Magazines Get Serious About Ecommerce
Magazine publishers are rapidly getting serious about ecommerce.
Earlier this month, Time Out New York, a weekly print and digital magazine covering entertainment in New York City, began selling event tickets through its website and iOS apps. And last week, Time Inc.-owned Real Simple magazine released a mobile gift guide that allows users to shop directly from the app. The next day, Elle magazine launched a shoppable trend guide on Facebook that encouraged users to make purchases on advertisers’ websites.
These initiatives are enabling lifestyle magazines to explore new revenue streams as their mainstay moneymaker, print advertising, continues to decline.
It’s about time. Online retailers, as we’ve explored, have been encroaching on magazines’ territory for years now. They’ve hired top magazine talent — for instance, former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl now directs editorial at Gilt Taste, and Esquire UK editor-in-chief Jeremy Langmead is the editor of Mr Porter — and paired them with retail veterans to develop a new kind of online shopping experience, one that uses magazine-like editorials and photo spreads to drive visitors to purchase.
At Gilt Taste, for example, a story and recipe for “perfectly tender chicken” is sidelined with links to purchase Poussin Chickens, $55.95 for a set of eight. A “how to” fashion spread features items that are two clicks from a shopping cart on Park & Bond.
These sites don’t come close to competing with lifestyle magazines in terms of depth and breadth of content, but they are getting there. Men could just as easily turn to Park & Bond or Mr Porter now for style advice and inspiration as Esquire or Details — and finish their shopping in one go.
Bridging the Editorial Divide
It’s been relatively easy for retailers to move into the content space, particularly because they haven’t had to entertain illusions of editorial objectivity. Editorial has from the beginning been posited as a bonus on these sites, a complement to the shopping experience designed to inspire and entertain shoppers.
Magazine publishers, on the other hand, have struggled to bridge this divide. How do you maintain readers’ trust once you begin recommending products for which you receive a cut of every sale? Or, in the case of Time Out New York, if you become a retailer yourself?
The trick, it appears, is to position it as a service. Vogue partnered with retailer Moda Operandi during New York Fashion Week last September to “enable” readers to pre-order fashions directly from the runway — a partnership that came about through the magazine’s close relationship with Moda’s executive team. (Cofounder Lauren Santo Domingo is also a contributing editor at Vogue.)
Real Simple‘s gift guide is positioned similarly. The app features about 50 products from a range of retailers. Instead of sending users to third-party websites to make multiple purchases — which is what the vast majority of magazines do with the products mentioned on their websites or on their apps — users shop and check out directly from the app in one seamless, time-efficient experience.
“We’re cutting the effort of having to hunt down the products [we recommend],” Real Simple editor-in-chief Kathleen Harris said in an interview with Mashable. “We’re offering that service on top of our great editorial.”
Disclosures were also essential for Vogue and Real Simple, since both receive(d) cuts of every sale.
Time Out New York‘s approach is slightly different. The weekly print-based publication has set up a ticket-selling shop as a separate entity, which users can access from a sidebar on timeout.com/newyork.
All of these seem to me like promising approaches: They’ve been smartly positioned, offering a range of merchandise without seeming to in any way compromise editorial integrity. Now we’ll have to see whether they’re profitable and how they evolve — and if they can move quickly enough into the space to outperform their retail-and-content competitors.
Image courtesy of Flickr, khawkins04