THE PRINT VERSION: Net-a-porter founder Natalie Massenet has always described the e-commerce site as a fashion magazine on the Web. Well, now it will actually be a fashion magazine. At a conference Wednesday in London, chief executive officer Mark Sebba casually mentioned the site plans to launch a print magazine.
“It isn’t a secret that Net-a-porter will be publishing a major fashion magazine within the next 12 months or so,” he said, according to Wired U.K., which covered the conference.
With an online audience of some 4.9 million monthly uniques, according to internal figures, the U.K.-based company already has an online magazine, distributed on its Web site and by way of a tablet app, and a print magazine sent to some a small number of customers and corporate partners, like hotels.
Sebba’s comment suggested the new venture has ambitions to compete on a broader scale and take on the existing players in the fashion category, the first time it has publicly acknowledged moving in that direction.
He didn’t offer any details, like the exact launch date, frequency, or who the distribution partner would be.
For now, Net-a-porter is not elaborating on Sebba’s blockbuster. President Alison Loehnis said the company has always offered commerce with editorial features, but did not dismiss the plan to launch a full-fledged magazine.
“We will continue to build on our success of bringing relevant, shoppable content to our growing global audience who looks to Net-a-porter for our edit of the best designs from around the world presented in the format of a fashion magazine,” she said.
Industry sources say a magazine is in the works, but that Sebba spoke too soon. Plans are still months away from being fully developed.
It is not an entirely surprising development. Massenet started out working for WWD in Los Angeles, then moved to Tatler in the U.K. Later, upon being offered a fashion director’s title at a new magazine, she decided to take a gamble on an online retail business. The site was initially conceived “as a magazine that sold clothes,” Sebba said at the conference.
Over the years, magazinelike features have come online. In 2010, it launched an iPad app, for instance.
This year, it’s embraced veterans of the industry. In January, the company named Tess Macleod Smith group publishing director, a title she had formerly held at Hearst Corp. In March, it appointed Lucy Yeomans, the longtime editor of Harper’s Bazaar U.K. and a frequently talked about candidate to succeed Glenda Bailey at American Bazaar, to the newly created role of editor in chief of Net-a-porter.com. She was tasked with editorial content across all platforms.
Her influence is evident in the online magazine, which has editorial content — midlength features, lots of Q&As with designers, like, recently, Nicholas Kirkwood — besides fashion stories brimming with product available on the site.
Sebba underscored at the conference that while Net-a-porter is available in many different channels, print still has value to advertisers. “Advertising revenue increasingly pays the rent as well,” he said.
For traditional publishers, it’s a stark reminder, too. They joined the e-commerce racket late, and have been paying for it ever since. Many see in Net-a-porter a missed opportunity. Earlier this year, Harper’s Bazaar launched ShopBazaar while ShopVogue, launched in 2005 by then-publisher Tom Florio, is no longer in existence. Now the industry leader at the game they’re just beginning to develop appears to be ready to roll onto print’s turf.