NEW YORK — Sometimes, In Style looks a bit last season. In the magazine's July issue, a photo of Kirsten Dunst in a pink Christian Lacroix couture gown is prominently featured in the Look section. The picture is emblematic of In Style’s...
NEW YORK — Sometimes, In Style looks a bit last season. In the magazine's July issue, a photo of Kirsten Dunst in a pink Christian Lacroix couture gown is prominently featured in the Look section. The picture is emblematic of In Style's much-copied formula of pictures of celebrities at parties and awards shows and in their own homes.
But Dunst also appeared on blogs, newspapers and celebrity magazines within weeks of the April 16 world premiere of "Spider-Man 3." In Style's July issue hit newsstands on June 22.
Therein lies the monthly title's biggest challenge: How to stay relevant in the world of celebrity reporting when television, the Internet and weekly magazines are beating it at its own game.
"Media is moving faster, reporting is faster and the images are moving faster," admitted Martha Nelson, editor of the People Group at Time Inc. that contains In Style and also the magazine's former managing editor. "You can't just run a picture in any monthly magazine and say, 'Look at this.' There's a chance someone has seen it before."
When In Style launched in 1994, it pioneered reporting on celebrity style, from the home to the red carpet. Competitors were few, aside from fashion magazines, which were still using models as their cover stars and muses. The magazine's launch is one of Time Inc.'s biggest successes, swelling to a 1.8 million total paid circulation as of June 2007. But since the explosion of celebrity news over the past few years, In Style's circulation has leveled, while readers, especially younger ones, are increasingly turning elsewhere to see the same pictures.
"It seems In Style has plateaued in a way," said one advertiser, wondering, "Where do you take it from here?"
Nelson and her team are confident they are figuring that out. Time Inc. made several changes beginning last year to help evolve the brand. It gave Nelson oversight of the magazine, and brought in former Cargo editor in chief Ariel Foxman as editor at large to help In Style freshen up its look and pacing. "He's a great ideas person," said managing editor Charla Lawhon. "He's got a great management style, he's very visual and he knows In Style."The final elements of a redesign will arrive with the September issue, on newsstands today. The changes start with the cover, which has six different cover flaps geared to various regions of the U.S. ("Chicago Style" or "Dallas Style"). There are new front of the book sections, along with a fresher take on how it covers awards shows and parties. In Style's point of differentiation, said Lawhon and group publisher Lynette Harrison, will be the emphasis on service. Most of the changes are to provide more easy-to-digest information to the readers in each section; for example, packaging party photos with how-to information.
"The front of the book looks completely different," said Lawhon. "There was an overall purpose to make it more immediate and make it move faster. It has to grab and entertain."
As for party pictures, "now they're more atmospheric," said Harrison. "You can see what's going on at the party, you know what food they're serving. It's really how we're trying to differentiate ourselves. Everybody can do party photos. We're much more intimate."
Especially because In Style, leveraging the power of its brand, throws those same parties that they often feature in the magazine, and now online. On Sept. 5 the title will celebrate Gwen Stefani's appearance on its September cover and her new fragrance for Coty, L.
The Life & Home section, which showcases In Style's access to A-listers, has also expanded, with larger features including more photos of stars in their homes.
"In Style has done a good job of reinventing itself — the whole team has — of reinventing the magazine and finding new ways to go after materials," said Nelson of Lawhon, Foxman, and their team. "Editorially they have done a great job of evolving who they are for where they should be. With the huge amount of competition on the newsstands, it can never stand still."
Whether these moves will be enough to boost circulation remains to be seen, however. In Style, like many fashion competitors, has been suffering on the newsstand. Single-copy sales fell to 753,358 last month from 865,000 two years ago.
The challenge is to attract younger readers without alienating the core thirtysomething audience. In Style tested a spin-off, Your Look, targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds, but shelved it after two issues in favor of investing in the Web. Last week, instyle.com unveiled enhancements to the site that have been in the works for a year. One is an interactive hair guide, which allows users to upload their own photo and find hairstyles from a selection of 200 looks. The Web site also added more video how-to features, behind-the-scenes videos from photo shoots and pictures from events uploaded to the site daily, an attempt to at least keep on par with other celebrity media. In January, it launched a mobile service, and has signed up 12,000 subscribers to date."It's important just to be in the space and be learning and growing with it," said Nelson. "The U.S. lags behind other countries in terms of mobile and mobile applications. We believe that in five to 10 years from now there will be a greater mass of young women who are going to be using this kind of technology very naturally."
The platforms outside of the magazine will also attract advertisers looking for opportunities beyond the page. In Style has grown into the largest fashion title of the category, even beating Vogue, with 3,486 ad pages in 2006, according to Publishers Information Bureau. But through September, ad pages have fallen 6.8 percent, dragged down in part by the retail category. Target and Macy's did not repeat inserts and special sections this year, subtracting 80 pages of advertising compared to the year prior.
"A lot of the competition has crept up on In Style," said George Janson, managing partner, director of print for Mediaedge:cia. "[In Style's] challenge is to articulate what is unique and relevant to their take on style, so that timeliness doesn't affect them."
The franchise still has a compelling story for advertisers, however. "The notion of making celebrity style accessible to the masses is very intriguing, relevant and marketable," added Janson.
And editorially, both advertisers and celebrities it covers feel the magazine is a safe environment. "It doesn't make up stories about people's lives and you know that going in," said Ken Sunshine, veteran publicist representing clients including Ben Affleck and John Mayer. "I'm usually very comfortable unleashing In Style on people we represent because they're not going to go into areas that are salacious, too personal or made up."
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