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- 24 Jun 2010
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Digital Renaissance: the Magazines Making an Online Comeback


Magazines think outside the (print) box in order to make the most of what digital has to offer.

Many readers were left feeing deeply disappointed last year when Conde Nast pulled some of its best-loved titles from the shelves, including Gourmet, Cookie, Domino and some additional bridal titles. Now at least two of them are making a comeback as purely digital brands. So, what’s the strategy? And will it work?

Gourmet (a foodie magazine) is to make a come- back as a free iPad app. Re-branded as Gourmet Live, the aim is to re-engage old and new fans alike. They also hope to make use of the prodigious archive of material. Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend sees the project as an entirely new departure: “It’s not a magazine and it’s not a digital version of a magazine. It’s a whole new way to engage with consumers.” It’s an approach that should see traditional Gourmet readers not only interacting with the content they would previously have read in an online scenario, but also linking up to Facebook and Twitter. For older readers this could be a gateway to a whole host of other media and social networking channels. Novelty will be accompanied by consistency though, with the Conde Nast outlet hoping to maintain its reputation for rich photography and specialist foodie prose.

The hope is that although the magazine stopped being printed, the brand continued to exist and retains its appeal with consumers. The magazine giant is also hoping that Gourmet’s new digital guide will appeal to a new generation of younger, web-savvy food enthusiasts, as well as the older core readership. Judging from the success of its Epicurious app, another foodie venture, which has been downloaded 2.4 million times in iPhone, iPad and Android devices, Townsend is feeling optimistic. But striking a balance between attracting new readers and keeping the old readers happy is a challenge that should not be underestimated.

Lonny meanwhile is to replace Domino as the new accessible interiors and design title. Michelle Adams, 27, a former market assistant at Domino, and Patrick Cline, 34, a photographer and photo re-toucher, stumbled upon the idea together one night over dinner as they mourned the death of some of their favourite glossy interiors titles. The duo have raised an undisclosed sum from Kristoffer Mack, an investment banker and investor in young Internet companies, and J. Christopher Burch, a venture capitalist and a founder of the fashion label Tory Burch. “The shelter design industry is incredibly discombobulated,” Mack said. “There’s a ton of money and it’s completely unprofitable, so it seemed to be a perfect place to find highly disruptive technologies.”

The look and feel of Lonny is the same but the zoom capabilities enrich the visual experience and advertiser-driven click through sales should provide an effective revenue stream. The photographs are shot in real people’s homes and readers will be able to zoom in, click on a lamp in the image and go through to shop for it.

Rather than surfing the trend for a steady stream of information however, Lonny will be published every two months using Issuu — a web platform that converts uploaded PDF’s to online publications for just $19/month. Chief Commercial Officer of Issuu, Astrid Sandoval believes that this is key to replicating the reading experience that Domino fans valued: “A Web site is continuous and constantly changing, whereas a digital publication has a start and finish, a unique purpose for that one goal. We want to recreate the best of the print reading experience, where people might spend three full focused hours on that, and enhance it with the digital world.”

Companies like Conde Nast are sometimes accused of being too big to be nimble, and its interesting to see that it has taken the creative agility of a self-starting pair like Adams and Cline to propel Lonny forwards to a place where it seems like something to get excited about.

New York Times
The Brand Channel