Serena Williams

Allure is gearing up to unveil a new look to its magazine and digital properties, but don’t call it a relaunch.

Michelle Lee, the magazine’s editor in chief for nearly three years, prefers to think of upcoming changes, which have been in the works for months and will roll out fully with the upcoming March issue, in terms like “refresh” and “evolution.”

“With magazines in general, you have standard departments, story formats — as an editor it’s easy to get stuck in that,” Lee said. “Eventually, it can get really boring. I always want to keep things fresh.”

For Allure — recently the subject of plenty of industry chatter speculating its demise in print as its publisher Condé Nast has continued to shrink its operations, slate of print publications and budgets, overall — its “evolution” nevertheless means a number of changes are on the way.

There will be a new typeface for the magazine; younger and more diverse photographers coming in for shoots; a more “beauty forward” approach to editorial content; a dedicated wellness section for the first time; a page called “Cult Object” is coming back after being cut a few years ago; Lee will have her own “My Favorite Product” page, and a series on vanities and bathrooms called “Beauty Spaces” is coming in as the new back page. Lee used words like “crisp,” “bright” and “fresh” to describe the look of what’s coming and said she sat down with her editorial team last year “to take a step back, to think about in 2019, who do we want to work with?”

“The world of media has changed so much, the world of beauty and celebrity and Hollywood has changed so much, so I wanted to say, visually, ‘Where should we go?’”

Lee agreed beauty is an industry that’s taken to social media unlike any other, with brands and marketers seeing a lot of success launching product online and on social platforms without need of support by institutional brands like Allure. The coup of getting a product recommended in the pages of a magazine has been all but replaced by the measurable impact of an influencer posting about a cream or a lipstick on Instagram or YouTube.

So it’s not surprising that Lee is wanting to get ahead of the social game and have Allure do more of what influencer and social media stars do not, like invest in strong visuals and editorial content that’s researched, vetted and fact-checked.

“When it comes to visuals and setting trends, we need to own that,” Lee said bluntly. “When there’s such a wealth of beauty content out there, it can get confusing. We need to be this voice of expertise to cut through the noise.”

And print is still part of Allure keeping it’s authority in beauty. Asked whether the magazine would still be in print in five years, Lee was prepared: “Absolutely.”

“As a brand, we’re committed to it, the company is so committed and there’s a growing interest in beauty,” Lee said. “We’re definitely very invested [in print].”

Given the number of print titles that have closed, at Condé and elsewhere, it’s understandable that Lee would want to drive the point home.

Although print readership is down 6 percent from a year ago, according the most recent data from MPA-The Association of Magazine Media, it seems digital is faring well enough to justify it as a prestige anchor. Desktop web traffic is up 11 percent year-over-year, mobile is up 13 percent and video is up 23 percent. Ad pages are said to be growing as well (possibly helped a bit by the end of print at Glamour, which always had beauty ads), with placements for the February issue up 27 percent compared with last year, according to a Condé spokeswoman. She added that ads for March, which has yet to close, are “tracking well.”

Allure also has a something of a side hustle with its subscription Beauty Box business (also getting a “refresh,” including a new “mini-magazine” featuring Allure editors), where the Condé said subscribers grew by 80 percent last year, and a growing e-commerce business, which exceeded its revenue goal by nearly 200 percent.

Susan Plagemann, now chief business officer of Condé’s entire Style category, which Allure falls under, said simply: “Our beauty and wellness businesses are stronger than ever.”

Since Allure is the only beauty-centric property left in Condé’s print arsenal, it’s a good thing.

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