If you’ve been exposed to, and depressed by, the broad narrative within the media industry, that we are in an extremely challenging environment for magazines, there’s good news.
In my view, it’s not all doom and gloom and the luxury market, in particular, provides a number of opportunities that we can and should feel positive about.
Most exciting is the chance to become truly global. Historically, newspapers and magazines have been routed in their geography. The Times of London and The New Yorker are obvious examples.
These days, successful people in major cities around the world have more in common with each other than they do with some of their neighbors. The high-earning hipster districts of London’s Shoreditch and New York’s Williamsburg, for example, feel practically interchangeable.
This provides magazines with the opportunity to break free of their geographical shackles and build much
bigger audiences based on shared global interests, rather than location.
This new found geographical freedom is relevant to advertisers, too.
Luxury brands used to think about the world in terms of seasons, of different time zones and continents. You might have launched a high-end car at Britain’s Motor Show, or a fashion collection at New York Fashion Week, but today these brands are global and far-reaching and so are their marketing needs.
One need look no further than Burberry’s recent decision to move to “seasonless” collections as
evidence of this trend in action. And, as the rise in affluent consumers outside of Europe and the US continues apace, the appeal of magazines that enable these brands to reach the right audience
– regardless of geography – increases too.
But, contrary to popular opinion, and notwithstanding the success of Buzzfeed and Vice, the answer to this global opportunity for growth needn’t be limited to digital. Indeed, the death of print has been greatly exaggerated when it comes to more affluent readers and luxury advertisers.
Yes, there can be little doubt that, at the lower end of the market, the demand for print among both readers and advertisers is dropping precipitously. But, at the higher end of the market, the emotional, finite and tactile experience that print creates (much like vinyl in the music industry), remains both relevant and highly desirable.
The success of Monocle,
with its commitment to print and its unusual approach to digital, is a testament to this.
Or course, things really start getting interesting for those magazines that can successfully extend themselves, not just globally, and across print and digital, but into new formats too.
Despite a much more competitive landscape, the best magazine brands still build an incredibly strong connection with their audience that few other media can match. In today’s more fluid media environment, magazines can and should use this extraordinary relationship to create new sources of value for their readers and new revenue streams for their business.
This is particularly true in the luxury space, where affluent customers increasingly crave
experiences, not just products. Brands are constantly looking for opportunities to get closer to their potential customers. The New Yorker festival is just one example of this in action.
Together, these cross-country, channel and format opportunities ought to unlock enough additional value to enable magazines to reverse the trend towards increasingly commoditized content.
Freed from the tyranny of chasing the lowest common denominator of clichéd stereotypes, a new breed of magazines could, and should, emerge that combine previously unconnected areas.
Porter magazine has done this by combining content and commerce, and with The Economist’s (my employer) 1843, a March relaunch of its Intelligent Life magazine, we hope to do it by creating a blend of substance and style.