It has been a rough year for print publications in fashion, beauty and lifestyle.
There have been widespread layoffs at publications, both for print and digital teams, as magazine giants Condé Nast, Hearst, Time Inc. and Meredith have looked to cut costs, centralize content creation and invest in digital, amid slumping newsstand sales and ad spending in the medium. In some cases, print titles have closed altogether, including Conde Nast’s Lucky magazine, which shuttered last year. More recently, the publisher announced it will also close its health and wellness print title, Self, early next year.
“It’s been a year of transition and reinvention for print,” said Peter Kreisky of Kreisky Media Consultancy. “Historically, each title would have a full roster of people dedicated to the title, and they can’t afford to do that anymore,” he said. “They’ve realized they can share people across titles without losing their uniqueness and quality.”
Companies are creating teams to work across multiple brands on generic content like horoscopes, travel stories and makeup tips, while leaving titles to differentiate themselves with photographs, narratives and the ability to identify fashion trends, he said.
At the same time, publishers are reinventing themselves on social media. From Facebook Live to Instagram Stories to Snapchat Discover, publishers are experimenting with new platform features.
Here’s a closer look at four key trends that have shaped the fashion media landscape this year.
Cutting back in print
Statistics paint a grim picture for the U.S. magazine industry. Magazine sales in the U.S. have continued to fall since 2014. In the third quarter of 2014, 112.6 million magazines were sold, compared to just 84.7 million in the second quarter of this year, according to Statista. Ad revenues for magazines and newspapers are also expected to fall by 5 percent this year, while digital ad spending in general is predicted to increase from $68.8 billion in 2016 to $105 billion in 2020, according to e-marketer.
When it comes to individual publications, Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue ditched the traditional single editor-in-chief and appointed a leadership team of three, which signaled digital and print were equally important. In November, the glossy announced it would scale back its print publications from nine to four issues per year as of 2017. It also folded its business operations into Vogue this year.
While print is scaling back, it’s becoming a more premium product with an increased page size and price. Condé Nast–owned GQ, for example, has increased its newsstand price to $6.99, and it plans to raise its March, September and December issues to $7.99. It also launched GQ Style this year, a spinoff that was born on social media and evolved into a quarterly print publication and website. Vogue also raised its cover price by one dollar to $6.99—other than its September issue, which it increased to $9.99—and it slightly increased its size. Hearst’s Elle magazine has also increased in size by one inch.
Embracing live video
When Facebook rolled out its live video feature at the beginning of this year, fashion and beauty publications were quick to test it, given the visual nature of the industries and audience appetite for behind-the-scenes video. Most of them also turned in-house for talent, choosing to put their editors and reporters in front of the camera.
Elle (which produces 20 live videos a month), Teen Vogue and other publications use the feature to showcase beauty tutorials, tips and product reviews, as well as interviews with social media influencers and beauty experts. The videos are often raw, unscripted and take viewers behind the scenes of a magazine’s office and of runway shows. Some publishers even use Facebook Live for permanent series, like Elle with its bi-weekly “Female Founders” series, which features interviews with female entrepreneurs.
For some publishers, Facebook Live is becoming central to their strategies. Refinery29 set out to build a 10-person Facebook Live team to create 15 live videos a week. And Vox Media’s shopping site, Racked, has bolstered its video team to seven as part of a shift to become Facebook- and email newsletter–first.
Experimenting with Snapchat pop-up channels
Fashion publications have also turned to pop-up channels on Snapchat to leverage the app’s popularity with young people. Vogue introduced one just before New York Fashion Week, and it now hosts a pop-up channel every Tuesday and Friday. Upwards of 70 percent of the content is created solely for Snapchat, while the rest comes from its website. W magazine followed with a pop-up channel centered on its 10th-anniversary Art Issue in November.
Instagram Stories versus Snapchat
Snapchat rival Instagram launched Stories, a Snapchat-like feature that lets users record short videos that disappear after 24 hours, and it didn’t take publishers including Cosmopolitan, Allure, Vogue and GQ long to experiment. Unlike Snapchat, which publishers complain about due to its lack of audience metrics, Instagram Stories guaranteed an audience that was already engaged. For some glossy titles, the feature has completely overtaken Snapchat in terms of where they put their focus on sharing stories and behind-the-scenes content.
“Instagram stories have taken the forefront over Snapchat since they’ve launched,” said Nora Barak, engagement editor of New York Magazine, which the Cut falls under. She said being able to link back to articles on the site is a huge bonus. “Insta Stories have also been a way to recap stories on our site that are more news-y, that wouldn’t necessarily be an Instagram feed post on the Cut.”
As publisher’s continue to experiment with creating social-only content and using platforms to reach wider audiences, the reality is that they—like all other publishers—will be left searching for a way to generate a regular revenue stream. Many are experimenting with sponsored content and brand partnerships, but at this stage, social media is not going to make up for the ad dollars publishers have lost through print.