Monday 13 April 2009


Condé Nast has a tough job.

Consumer magazines is a notoriously difficult segment of the publishing industry.

A brief look at year-on-year ABCs shows just how tough things have got. The following charts show percentage circulation growth, first for men's monthlies, then women's monthlies, and finally women's weeklies - the worst.

Into this maelstrom, two high profile titles have been launched. And although each raises questions, as we shall see, they nevertheless prove that the magazine industry is bursting with innovation.

Of course this giant organisation must innovate, to survive, but its boldness and determination are what impress.

Condé Nast caused a stir with its Beth Ditto-bedraped Love.

Editor Katie Grand commented on the cover shoot: "Everything about the way that Beth looks reminds us not of her imperfections but our own. She has self-assurance and confidence by the truckload. She is happy with who she is and the way she is. Don't we all wish that we woke up in the morning and felt like that?"

Grand continued: "Everything has been botoxed, lifted, sucked and dyed out of the women that represent the absolute aspiration of real women."

Which I agree with. And which is why it is disappointing that the innovative remix on style that Love claims to be evapourates as the first pages turn to reveal the standard fare of botoxed ads for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Miu Miu, etc.

The publishing behemoth goes on to tell us of the future in its men's lifestyle/ technology title Wired.

Innovation streams through your fingertips, as the rough texture of the cover plays with your senses.

And the cover is not finished with innovation until you have opened the three-panel roll fold image of London in the future - helped by amazing photography from Jason Hawkes.

This in turn leads to a breathtaking four-page ad for Sony Bravia, inside.

Even the launch of Wired was handled innovatively, with bespoke audio ads, featuring editor David Rowan describing the new magazine in a 30-second spot, created exclusively for music platform Spotify.

Unlike Love, Wired is content-rich, and its blend of geeky technology and slick lifestyle content works well.

But given that this US title failed in the UK before, in the mid nineties, and given that beyond this high profile launch issue it promises little more than GQ or FHM without the objectified women, it needs to be carefully judged not to run aground.

However, the innovation in both titles is hard to miss.

And so, as we head back after the Easter break, how can you take inspiration from Condé Nast?

It strikes me that three aspects of being innovative stand out from their recent launches:
  1. Never stop putting your customer or donor at the centre of your thinking. Continually ask how you can better meet their needs (e.g. the Beth Ditto image)
  2. Understand that you don't need to do completely new things - sometimes just doing the old things differently is enough (e.g. the textured, roll-fold cover)
  3. Look for ways to take your message to your target audience that your competitors still think are too fringe (e.g. the Spotify ads).

1 comment:

Gem said...

I'm in love with the Love cover, and Wired's is not bad too! Tune in to target audiences' needs, perfect what you know works well, and innovate to keep surprising them - a good mantra also for broader communications, I say.