The magazine industry was one of the hardest hit during the economic crisis. Several publications went out of business, others switched to online formats while some reduced the amount of issues published and/or the size of their publications. The digital revolution has completely changed the industry's landscape, forcing companies to search for a new business model. Indeed, magazine consumption is not what it used to be therefore several publications are scrambling to keep their respective readers' attention, nevermind trying to find new ones. Fortunately, amongst all of the trial and error, a select few entities seem to have figured out a way to build new magazine empires (well, they're at least on the right track). 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion would be the first to tell you that print is far from dead.
First things first, let's talk about the actual physical product. In this constantly evolving online world, selling a magazine comes down to two main things: design and quality. It's these tangible elements that can't be duplicated online that will help a publication sell. As Luke Hayman of Pentagram explains: "...the publications that end up enduring will be the ones that exploit what print only can do. The best ones will be things that you want to save, not toss in the recycling bin. They'll project a sense of craftsmanship and permanence. And each one should be an object that feels terrific in your hand." 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion are all magazines that consumers collect, in a similar way to novels. This is largely due to their look and feel. They differentiate themselves visually by focusing on graphic design. Fantastic Man has won a D&AD award for best magazine and newspaper design and 032c has been exhibited at the London Design Museum. In order to stimulate the reader's sense of touch, all of these magazines are thick. Not just the magazine itself, but also the pages. They're heavy publications that could be considered modern day coffee table books. Monocle and Purple also include special edition supplements in each issue. For example, Monocle's November 09 issue came with a small business guide and Purple magazine # 08 came with the Dash Snow purple book entitled You can't drink it if it's frozen. Monocle even incorporated an elastic strap bookmark into its magazine. It's by paying attention to these physical details that these companies add value to their magazines and entice consumers to purchase them.
Distribution and publication can also help a magazine's chances of success. Fantastic Man and 032c have played on the exclusivity factor. Both publications are distributed in a small number of locations. This strategy reinforces the feeling of rarity and exclusivity. Buying the magazine becomes an adventure. It's a sort of pilgrimage, if you will, meaning that once the consumers actually obtain the magazine, they value it and cherish it even more. Although Purple Fashion can be purchased in more locations, like 032c and Fantastic Man, it is a biannual magazine. Since there are only two issues published every year there is a lot more effort put into production. The final product has more content for the consumer to enjoy. Content is another crucial factor to consider. It's not about who will talk about what first anymore. It's about who is offering the most unique perspective on the subject. Purple fashion carved its place in the market by creating a fashion magazine that was real, raw and at times, provocative. It went against the glamourous 80s fashion imagery. Some even went as far as to call it anti-fashion. All of these factors reinforce the image of craftsmanship associated with these magazines which in turn convinces consumers to buy them and, more importantly, hold on to them.
Another reason for these magazines' success is their ability to leverage their brand through various media. They interact with consumers on several platforms, the two main ones being print and online. It is important that these platforms leverage each other. Too many magazines are simply copying and pasting their hard copy image and content onto their websites. This is the wrong approach. By doing this, the consumer will only visit one of the two formats for his or her information needs. It's as if the company is voluntarily making one of its two key consumer touchpoints, obsolete. Magazines need to get consumers to buy their print issues, and while they're impatiently waiting for the next one they can calm their craving by getting their fix online or via another innovative platform. By engaging the consumer in these different worlds, the consumer is more frequently interacting with the brand and hopefully interacting for longer periods of time.
For example, in addition to Monocle's print magazine, fans can read the daily Monocolumn, listen to the weekly podcast, shop online, as well as look at various video interviews and reports, all via the website. Visitors can't read any of the magazine's articles unless they get a paid subscription. Monocle has also opened up its own boutiques in London and Los Angeles. They have even collaborated with various brands. These collaborations include a series of dress shirts with Oliver Spencer and a lamp with Andreas Martin-Löf. Fans of Fantastic Man can visit the website for the daily recommendation. 032c has yet to truly establish its online presence but its editor and creative director, Joerg Koch is creating Select "...a test vehicle for 032c's biggest project: developing its quiet online presence into a constantly-updated content site that not only complements its flagship print product, but stands alone in quality and scale." (The Business of Fashion) Purple Fashion has created a strong online presence through its founder's purple DIARY website. Oliver Zahm keeps readers interested in his magazine by constantly giving them an intimate look into his personal and professional life. Purple has also recently launched an online boutique where the magazine sells limited edition products. Unlike other players in the magazine business 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion embraced the internet and found ways to use this tool to leverage and/or complement their print format.
Although 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion are currently running successful publications, they need to continue innovating in order to remain leaders in the disruptive magazine industry that we know today. These companies seem to have established prosperous mixed business models incorporating both the print and online formats however no one has found a way to generate significant revenue online. This is something that needs to be explored in the future. For now, the digital realm remains an extension of the print realm but it may well completely replace it one day. The online format offers the immediacy that younger consumers seek. At the moment, there is still a market segment that values the craftsmanship involved in making print magazines but this market segment will most likely continue to diminish. This isn't a nice thought for any hopeful magazine editors out there but it's a reality that needs to be addressed. Well, that is if you want to be the next Tyler Brulé or Olivier Zahm, and if you don't, you probably picked the wrong industry to work in.