AM2C Report: Fashion Magazines Are Profitable & Editors Are Still Important
As I write this post, I'm at the American Magazine Media Conference (AM2C) in NYC. The event gathers together an impressive group of innovative minds from within and without the industry. Following is just one highlight from this morning.
The morning's program featured a session called Fashion (Dollars And) Sense, which dissected how and why fashion magazines are truly thriving during this time of disruption. The panel featured five editors-in-chief (Amy Astley of Teen Vogue, Glenda Bailey of Harper's BAZAAR, Ariel Foxman of InStyle, Robbie Myers of ELLE, and Stefano Tonchi of W) and was moderated by legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. A pretty hefty crew.
Generally speaking, fashion magazines have been a bright spot in the industry. This year's September issues broke ad-page records despite a shaky economy. "Fashion magazines are actually doing very, very well because advertisers are still going to them," says von Furstenberg. "The September issues are still important and still mean so much to the brands and to consumers."
The question she posed to the panel was: At a time when the economy is trembling, how is it possible that you're thriving?
Though they all fall under the fashion magazine umbrella, the magazines represented on the panel diverge significantly when it comes to audience personalities and nuanced editorial approaches. What all the EIC's agreed on--and an important takeaway-is that editors and strong editorial brands are more important than ever.
"With the inundation of news and not-news news, people want an authoritative source to cut through all the clutter," says InStyle's Foxman. Magazines are a "way to 'shut off' in a time that is very loud and confusing," said Foxman.
Stefano Tonchi, EIC of W agrees, saying that magazines "need to have content that is selective and unique" and that W seeks to offer choices to readers and makes choices for them."
It's a basic tenant of publishing-but one that has been questioned lately. With all the talk of the social stream of content that readers are exposed to and the advent of user-curated "magazines" on platforms such as Flipboard, who needs an editor? Well, clearly, these vital publications do.
The panelists spoke about the need for deep engagement with readers. Since its birth, ELLE has had the mission to "open women's appetites," says ELLE EIC, Robbie Myers, while according to Amy Astley of Teen Vogue, it is to be "a partner through life." Social media is an opportunity for Teen Vogue to increase this level of engagement, says Astley, and the publication boasts a tremendous social community.
The discussion eventually turned to how the magazines are dealing with digital disruption. The topic was framed by von Furstenberg as, "How do you fight against this new enemy?"
"The biggest mistake is to think of it as an enemy," says Foxman. "We think of it as a blessing."
Foxman says InStyle sees the wild world of the web to be and incredible platform to interact with the audience. But above all, knowing what your core brand values are will ensure these new ventures still make sense. Foxman added: "The more garbage being fed to people, the more people need editors, people need trusted brands. The [magazine is] the foundation of InStyle."
Overall, the panelists emphasized the importance of audience appropriate content, whether it's the celebrities or models they feature on their covers to the compelling storytelling that fills the pages. It's refreshing to hear top-tier editors stand up for the craft-and it helps that they have the financial success to strengthen that position.
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.