Mags Go From Spreads to Screens

TV, Video Now Part of the Business Model for Top Fashion Titles

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- When you consider how fanatical fashion folks are about keeping up their images, it's amazing so many of them are agreeing to let people follow them around 24/7 with cameras. But a TV or online-video presence is fast becoming a necessary part of a fashion magazine's business model.

Fashion mag pages
1. January to September. Source: Media Industry Newsletter
After Hachette Filipacchi's Elle became a participant in "Project Runway" on Bravo in late 2004, the magazine saw newsstand sales and ad pages soar, eventually taking it from No. 6 in its category to No. 2, second only to Condé Nast Publications' Vogue. Elle's September issue, traditionally the biggest issue for all fashion titles, was up 6.6% in ad pages, while Vogue slid 7.1% from 2007.

"When a cable show like 'Project Runway' can get 5 million viewers, magazines are clearly going to embrace TV as a powerful branding tool," said Elle Publisher Carol Smith.

Suzanne Kolb, chief marketing officer of Comcast Entertainment Group, which owns the Style Network, sees the fashion-reality genre as here to stay. "Countless shows have taken place in the medical world, and nobody worries whether you can make a medical drama a big hit. It comes down to: Are the characters compelling? Is this a fascinating place to spend some time? And will different aspects of the audience relate to different aspects of the show?"

That's why last week's announcement from Hearst Magazines' Marie Claire that it was joining forces with the Style Network for "Running in Heels" -- a new series chronicling the inner workings of the magazine -- makes perfect sense.

'Priceless' opportunity
Susan Plagemann, VP-publisher of Marie Claire, said the marketing opportunities for her magazine through TV shows are "priceless." "It can get your name out there in a depth and breadth that is tremendous. ... And that brand recognition can come in the form of greater online traffic, subscribers and greater ad sales. It shows its success in every one of those facets."

Meanwhile, after five successful seasons of "Runway," Elle won't be part of season six, thanks to a messy parting with its former fashion director and 'Runway' judge Nina Garcia. Instead, it's launching "Stylista," a "Devil Wears Prada"-esque reality series that will make its debut Oct. 22 on the CW.

Marie Claire, which hired Ms. Garcia as its new fashion director, is expected to be Project Runway's new editorial partner when it moves from Bravo to Lifetime in January 2009. But even if that doesn't work out ("Runway," owned by the Weinstein Co., is in a legal battle with NBC Universal about moving the show to Lifetime), Marie Claire will have "Running in Heels" -- slated to premiere in March 2009 -- a click away on the remote.

Not everyone views TV as the best business model. Condé Nast seems particularly reluctant to lend its brands to another. Vogue and Glamour have often been the first ones pitched to participate in fashion reality shows, and repeatedly decline the offers to focus on building their own branded video portals. Glamour.TV, which made its debut last week, is a video portal dedicated to aligning brands with short-form video programming (Dockers' "Moms Working It," for example).

Goosing revenue
In the case of Vogue.TV, which recently garnered 1 million video streams for its online docu-series "Model.Live," the focus is more on maintaining the integrity of Vogue and the industry it covers than on creating competitions for entertainment purposes, said Vogue Publisher Tom Florio. So even at a time when magazine ad pages for the reigning fashion title have been down for four consecutive months, Vogue.TV has helped boost overall revenue.

"We want to make sure clients get the print, that we're not giving away the business like everyone else out there," Mr. Florio said. "[But if a client] moves 10% of their budget to the internet, we want to show them where the tonnage is coming from. ... You've got everyone in Hollywood trying to suck money out of this business, so we want to work together exclusively with advertisers online, or package together with pages."

Elle still trailed Vogue by more than 350 ad pages in the first half of 2008 but seems to be evening the playing field online, not to mention in pop culture. Forbes' recently compiled list of the top 10 most-powerful editors in fashion had Elle's Robbie Myers and Vogue's Anna Wintour tied at No. 2, citing Elle's "Runway" exposure and significant web traffic.
Most Popular
In this article: