremendous value to a fashion reader.

What are your thoughts on the subject?