TODAY, GLAMOUR’S PUBLISHING DIRECTOR ANNOUNCED THAT THE TITLE, WHICH WAS ONCE THE UK’S BEST-SELLING MONTHLY WOMEN’S MAGAZINE, IS TO BE PRINTED JUST TWICE A YEAR.
When Glamour Magazine launched back in 2001, its compact handbag-size format and fresh style (not to mention a very nice mix of writers) made it the rarest of things, a genuine overnight success story. And in publishing, no less, an arena where success stories played out over any kind of time frame were already proving somewhat elusive, especially at a national level.
I was a newly qualified reporter at the time, and Glamour simultaneously appealed to my inner publishing geek (I loved poring over stories like this one in the Guardian about how Condé Nast had to rush out a whopping 50,000 extra copies after the launch title sold out in a host of WH Smith stores) while beguiling me with talk of shoes and such.
Glamour ushered in an era of moderately fast fashion during which you might spot a dress you loved on its pages and then snap it up on ASOS (which launched in 2000) in your lunch break. It did not feel strange to me during this era to hold up a magazine to my laptop while I typed out the relevant web address.
Nor did it feel strange that all that Glamour, the Independent and the Times had to do to be hailed as groundbreaking during simpler times was to reduce their size slightly for ease of reading. Today, Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, is on a mission to explain the company’s latest “strategy shift away from ad revenue and toward individual subscriptions” and Buzzfeed is trying to sell us toasters because, as one media commentator put it, that’s how much it sucks to be in publishing right now. Like a child seeing how long they can spin for before the world becomes a blur, publishers are pivoting until they can pivot no more, dizzy, disoriented and quite possibly attempting to sell you toasters. It’s an interesting time.
With Glamour, which was once hailed as print publishing’s big 21st century success story, bowing out of the monthly print market, the magazine institution that is Rolling Stone up for sale, and the editor of Vanity Fair calling it a day (thanks Sion Smith for the blow-by-blow updates on this front) these are uncertain times.
Even in publishing in 2017, there are a few things you can predict, though. One being that the days of the big glossies fighting it out on WH Smiths’ shelves have long gone. The new battle is for your attention, it’s being fought across media platforms, and, of course, you can watch it play out for free on your iPhone. Another certainty is that you’ll hear plenty more publishers tell you, as Glamour did today, that they’re pursuing a ‘digital first strategy’. The word ‘strategy’ implies a leisurely stroll away from print in favour of the next big thing. But with ABC figures showing Glamour’s sales down 25% year on year, you could argue that the title was pushed, rather than jumping, out of the print market.
Hopefully, as a title that once looked so innovative in print, Glamour will rapidly build the same kind of momentum in digital. I haven’t fallen in love with lines like: ‘The new Glamour: a fresh, beauty-first attitude to inspire across every aspect of your life’ because frankly I’m not at all sure what a beauty-first attitude is, and even if I acquired one, I don’t know how I’d apply it to areas of my life like that difficult meeting with the bank manager or tackling my tax returns. And with lines like: “wherever our readers are, we’ll be there to entertain, engage and educate” there’s a danger that a publisher can look a little too keen. We should probably back away from time to time to give our readers the occasional private moment.
All joking aside, though, I truly do wish the Glamour team, and everybody who’s working so hard to nail modern-day journalism and publishing, the best of times. Back in 2011, when I was launching the first edition of His & Hers Magazine, titles like Glamour gave me the sense that anything was possible, and today, I still look to the big players, like the publishers of Glamour, for a heads up on what’s coming next.
Personally, I’ve been talking to a whole host of digital marketing companies (hat tip to the lovely teams at Verb Marketing and Yoma in particular this week!) in a bid to subsidise upcoming print editions of His & Hers with a dash of digital revenue because, sentimental fool that I am, I still kind of love print. You can’t argue with Glamour and pretty much every other magazine publisher out there, though, in that ultimately, you have to go where the readers are. And if that means hearing more about everyone’s digital first strategy, so be it. I just hope I don’t need a beauty-first strategy to negotiate these changing times. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that!
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