Conde Nast’s Vogue shows the way

Digital media can strengthen magazine readership

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With the internet purveying everything a person may need from the latest news to new friends, it is not surprising that the Indian magazine industry is striving to maintain the foothold it had before social media (and television) hit the world. Magazines are no longer a weekly or monthly staple as they were before print went digital. The industry has taken a toll due to significant loss of readership, circulation, and revenue.

According to a report by Satista, magazine revenue in India was at its peak in 2015 amounting to Rs 1440 crore, which however declined in 2016 to Rs 1340 crore. Similarly, the FICCI-KPMG Media & Entertainment Industry Report 2016 says that Indian magazines will see a negative growth of -1.8% CAGR from 2015 to 2000 with the contribution of magazines to the total revenue of the print periodical industry, which stood at 5.1% in 2015, forecast to decline to 3.2% by 2020.

Given the scenario in the Indian magazine industry, The Times of India shut down its Saturday edition, Crest, in July 2013. It was clearly unprofitable to produce without advertising. Along the same lines, Outlook India ceased production of its three international titles – Marie Claire, Geo, and People – in July 2013. Even though the titles seemed to be doing well in the market and the reason behind their termination remains unclear, the unforeseen turn of events indicates the declining prominence of magazines in print media.

Urban youth is the prime target of adverters

With the availability of internet throughout the country and the switch to mobile phones from computers, the consumption of print media has significantly diminished. Magazines are losing their readership to the internet. The lifestyle and fashion magazine readership has moved to digital platforms while news magazines have lost readership to social media. This is in the case of urban youth, the prime target audience of most advertisers.

However, the local and regional magazine markets that are still thriving are overlooked by advertisers. A recent article in Forbes states out of a billion-plus population, only 6 million Indians subscribe to magazines, according to figures based on the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which tracks 65 publications. This figure does not include the regional and local magazines that may not be registered with the bureau.

The Conde Nast juggernaut

Notably, the Indian subsidiary of the US-based Conde Nast, the publisher of magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Traveller, and AD (Architectural Digest), seems to be undeterred by the daunting situation facing most of the Indian magazine industry. Conde Nast dominates the lifestyle and fashion magazine segment in India. While demonetization and the rise of social media dampened the spirits of other publishers, these have only meant new opportunities for Conde Nast.

The publishing house evolved into a multimedia company by adapting to the changes in the market. It wasted no time by setting up online portals for its magazines and, later, developed mobile websites for three titles – Vogue India, GQ India, and Conde Nast Traveller. By providing high quality content online and on-mobile platforms, Conde Nast used the opportunities to generate more revenue with multiple channels and sources while its rivals struggled for survival.

Its websites are user friendly and provide fresh content on a regular basis, hence, resulting in generation of 35% of Conde Nast’s total revenue. The company further stretched the scope of its revenue by launching innovative strategies such as a Vogue Wedding Show, which is a wedding shopping exhibition for brides and grooms. Conde Nast also runs its own educational institute – the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design – in London.

Among the most popular magazine segments in India, fashion and lifestyle magazines reign supreme. Magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, Elle, and Cosmopolitan are some of the well-known titles in the market. The glossy pages splattered with eye-catching and vibrant print instantly appeal to the youth of the country who have spending power and are highly influenced by the West. The magazines give a hint of the luxurious life by featuring advertisements by global luxury brands.

Vogue – the queen of fashion and lifestyle magazines

Vogue India from Conde Nast India describes itself as the ‘quintessential handbook to fashion, beauty and lifestyle for the affluent Indian woman.’ Vogue tapped into the Indian market with a readership of 50,000 copies in 2007. It aims at the top readers of the readership pyramids who possess higher disposable income than the rest of the Indian population and according to their media kit, its ideal audience is ‘fashion inclined affluent women between 18 and 45 years.’ Vogue India has readership of over 300,000 in India and is priced at Rs 150; the magazine is available in book stores as well as on subscription. It has tied up with the India Today group (Living Media) to boost its distribution and circulation across the country.

Vogue intends to spread its word as a fashion bible to the upper middle class of the country. The magazine features advertisers such as Gucci, Chanel, Versace and the likes, and brings some of the biggest fashion houses in Milan, London, and Paris closer to Indian readers. At the same time, it does not shy away from representing the local colors on its pages. Indian brands and designers such Anita Dongre, Tanishq, Neeta Lulla and Ritu Kumar adorn many pages of the magazine. More than 60% of its revenue comes from such high-end advertisers. The price for advertising in the magazine may range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 29 lakh depending on the ad size and placement. Advertising rates on its online portal range from Rs 2,00,000 to 3,00,000.

Magazine publishers in India need to step up their game and devise innovative strategies and tie-ups to survive in the age of digital media. There is a need for consistency in quality content and a change in their perspective towards digital media. Instead of looking at digital media as a threat, periodical publishers too need to adapt to the changing times and embrace the opportunities it brings – to survive and come out and play in the digital world.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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