As low cost (sorry, ‘high value’) flyers know, the narrowness of the seats and trays make it virtually impossible to work on one’s laptop without causing damage to one’s neighbour’s ribs. A recent such flight, therefore, gave me the perfect excuse to guiltlessly indulge myself with an international magazine fix, writes Britta Reid.
Although I am a devoted and faithful reader of certain titles such as Vanity Fair and Monocle, I do enjoy the occasional dalliance outside my regular repertoire.
My choice of title was guided by the fact that it was the month of February, and it was the first anniversary of an extraordinary global glossy, called Porter. A year ago when it was launched, Porter caused uproar in the chic and coiffed world of fashion publishing. The established publications did not appreciate a new entrant into a tightly contested market. Furthermore, it was asked what was that digital pioneer of content and commerce, Net-A-Porter, doing launching an old fashioned print publication?
For non-fashionistas, let me explain that Net-A-Porter is, to quote its slogan, “The world’s premier fashion online luxury fashion destination”. Natalie Massenet, a fashion journalist, founded it in 2000. She cleverly combined the upmarket retail aspect of the site with the style of a fashion magazine. In fact, Net A Porter had long had its own weekly digital fashion magazine, The Edit. The operation is now owned by Richemont and has over 2 600 employees. The site attracts approximately six million unique visits every month.
At the time of the launch, Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue rather witheringly predicted that Porter was likely to be a “grand Sainsbury’s magazine”, acknowledging Net-A-Porter’s success at combining content and commerce. But Massenet, had lured truly seasoned editorial talent to her enterprise. Tess Macleod Smith, joined from Hearst Magazines UK, where she was the publishing director of Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. Lucy Yeomans, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, also moved across to the daring new enterprise.
In a video posted on the Business of Fashion, Massenet stressed that she had always seen Net-A-Porter as a media company. She went on to say that a serious media player simply could not ignore “one of the most important existing media, which is print”. Over and over, she and her publishing team enthused about the power of print – its authority, its tangibility, its longevity. They had done a great deal of research to understand The Woman (not the consumer) they were targeting. They were absolutely convinced of her passion for print, for her desire for a “must read, must clutch” fashion fix.
This Woman was a truly global citizen travelling frequently and buying fashion titles in different countries. They, therefore, decided to produce a genuinely global title in that one English publication is printed and distributed in over 60 countries – “just like The Economist”, as Macloed Smith pointed out.
The birthday issue of Porter was a real treat to read. All the expected elements of a good fashion glossy are there, but there is an underlying sense that women need to dress to please themselves rather than simply follow fashion. The element of curation is there, but the tone is not dictatorial. Vogue produces exquisite fashion shoots, but would that publication attempt one inspired by American feminist Gloria Steinham’s style? Then there is also a wealth of intriguing reading on topics ranging from the “male feminist” to the life of the bohemian blue-stocking artist Niki de Saint Phalle, and the 10 rules for success from the inventor of Spanx!
Of course, Massenet and her team have not neglected to weave shoppability through the magazine. A Net-A-Porter app allows the privileged global Woman to scan the magazines content and find the information and price of featured clothes. With one click she can pop any item she desires into her shopping bag. If she lives in London, New York or Hong Kong she will receive her purchase within hours!
What is particularly interesting is the effect that Porter is having on Net-A-Porter customers. Macleod Smith recently told Media Week UK that when a customer becomes a Porter subscriber, her frequency of visiting the site increases by 25%. While that may not be shabby, the real pay-off is seen in terms of her spend on the site. This increases by an impressive 125%! Macleod Smith confirmed that an overwhelming 85% of the core audience of devoted digital shoppers still said that print was the number one influence in helping them decide what to buy!
So cheers to Porter on her first birthday! And cheers to Porter for proving the power of print.
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