Remember the brand magazine trend? It may seem like a long time ago, but it was only in 2019 that more brands were investing in print magazines as a marketing tool despite traditional media companies beginning to step away from the medium amid a backdrop of dwindling advertising revenues.
That year alone saw the likes of retailer Uniqlo, dating app Bumble, fashion platform Ssense and golf equipment company Callaway all enter the market. They joined fashion site Net-a-porter, sneaker resale company Goat, home rental marketplace Airbnb and luggage brand Away, which had already launched magazines.
For brands, these magazines were not so much about revenue as they were about engagement, viewed as a way of building a deeper connection with a company’s audience, as well as reaching out to new consumers.
And when it came to the look and feel of the publications, in some cases no expense was spared, with cover shoots, celebrity interviews and glossy fashion spreads rivaling traditional magazine titles, while top talent was lured away from the hallways of Condé Nast and Hearst. Net-a-porter, for example, tapped Lucy Yeomans, the former editor of Harper’s Bazaar in the U.K., to helm Porter magazine while longtime Allure executive editor Danielle Pergament went on to become the top editor of Goop magazine.
So what has happened to all these magazines amid the pandemic as some brands have had to tighten their belts?
It turns out to be a mixed picture. Of the 10 brands that WWD reached out to, half (Airbnb, Away, Bumble, Goop and Net-a-porter) have ceased print production for now, while the other five (Goat, Maapilim, Ssense, Tracy Anderson and Uniqlo) are still going strong, finding that having a print magazine is a positive and useful extension of their brand.
Here’s what has happened to each of them:
Airbnb teamed with Elle and Harper’s Bazaar publisher Hearst back in 2017 for its glossy travel magazine Airbnbmag, overseen by Hearst’s then-chief content officer Joanna Coles. “Airbnb is changing the way we travel, the way we connect and the way we see the world,” she said at the time. “People want to be adventurers, explorers and locals, not tourists. Airbnb is at the leading edge of travel and Airbnbmag is the future of travel media.”
But last year, the magazine became another casualty of the pandemic as Airbnb cofounder and chief executive officer Brian Chesky pulled the plug when revealing widespread cost savings amid the plunge in global travel.
Here, another travel magazine, was launched in the same year as Airbnbmag by buzzy luggage brand Away and the similarities don’t end there as it also saw its print run end in 2020, with the final issue, released in October, featuring cover face Lamorne Morris. It will continue to live on in a digital sense, though, according to a spokeswoman. “As we continue to evolve Away’s overall content strategy, Here magazine has pivoted from a quarterly print publication to an all-digital medium, allowing for more consistent content and timely engagement with our community,” she said.
The dating app swiped right on print magazines with the launch of lifestyle publication Bumblemag in 2019. Like Airbnb, it teamed up with Hearst, and the first issue, of which 150,000 copies were produced, featured cover face Lauren Chan, while other contributors included tennis star Serena Williams, Repeller founder Leandra Medine, jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer and Away luggage cofounder Jen Rubio. At the time, Bumble was said to be planning future issues, but almost two years later there still haven’t been any and WWD understands that its partnership with Hearst has come to an end. A representative for Bumble did not respond to request for comment.
Sneaker resale app Goat’s print magazine Greatest isn’t going anywhere despite an increased digital push during lockdown that focused on trend stories, think pieces, designer profiles and sneaker features, as well as launching Instagram franchise “At Home With Greatest,” featuring a DJ set with Yeti Out and a live performance from Pink Sweat$. The biannual print magazine will return this year with another two issues and Diane Abapo, director of content at Goat, said that the magazine resonates with Goat’s community because it’s “authentic.”
“At its very core, it’s a way for our younger demographic to align themselves with creatives who they can draw inspiration from — whether it’s Jerry Lorenzo, Snoh Aalegra, Giveon, Kimberly Drew and so forth. It’s easy to find a connection with all of the individuals we’ve interviewed and featured in Greatest,” she continued. “They’re people who have done the work, built something from the ground up, and come from diverse communities.”
