LOS ANGELES — Just in time for fashion week, two new media outlets — one print and one online — are bringing a fresh focus to fashion consumerism here.
Both helmed by veteran magazine launchers, the outlets are vying not to go bust in L.A.’s inhospitable publishing climate, which has failed to sustain books like Detour, Teen, Bikini and Glue.
Shop Lift magazine, a bimonthly published, edited and funded by entrepreneur Henry M. Shea Jr., hit stands in March with a distribution of 50,000 and a price tag of $3.95. Unlike other glossy regionals (L.A. Confidential, Angeleno), it’s not a giveaway, you won’t find it in pricy hotel rooms or spas and it’s already sold out.
The launch issue features 21 ad pages from BCBG, Kate Spade, Neiman Marcus and Miss Sixty, among others, and a 67-page edit well. So far, advertisers haven’t balked at not receiving placement opposite editorial, since most are in the front of the book, sandwiched between the table of contents and the masthead, and the rest face the back page and back cover.
Shea — who created a chain of college newspapers he later sold to Park Cities Media Inc., as well as pop culture magazine Exposure, which he sold to Fairchild (parent of WWD) in 1991 — admits he didn’t tell clients where their ads would (or wouldn’t) go. But his plan all along was to run the edit in one block. That may change when the ads double in the next issue, by his estimate.
Inspired by Japanese shopping magazines rather than Lucky or In Style, Shop Lift, Shea says, strives to make the product and people in retail the true celebrities. But the cover, which features a model styled as a modern-day Holly Golightly, will likely switch to an actor’s mug next month. “We’ll aim to incorporate celebrity, style and shopping into the photo,” he said, admitting, “there’s such an overload of celebrity now, but it sells.”
Shop Lift’s 6 3/4-inch-by-8 3/4-inch size promotes portability and newsstand positioning (it’s too short to stand up in the second row, so most newsstands place it in the front). Then there’s the name: Shea said the idea is for readers to lift information from his book and head straight to shops with their credit cards.
By year’s end, he plans to launch versions in San Francisco and New York, and in Las Vegas and Miami in early 2005. Eventually, distribution will grow to 10 cities, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas, London and Paris. Shea hopes the business plan will create irresistible lateral buys for national advertisers.
Currently, the full-page, four-color ad rate is $2,500. Based on the first issue, nearly all advertisers recommitted for one year and the rest for half the year.
Surprisingly, the bulk of the edit staff aren’t journalists. Home editor Gail Baral owned a decor store in Beverly Hills, art editor Melinda Farrell is a former head of the Los Angeles Film Commission and editor at large Greg Poe was a men’s clothing designer. Copy editors whip text into cohesive blurbs and there aren’t any lengthy stories to worry over. “We’re giving the consumer a shortcut to shopping, and [are leaving] the long stories to the 9,000 other magazines,” Shea said.
LA.com also specializes in quick hits of information, although its demographic skews toward a broader age group with bargains on the brain, rather than Shop Lift’s 25- to 45-year-old affluents. It differs from local service-oriented sites, such as Citysearch.com, in its editorial tone and content, which is something that editor in chief Laurie Pike, founder of now-defunct Glue, specializes in.
All six of the site’s editors have been fixtures at L.A. Fashion Week, filing constant “blogs” on everything from what skirt length dominated runways to who sat next to whom. In fact, it’s more like “a running gossip column,” Pike said.
LA.com’s shopping page changes once a week, like the content in its five other categories — nightlife, events, attractions, dining and hotels-travel. The shopping page details sample sales, new, notable and out-of-the-way retail doors and spa and beauty experiences.
As the market has shown, most comprehensive online ventures need backing from well-funded media companies to be viable, and LA.com is no exception. MediaNews Group, which owns the L.A. Daily News and 140 other newspapers, has committed several million dollars to the venture, with no grand plans to duplicate in other cities. According to Pike: “It’s a flavored, filtered, fiercely local guide,” which may be just what L.A.’s been shopping for.