|Gwen Stefani's L fragrance is a charter advertiser pairing with Vogue.|
"Advertisers and companies are far more sophisticated about the way they go about web advertising today than they were years ago," said Tom Florio, publishing director of Vogue. "[ShopVogue] is not about slamming a logo on things as much as it is about creating an organic entertainment platform, in some cases with your product. We're finding more clients are more open-minded about this approach of marrying themselves with the print platform, and Vogue seems to have given them a real marketing, branding advantage."
In its previous incarnation, the static, retail-only ShopVogue.com, ShopVogue was designed to serve as an interactive web extension for advertisers who bought space in the September and December issues. Users could drag their favorite products from the issue and create their own virtual wardrobes, with the opportunity to purchase the items directly from the site. The project was a surprise success in its original form, with 265,000 people spending some 30,000 hours looking at ads and clicking on more than $4 million worth of products to buy, Mr. Florio said.
Since many key luxury brands -- David Yurman and Salvatore Ferragamo among them -- don't have retail web presences outside their channels on sites such as NeimanMarcus.com, the competition in the unique space of upscale fashion on the web is rather limited. Mr. Florio hopes the glossy new broadband format will turn ShopVogue.TV into the premier web destination for fashionistas and the women who want to be them. "I don't think there's anything like this anywhere in our sector," he said. "So what we need to do is put it up, see how the audience responds and see how the advertising community responds to it."
Mr. Florio is aided in his virtual quest by the fact that fashion entertainment has reached a cultural peak, courtesy of TV shows such as "Project Runway" and "Ugly Betty" and movies such as "The Devil Wears Prada." But even in this crowded market, Mr. Florio said, there's a void waiting to be filled by a truly authentic voice. "There are all these staged shows about the world of fashion, but they're not really real," he said. "Our feeling was: If there's such an interest in entertainment and in our world, so many of these brands have entertainment value in and of themselves. So why not create a video channel that speaks to the real world of fashion and apply to that TV content with some of the benefits of airing it over the internet, like the interactive quality?"
The magazine hasn't avoided the small screen entirely. In 2002, Vogue introduced "Trend Watch," a nationally syndicated reality special with story lines geared toward fashion-forward women (examples: the art of creating "the smoky eye" and catching up with Serena Williams hot off the court at the Australian Open). The show cleared 30 million households in its first season and eventually expanded to enough key affiliates -- including WNBC in New York -- to reach 80 million this year. With ShopVogue.TV, however, "Trend Watch" will live exclusively online, along with other video-based features such as "Behind the Lens" and "60 Seconds to Chic." Vogue's video podcasts, created before the launch of iPod video, continue to reach more than 1 million viewers, Mr. Florio said.
With print still king for Vogue (this year's September issue was its fattest ever, with a record 727 pages of ads glossed to perfection), the next step for Mr. Florio is harnessing a social-networking community in a way that distances it from editorial competitors. Hearst, for example, acquired online shopping hub Kaboodle last month, while Vogue publisher Conde Nast has built community sites such as Flip.com and Lipstick.com targeted toward women. And Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.'s Elle was the first magazine to partner with MySpace when its Fashion community launched in June. Mr. Florio has no plans to turn to an acquisition model for Vogue, opting to build from within instead. Should ShopVogue expand its reach, it likely would be through mobile, he said, via subscriptions with several major carriers.
For now, the plan is to use early metrics and traffic to ShopVogue to determine the extent of its future as a community-building site. In the site's launch form this week, users can share their favorite videos by saving clips or sending them to friends via e-mail, just as they would on YouTube or MySpace. Eventually, ShopVogue will be further tricked out with comments, message boards and perhaps a little user-generated e-commerce. "The goal is to bring a like-minded audience together -- allowing them to post their own fashion, beauty and home links. The idea here is really to see what kind of community we can build and how viral that can become," he said. "Potentially, it could become an online fashion bazaar where people can talk about where they go buy things."