From last week’s NY Times:
Fashionistas who are following the latest runway collections being shown this month have the opportunity, beginning this season, to buy some of those looks, from designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Derek Lam, right from the Web site of Vogue magazine…. Fashion magazines are suddenly getting into the retailing business.
Some high-end retailers aren’t thrilled to see competition coming from the media partners who cash their advertising checks.
But, hey, wait a second. Haven’t brands themselves spent the past five years — especially as they venture into social media — trying to reinvent themselves as content publishers? When I was at Federated Media we described our “conversational marketing” services as exactly that — “we work with brands to create media” and “brands must become publishers.” The NY Times suggests that the practice is now mainstream:
Mr. Granger [Esquire's editor-in-chief] said that many magazines were making similar moves because retailers were starting to move in on their turf. The new Barneys catalogs, photographed by big names like Juergen Teller, look more like an issue of W, with clothes shown on New York celebrities, and shopping online at Net-a-Porter looks more like flipping through the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.
It’s very hard, even for an experienced magazine publisher, to do what Vogue does. Just like it’s really really hard, even for a veteran retailer, to knock Barney’s off the block. The odds are slim that Conde Nast will dominate high-end retail any time soon, or that we’ll cancel our subscriptions to W because Nieman Marcus catalog has displaced it.
So I love to see both sides adding to the competitive fray — publishers trying to be retailers, and brands trying to be publishers. Increased competition usually leads to innovation. Maybe, in their efforts, some publisher’s will lose their editorial credibility (and then their audiences and then their ad support), and that would be sad. But I think it’s more likely that publishers like Vogue, Esquire and Style.com understand that it would be suicide to pimp out their editorial credibility, and so they’ll find a way to execute these new ad partnerships without losing their souls. Maybe they’ll even find a new business model that supports quality digital publishing.
(Disclosures: My employer, Luminate, is a company dedicated to making images interactive. Publishers use our image-applications platform to provide their end users with apps that enhance images with relevant content and services. One of the applications lets users scroll through products in the picture, and click out to a retailer if they’re in a buying mood.)