Prosperous Times for Luxury Print Media, Or Are They?


Sophie Doran | August 14, 2012

Ad-pages are up, but circulation is down. New titles are launching, but digital is increasingly driving content consumption. What does all this mean for luxury print media?

Bloomberg’s will increase the frequency of its lifestyle publication ‘Pursuits’

Of late, one could be forgiven for feeling exuberant about the future of print media. This month alone, Vogue US has confirmed that September 2012 will be its largest issue ever. Bloomberg will increase the frequency of its new luxury lifestyle offering ‘Pursuits’, just as all-new title DuJour magazine has announced that two-thirds of its debut issue will be devoted to advertising.

Bloomberg gave Pursuits the stamp of approval for four issues per year because “the momentum is positive, on the reader side and the advertising side," according to publisher Mike Dukmejian. The magazine – launched as recently as February 2012 – is sent exclusively to subscribers of Bloomberg’s terminals, who pay some $20,000 for the service. The audience of 375,000 readers is said to have an average annual household income of $490,000.

“We are reaching among the richest, wealthiest people in the world, who are relatively young,” explained Dukmejian to WWD. He went on to confirm that whilst he does not yet know how many ad pages the October issue of Pursuits will have, 60 percent of the advertisers from the first issue are returning.

“ The momentum is positive, on the reader side and the advertising side ”

Reuters displayed similar faith in print media when it launched Reuters Magazine back in January 2012. The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ magazine is also said to be prospering; publisher Anthony Cenname recently told WWD that advertising at his magazine is flourishing, though it’s not clear at what rates.

Newcomer DuJour is preparing for its August 20 debut, which will feature 200 ad pages (of 300 pages), from Hermès, NetJets, Graff and the like. The new print-digital hybrid is being produced by publisher Jason Binn and will be distributed in partnership with Gilt Groupe and investor Hudson News.

According to the NY Times, those eligible to receive the magazine must meet at least five of seven criteria, which include an average net worth of $5 million, liquid assets of $1 million, a house worth $1.5 million and other related measures.

“ US Vogue, Elle & Marie Claire will release record-breaking September editions ”

Influential American fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar have just released numbers for September editions, and all except the latter are record-breaking editions.

Vogue’s 2012 September issue will be its biggest ever at 916-pages – 658 of which are advertising – marking the magazine’s 120th anniversary with Lady Gaga on the cover. It breaks its own 2007 record when Anna Wintour oversaw the release of the biggest magazine ever published, weighing near 2.27 kilograms.

Elle will launch Hearst’s largest September issue of all time, with 400 ad pages, up 14% from last year. Also in the Hearst stable, Marie Claire will publish its largest issue ever, in its fifth record-breaking issue this year for the mag (March, April, May and August). September 2012, also marks the first issue that Chanel ready-to-wear will be advertising in the magazine.

Clearly luxury brand advertisers continue to believe in the power of print. In a sea of ad-page success stories, only a handful of publishers confirm that ad-sales are on the wane. The Robb Report is thought to have lost 7 percent of ad-pages year to year, and Town & Country is flat, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

“ The Robb Report is thought to have lost 7 percent of ad pages year to year, Town & Country is flat ”

That said, ad-page sales are but one part of a complicated communications eco-system. The Audit Bureau of Circulations has released figures for the first half of 2012 and they are far from optimistic. WWD went so far to declare, “Most publishers were lucky if they reported only a single-digit decline”.

When it comes to paid circulation, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Lucky and Allure all experienced double-digit declines for Condé Nast. Vogue posted a 16.5 percent decline to an average of 300,955 copies sold. Vanity Fair fell 18.8 percent during the half to 283,938 copies.

Hearst title’s Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire reported flat and almost-flat periods respectively, compared to the year before. Elle’s single-copy sales fell about 20 percent to 198,715, according to Rapid Report. The takeaway message according to WWD: “it was a tough first half at newsstands and checkout counters across the country. Women are being more selective with their purchases in store but there is growth, in some cases, in digital copies sold.”

“ Vogue, Vanity Fair, Lucky and Allure all experienced double-digit circulation declines for Condé Nast ”

“Newsstand is not the barometer of vitality anymore,” explains Robin Steinberg, executive vice president, director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest USA. “It’s an overall brand evaluation. Not the brand in silos but the goal of how a brand does on multiple platforms.” In short, publishers need to focus just as much on brand, as they have previously on medium.

DuJour’s decision to launch a print magazine, with full digital integration from day one, could be the most indicative example of how publishing will look like in the future. According to the company, its dual format has been designed to create “a distinct experience for both readers and advertisers”. Its online version – already optimized for mobile – features commerce enabled editorial content, with click-through to a luxury brand’s retail site for product details and purchase consideration.

“ Newsstand is not the barometer of vitality anymore. It’s an overall brand evaluation. ”

French Vogue has embarked on a similar multi-channel journey, with both the recent launch of in English and plans for a digital edition of the magazine. September 2012 will also a mark a new-look for the original print edition, designed in part to put the Vogue brand at the heart of its editorial direction.

Though Vogue Paris has not experienced the dramatic upswing in ad-page sales that Vogue US can lay claim to, the redesign of its website has already borne fruit according to Condé Nast France president Xavier Romatet. The number of unique visitors to the site is up 35 percent since it was re-launched in February 2012, and advertising revenues on the site have doubled.

Fat September issues laden with ad-pages are sure to bring smiles to many an executive – and editor’s – face, but circulation suggests the storm clouds summoned with the embrace of all things digital have not yet subsided. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to magazines that weigh in the kilograms and whether print media still holds the attention of the affluent.

To further investigate media and communications on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- 12 Luxury Lifestyle Publishers Targeting Affluent Consumers
- Targeting the Truly Affluent: Jim Kerwin, The Private Journey
- The Glaring Gap Between Online Commerce & Digital Publishing