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Magazine, an extension of her wellness brand, made its debut in 2017 with the actress as its cover face and advertisers including Gucci Eyewear, Neiman Marcus Beauty, NBC, BMW, Roberto Coin and Frédérique Constant. Back then, Condé Nast was coproducing the magazine, set to be a quarterly publication priced at $14.99, but after just a year Goop went independent. When launching the third issue on its own in 2018, Elise Loehnen, Goop’s then chief content officer, explained to WWD that one of the biggest issues that came up during the “trial period” with the publisher was being refused insight on sales, purportedly due to contractual obligations. But after that, only one more issue was released in print in winter 2019. When WWD reached out to Goop for comment, a spokeswoman said that the magazine was a limited edition and the company is now focusing on its Netflix show, with the second season due to air in 2022.
Jonathan Keren and husband Doron Baduach accidentally founded now gender neutral Tel Aviv-based wellness company Maapilim when trying to set up an art exhibition. Four years into the venture, the duo founded Maapilim’s bimonthly brand magazine Sand to “keep the creative juices flowing.”
“On one hand we really just wanted to do something creative and on the other hand our mission is always to encourage people to find balance through slow living,” Keren said. “Slow living was a big part of why we started the brand so we felt that making a physical magazine that would encourage people to disconnect from their phones and sit down to read them would also help to support that mission.”
It’s also been successful from a business perspective, according to Keren, who believes it increases consumers’ level of trust in the brand. “There’s some seriousness behind really producing a printed magazine. Not a lot of brands do that.” The magazine, which always has a theme and comes with an accompanying essential oil, is available for sale on Maapilim’s sites and in a few retailers. At the beginning of the pandemic, one issue was digital only as it was impossible to ship the magazine from Tel Aviv to the U.S., but it’s now back to business as usual.
In the fashion industry, Net-a-porter was an early trendsetter in brand magazines, launching Porter, filled with lush fashion shoots and long-form features, in 2014 as a bimonthly. It grew to six issues a year, but in May 2019 it revealed that it would return to a biannual publication as the company focuses more on digital editorial content. Now, WWD understands that it has since been decided Porter will be a digital-only publication, but that all content formats will continue to be reviewed. It hasn’t published a print product since 2019, but recently has featured digital cover stars every two weeks, including Paloma Elsesser, Hunter Schafer, Jodie Comer and Jodie Turner Smith. It also just launched season two of its “Incredible Women” podcast, in advance of International Women’s Day.
The Montreal-based fashion platform’s biannual magazine, which made its debut in 2019 with three separate covers, is still in print, with issue four set be released in May. The issue will openly acknowledge the pandemic and the ways people have stayed in touch while keeping their distance.
“The magazine is a natural extension for us to amplify the voices of those we see making change in the world, and celebrate these diverse collaborators and narratives,” said Durga Chew-Bose, editor in chief for Ssense magazine. “As we do with ssense.com, our mobile app, and our retail space, Ssense magazine is another platform for us to express our point of view and engage in a discourse with people we believe are advancing unique perspectives. The feedback from our community has been overwhelmingly positive, both quantitatively and anecdotal, we know from data and engagement that the magazine drives a lift in conversion.”
The fitness entrepreneur launched her inaugural magazine, Tracy Anderson Mind Body & Soul, just as large swaths of the world were heading into lockdown, but that didn’t put her off coming back. Spanning 135 pages, the fourth issue of the magazine is set to be released in print later this month and is already available digitally. The magazine does not include any advertisers and is published independently as being self-published means that Anderson has free rein over content after a “traumatic experience” with her first book, “Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method.” A spokesman said that the magazine has been growing in popularity and the next issue will be released in summer 2021.
The Japanese retailer’s LifeWear magazine, first launched in 2019, is still going strong, sticking to its biannual schedule throughout the pandemic. All creative and production are done in-house, while it is printed in no less than 10 languages. “We find that to be truly relevant to our customers, we must communicate in their language, literally. Although Uniqlo is in 25 markets including Japan, the choice of language version is up to each market,” said Aldo Liguori, global spokesperson for Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, adding that for example, for Italy, where it only has one store, they distribute the Japanese/English version. A total of 1.5 million copies are printed each issue and are available for free in stores, as well as being available digitally. As for why it chose print, a Uniqlo representative told WWD at its launch that “there’s an intimacy to the experience of consuming physical content” and that it provides a “personal touch.”
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