Is Vogue Still in Vogue?

“We have one brand, we have one core DNA, and we don’t deviate from that. It’s still Vogue. I don’t think that has changed.” American Vogue publisher and chief revenue officer Susan Plagemann says. Well, we have some thoughts.

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Vogue, one of fashion’s most iconic, storied media brands, as a key pillar of the Condé Nast portfolio, is under more pressure than most. In 2015, the publishing house discontinued Lucky and Details magazines, as well as Style.com – and cut lots of editorial and sales personnel along the way, focusing its strategy around its most valuable brands: Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Wired and The New Yorker.

However, the magazine is in hot water in dealing with the challenges and opportunities of adapting to the rise of digital media. It is undeniable that digital is the heart of the business model for consumer magazines nowadays. The model is still under pressure from several directions all at once, both physical and digital. Magazines have become more expensive to launch, and the cost of attracting and keeping the subscribers has risen.

In fact, newsstand sales simply aren’t what they used to be and that is inevitable with the arrival of the digital age. In 2010, monthly single-copy sales of Vogue averaged 343,614, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. In 2015, they averaged just 193,941.

So, is Vogue still in vogue?

Keeping Up With the Digital Age

Magazine publishers have been slow to get onto the internet. However, they are making efforts: the company has dealt with this gap by hiring outsiders or buying digital companies outright, as Condé Nast has in taking executives from its newly formed entertainment group and embedding them into corporate sales.

According to Comscore, Vogue.com had 5.3 million US users in February 2016, lower than Elle.com (7.4 million) and Harpersbazaar.com (6.3 million). However, Vogue’s reach on social media platforms is much greater. For instance, Vogue has 9.8 million followers on Instagram compared to Elle’s 1.5 million and Harper’s Bazaar’s 1.9 million. On Facebook, Vogue boasts 7.4 million likes. Elle has 3.8 million and Harper’s Bazaar has only 2.8 million likes.

Since a large percentage of the media consumption has shifted online, the magazine has to not only serve the reader through every channel, they also have to be creative in doing so and distinguish themselves from the competitors at the same time.

“No question, we still have to get better at digital,” Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg said. “We’ve got to find ways for people to help us build great digital products.”

Print Still Matters

In a commercial sense, it is evidenced that print media is still ‘in vogue’ in the advertising ecosystem. There is no doubt that print is still the core of the magazine business and it is still the way to maintain the brand’s image and authority.

I used to flip through my mum’s fashion magazine page by page, even though I did not understand the content. However, the experience of it was pure pleasure – portability and glossiness, even the advertisements in the magazine, just enhances the experience. All of the pleasing characteristics of physical copy magazines cannot be matched online. However, the content should still be trusted by the readers and authoritative. Meanwhile, maintaining the social media channels of the magazine, they still need to take care of the print audience.

The content online can easily clash with itself. Personally, I had enough of reading ’10 Ways To Get Fit This Summer’ over and over again.

No thanks.

Sharing is the Key

With social media increasingly replacing the home page as a pathway to the news, publishers are trying to get their content shared as much as possible. Already, the traditional homepage is dying. In 2016, about 33% of web traffic came from Vogue’s more than 40 million followers on social platforms.

Nowadays, people consume singles instead of CDs and read one article instead of buying the whole magazine.

In addition to fairly obvious tips, people like to share things that make them feel like experts, so focus on content that makes them feel smart and in the know would be the key to the success. ‘Word of mouth’ marketing is still considered one of the best at this moment.

Indeed, we see that Vogue is making an effort and attracting headlines for its process to make up the lost time online. With the launch of Vogue Runway, a high-profile video content interface, the Vogue Youtube channel, and its famous ’72 Questions With’ series, they are having a proper go at revamping Vogue for the digital age. However, the brand hasn’t forgotten its core product. Just as American Vogue publisher and chief revenue officer Susan Plagemann says, “How the editors make that palatable in an Instagram post versus online versus in the magazine is up to their creative discretion. But it’s still Vogue. “


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Eros Liu is a Melbourne-based writer, sucker for fashion, pop culture fanatic, and strawberry milkshake enthusiast. He is also an occasional coat hanger. Currently studying a Master of Commerce at RMIT University, specialising in marketing, Eros is working at CrowdInk. For a while, he worked as a fashion freelancer for Target magazine/RAMP magazine in Shanghai. He’s also had the pleasure of working for ELLE magazine Hong Kong as a personal assistant and then he accidentally splashed two flat whites on the beautiful marble table on his first day. It was all very The Devil Wears Prada.