“Without the magazine, we’re nothing,” said Nylon Media CEO Jamie Elden, on a recent call from his NYC office. “When I came here, I made a pretty bold statement: ‘I’m only here because of the magazine.’”
It’s surprising, considering the many company extensions he’s launched since taking the reins in April 2016 (the same month Nylon signed a partnership with UTA, the talent agency Elden had previously worked with for more than a decade). In November, he and his team unveiled Nylon Studios, which — like fellow media companies Hypebeast, BuzzFeed, PopSugar and Refinery29 — “creates content for brands,” including live events and video. In January, he led the launch of Nylon Productions, a TV and video arm responsible for the creation of original short- and long-form programming. And most recently, in May, Nylon entered the conference space, acquiring Simply Stylist, which promotes itself as “the premier conference business focused on fashion and beauty insiders, entrepreneurs, industry leaders and influencers.”
As Elden explained, the Simply Stylist deal was driven by Nylon’s influencer division, Socialyte, started in 2011. “Our big beauty clients are very interested in how they can get more one-on-one connections with the consumer,” he said. “This allows them to do that.”
What’s more, it backs his belief that — while print is important — no publisher should put all its eggs in that basket.
Growing beyond print
“The whole print magazine [market] is in disarray,” he acknowledged. As reported by MagNet, which tracks newsstand sales across the U.S. and Canada, print revenues dropped 43.2 percent between 2011 and 2016. “If I was investing in Condé Nast right now, I’d be like … dead. Unless they have a plan to scale the rest of that business to match what the print revenues are doing, and within the next few years, I’d be pretty scared.”
One of his three goals when he started at Nylon — along with moving to strictly original content across channels and building a strong advertising platform (Nylon Studios) — was to “exploit the idea of Nylon into other platforms.”
“[Nylon] had been around for 20 years. I really believed it was ready for its next evolution,” he said. “I know digital, I know social, and I know print. But I also know Over-the-Top, and I know cable, and I know television.”
His resume is a clear testament to that. Prior to Nylon, from 2006 to 2010, Elden was the svp of digital and entertainment at Alloy Media and Marketing, which he described as “a teen/young adult market company that wanted to get into digital content and programming” at the time. In addition to building its print and digital content, he led the development of its movies and TV shows, the latter of which included “Gossip Girl,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Pretty Little Liars.”
At Nylon, Elden wasted no time in getting back into the Hollywood game. Within months, he was pitching multiple pilots based on staple Nylon features, and wound up signing with, what he calls, “three of the biggest production companies in America” (495, Bunim/Murray and Propagate). Nylon currently has two shows in development, including one picked up by Amazon that premier in three weeks.
“We developed a short-form news program for them called ‘Nylon News,’” he said. “It’s around 12 minutes an episode and hosted by our global editor-in-chief, Gabrielle Korn. It’s a global culture show, through the lens of Nylon — so it’s looking at all the cool things happening in music, fashion, politics and lifestyle that really touch the hearts of young females globally.”
Reaching new audiences
According to Nylon’s latest media kit, 93 percent of its audience is female, and 80 percent is between 18 and 34 years old. (Its print readership is 1.2 million, as of March 2017, and its digital network reaches more than 35 million people per month.) However, that’s set to change in the years ahead. “One demo we’ve acquired recently, certainly within the last couple of years, is the tween,” Elden said. “I’m talking, 13- to 16-year old girls are picking up Nylon, and they’re discovering it on Instagram and Facebook,” he said.
Nylon is also set to attract more men, considering its relaunch of Nylon Guys early this year. (After debuting in 2004. it went all-digital in 2015.) Filling the void left by Details and Complex’s print edition, it’s had an impressive rebirth, said Elden. “My sales team gets calls from agencies and brands, asking how they can get involved; they’re coming to us first. That’s never happened to me in my career.”
Strengthening the legacy
Despite all the recent change, the Nylon Media staff has remained relatively unscathed. “The talent was here, it just needed a road map,” Elden said. “I delivered the road map, and everything else fell into place.” And, while his motto is “always expanding,” Elden said he wants to spend the next couple of years simply building the brand as it stands. “We’re plugged intro all the right platforms right now, all the right revenue streams,” he said — and that certainly includes Nylon magazine.
“We have no plans to shut it down, no plans to reduce it at all in the foreseeable future, and that’s it,” he said. “I originally set out to build resources and support around it, and promote it, and that’s what we did. It’s a great marketing tool — you’re going into a meeting where you’re selling digital or solutions, and people can actually pick it up and look at it. That touch-and-feel will always be important.”
What’s more, it’s a legacy brand — which, according to Elden, is a big plus. He called out Cosmopolitan (which was established as a women’s magazine in 1965 and currently boasts the largest community of millennial women online) as a brand that’s done a great job of expanding into new platforms and setting itself up for future growth. “I’m a big fan of legacy brands, and the way the media landscape is going right now, legacy brands are winning the race.”