In my last column, I wrote about the passion and enthusiasm with which Caxton Magazines is tackling the building of a new future for their brands. Serendipity prevailed as I was browsing through Media Week the other day and came across a report on the PPA (Professional Publishers Association) Festival of Magazine Media, held in Holborn, London in May. This report highlighted a new sense of optimism and confidence among mainstream publishers, and reflected the issues of my earlier column.
Nicholas Coleridge, the president of Condé Nast International industry was cited as saying “I’m very confident and in a rather expansionist mode at the moment. We are still launching magazines around the world, but we’ve also just hired one hundred people to work in Camden on a new e-commerce business that we’ve started.” Style.com sells fashion, beauty and tech items as well as upmarket travel options. He also said the company was investing in an “enormous” new video team, and underscored his optimism be claiming to be “full of beans”.
It was edifying to learn that the redoubtable ‘grand dame’ of fashion publications, the 98-year-old Vogue, had just enjoyed its most profitable year. This was hot on the heels of the US edition winning the American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Award for Best Magazine. It is notable that this award recognises “magazines for print and digital editorial excellence and branded content and services, including conferences and events”. There was mention in the award citation of the skillful selection of cover subjects and widening of the audiences demographic base, but also recognition of its digital make-over, its development of diverting the “73 questions” video format and its partnership with the Metropolitan Museum.
One of the more interesting ventures that Vogue internationally has been involved in recently is moving into the palate pleasing area of restaurants. Over a decade ago, the Vogue Café was founded in Moscow with one of the Russia’s restaurant magnates, Arkady Novikov. Still running today with tables in high demand, it became the inspiration for the establishment of Condé Nast International Restaurants some four years ago. There are now Vogue Cafés in Kiev, Dubai and a Vogue Lounge in Bangkok A Vogue Café is scheduled to launch in Doha at the end of 2015.
This culinary extension has not been confined to Vogue. Condé Nast is also the publisher of GQ and Tatler, and more bibulously, there is now a GQ Bar in Dubai as well as a Tatler Club in Moscow. While these are partnership ventures, Condé Nast oversees the restaurants’ adherence to brand integrity on an ongoing basis, even to the extent of ensuring that the restauranteurs receive monthly copies of the publications.
The company is also about to launch The Condé Nast Centre of Fashion & Design Shanghai, following on the success of its London College, which has trained some 450 students to date. As the publisher of Vogue, GQ and Glamour, the company has access to a designers and fashionistas, who are prepared to lecture at the college. The London school discovered the need for more technical creative fashion courses and has met this demand. Already an obvious next location for the next Fashion and Design Centre is India.
While these extensions are allowing Condé Nast to tap into completely new revenue streams, the company continues to launch print titles. A few such examples in recent months are the launch of Architectural Digest Middle East in Dubai, Vanity Fair in Mexico, Glamour in Iceland and GQ in Thailand. The role of the print publications is to establish the brands and build the strong relationships with readers that facilitate brand extensions. As Time Inc UK’s CEO, Marcus Rich, put it “magazine brands sit at the heart of fantastic opportunities. The relationship we have with our audiences means we can build new brands, new revenue streams.”
The Adweek report on the PPA Festival also touched on another theme that resonated with me after my visit to Caxton Magazines – that of the need to build a culture of passion and innovation. This was addressed by Tom Bureau, Immediate Media’s CEO, publisher of Radio Times, a range of BBC titles and special interest publications such as Cross Stitch Crazy and Simply Crocheting. Besides stressing the need to break down silos, attract young talent, he spoke about the need for employees to have an “emotional attachment” to the business, and pointed out the obvious but often forgotten point that how you treat your people “makes all the difference”.
Although only a single day event the PPA Festival certainly seems to have been a landmark event in a previously gloomy publishing landscape.
Britta Reid is an independent media consultant.
IMAGE: Editor of US Vogue, Anna Wintour / Wikimedia
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