It makes sense for luxury publications to get into China, the still growing epicenter of fashion consumerism, but it’s not an easy prospect for Westerners.
It took about two years for WSJ, the monthly fashion and luxury-focused insert for The Wall Street Journal, to officially expand into the region. The News Corp. property is launching its first WSJ China issue next month through a five-year licensing deal with Huasheng Media, but unlike the model in the U.S., it will be a stand-alone monthly magazine sold on newsstands and sent to subscribers. Also unlike the issue here, the magazine is aiming for a male audience and will feature high-end men’s fashion along with lifestyle and business content. The cover star for the first issue is a stark-looking Ma Long, a world and Olympic champion of table tennis, one of the most popular sports in China.
“It’s been exciting for us to see this appetite for men’s fashion — it’s a growing demographic and it’s something Huasheng wanted to tap into,” said Kristina O’Neill, WSJ’s editor in chief. “There are a few art features in the first issue, but the reader there is also business-minded. They’re not unlike the WSJ reader actually, but their spending power is something we’re paying attention to.”
O’Neill is overseeing the China edition and said WSJ here will have final say over editorial in the magazine. WSJ is also contributing a majority of the content to the China edition right now (to be fully translated), something that will eventually turn into a more even split as the team there fills out. Although some of WSJ’s typical features, interviews and business coverage are proving desirable for the China edition, the local audience does differ on fashion editorial.
“They’re definitely pretty fearless in terms of fashion consumption,” O’Neill said. “They feel less conservative than we traditionally do.”
Nevertheless, the advertisers in the first China issue are the familiar luxury fashion names: Dior, Saint Laurent, Burberry, Bulgari, etc., all of which advertise with WSJ here, too. O’Neill said they backed the issue sight unseen, but the ad sales for the China edition are currently separated from sales in New York. A more global ad buying system is something that “will be on the table going forward,” O’Neill added.
Good thing if WSJ and O’Neill’s aspirations for the new edition come to pass. The editor said she can already see expanding the title to include women’s fashion, or possibly even giving women their own issues, while insisting that the project is still “very experimental.” Beyond that, there’s the possibility of expanding into other countries or regions, given the Journal’s desire to get its brand into more international markets. O’Neill said the whole prospect of WSJ China started with News Corp. chief executive officer Robert Thomson and his relationship with Huasheng executives.
“We’re looking at this as a long-term partnership, a long-term commitment,” O’Neill said. “It’s part of a broader push and it’s just the beginning of something we will continue.”
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