Glamour on making the transition from monthly print magazine to digital first brand

Adapting to the changing trends

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Glamour magazine.
Glamour magazine.

With a print legacy in the US stretching back to 1939, it may surprise some to learn that the UK version of Glamour magazine has only been in publication since 2001. At 18 years of age, it’s a title that’s just three years older than Facebook. Even at launch, the magazine had a mobile focus, coming in a handbag sized format with the tagline: ‘Fits your life as well as your handbag’. So with a young-skewing audience and a focus on beauty – a sector that has already found its natural shop-window on Instagram – the Glamour brand and a digital first approach may seem like a perfect fit.

However, as Newman explains, steering such a recognizable ship into new waters, still required a huge amount of work:

“When we first began to consider the shift to digital-first, the print circulation of Glamour was really healthy,” says Camilla Newman, publishing director for Glamour magazine. In fact, in the first half of 2017, we’d seen a seven percent year-on-year rise in circulation figures. But equally, we knew that our advertisers were becoming really attracted to digital brands, and that there were a lot of digital only publications launching in the space. We also knew that our largely millennial audience played out their lives on their phones, spending for example 2.5 hours per day on social media… and that’s just what they’re admitting to!”

“So we relaunched Glamour to become a digital-first beauty brand. This meant converting the existing print team into a digital team, and generating traffic became our focus. The market was also expanding and giving birth to the influencer. In 2018, the UK beauty market held a value of GBP£15.5m (USD$1.6m), and there was nobody really owning that space in the same way that says Allure was in the States.”

At the time when Glamour magazine was changing, the world was changing too. In 2017, the #MeToo movement began to take on serious international recognition and quickly progressed from Twitter hashtag to genuine social force for good. Beauty was being looked at through a new lens, with new faces and fewer boundaries, and this presented a prime opportunity for an established brand to provide a pioneering voice in an advancing space.

Newman and her team redesigned every touchpoint the brand was present in, from the website, to social, to the print magazine itself. And in doing so it also played its part in helping to redesign the sector.

“We didn’t ignore fashion or celebrity, but we really wanted to see everything through a beauty lens. And in doing so we also wanted to be inclusive, non-judgemental, inspiring, and powerful. The brand launched its #BlendOutBullying campaign, which quickly gained traction and expanded into events, print articles, and showed us that every single thing we do should have a 360 degree approach. Every piece of content reflects beauty, feminism, and sisterhood, and is ultimately about empowering.”

While the concept took to digital like a duck to water, the logistics – as can often be the case – took a little longer to figure out.

“Facebook changed its algorithm just before we started, to downgrade publisher content, so we had to pivot quickly in our approach to this channel and indeed more broadly pivot many times. Print remains hugely important to the brand – but we now print biannually, the old format has gone, and we’ve shifted to a matte finish, providing more rare print incarnations of the magazine that act as keepsakes. Instagram has proved to be our best and most loyal channel, where we feature episodic stories with a 95 percent completion rate and a three percent swipe up rate.”

This multi-platform approach has resulted in a total organic brand reach of eight million users, up 38% since relaunch in March 2018. 82% of all Glamour traffic now comes via mobile, which is the highest proportion for any brand within The Conde Nast portfolio. There are brand extensions in the form of events, a beauty club that allows readers to sample new products for free in exchange for reviews, and with 24 pieces of content now being produced by the brand daily, its premium offering remains in place.

Of course one of the main downsides of digital transition that often doesn’t make the headlines is the staff turnover that can be required. But in the case of Glamour, Newman is open about the degree of changeover that the new start needed, and how this transition worked in practice.

“We already had a web team in place but we were very print heavy. So the digital team, to begin with, remained in place and we brought in a lot of new people. The print team is now a freelance team that comes in and works with us twice a year. The reality is that we just couldn’t keep everyone who was there who was a print focus, but a lot of the people who did stay didn’t even need to be retrained, just refocussed.”

“Digital revenue is now really working,” says Newman. “It’s now less about display and sponsorship and more about branded content and telling stories with us, that side of things has really gained momentum. In many ways, we’ve had to behave like a start-up with a really established brand, and keep learning and changing along the way.”

This article was first published on – www.fipp.com

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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