Fashion magazines finally take the plunge into e-commerce

by Rachel Yeomans | September 3rd, 2009   

Interesting article on the state of magazine advertisements by Meghan Keane from


Getting an ad in the pages of a top fashion magazine might have once been a priority for major advertisers, but as dwindling September issues arrive, that revenue stream is looking less and less viable.

And the once web adverse fashion industry is starting to get more comfortable online. As Fall (and Fashion Week) descends on New York, fashion titles are moving their business models more forcefully into the digital space. Numerous magazines are beginning to offer e-commerce options, which will open up new venues for traffic and monetization.

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Fashion titles’ hesitance to invest in online makes some sense. Luxury advertisers have long prefered magazine pages to web ads. Of the $6 billion that beauty marketers currently spend on ads, only 3% of that money makes it online, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

But the depressingly slim September issues sit on newstands as proof that the fashion ad model is broken. And magazines are responding by focusing more heavily online.

Starting this month, Conde Nast’s site is launching ShopTheLooks, which will sell items directly through the Conde property.

Rachel Wintner,’s associate publisher, tells PaidContent: “Obviously, ROI and driving sales is paramount in everyone’s mind this year. It’s not in reaction to the economy per se, however. But if we can drive advertisers’ sales, we know we’ve done our job beyond simply serving as a branding platform for them, which we also do quite well.”

In addition to selling items featured on the site, will be selling 300×600 display ads on the e-commerce pages.

Conde is also making other e-commerce plays. already partners with retail aggregator ShopStyle and Epicurious’ started a partnership with Snooth this summer that gives users wine recommendations to pair with the site’s recipes.

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PaidContent writes that other Conde titles will soon be experimenting with e-commerce. may be first on the list, but the obvious parallels for a publication like Lucky Magazine that recommends products seem like it should get shopping capabilities soon.

Outside of Conde Nast, Hearst is planning to launch Real Beauty this month, with a focus on makeup, hair care and other beauty topics/products. In August, the publisher launched an iPhone app for Seventeen Magazine that allows users to reserve items at local stores. Meanwhile, Hachette Filipacchi has partnered with discounted luxury shopping site Rue La La.

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Adding e-commerce to the consumerist focus of fashion magazines seems like a no brainer, but it has been a long time coming.

In September of 2007, fashion behemoth Vogue was at its height of ad pages. Weighing in at almost five pounds, the magazine had 840 pages (727 of those were ads). Ad pages have been in decline ever since. This month, the magazine came in at 429 pages, with a 36% decline in ad revenue from last year.

Back in 2007, Vogue launched, where readers of the magazine could go online and shop the advertising in he magazine. The site still exists, but has many flaws — the copy is divorced from the editorila and rather than sending viewers to purchase pages, sends them through various advertising graphics before letting them shop.

The new e-commerce initiatives launched this year may have similar usability issues, but should go some of the way toward proving to advertisers that they can get the same value (or more) from a website that they get from those beautifully designed glossy ad pages.


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