Editorial production, once the sole domain of publishing houses, is increasingly being taken care of by brands, especially those centered around lifestyle interests or luxury. They’re reaching out directly to consumers, cutting out the middlemen and becoming media companies in their own right.
The time for storytailing is here, with many storytailing partnerships emerging as a direct result of the rise of digital commerce. The barriers that traditionally would have made these types of ventures cost-prohibitive e.g. building stores or traditional media expenses such as production and printing, have fallen away. Creating and distributing content is getting cheaper and this notion has not been lost on the brands themselves.
Hence the emergence of branded magazines – ‘owned media’ in the form of online publications, created and produced by brands and their agencies to directly compete with traditional magazines. Like branded blogs, these magazines are made up of long form content, but focused more on delivering valuable content first and promoting products second. Of course, if the content results in a sale, even better.
Power Content has picked out a few success stories to showcase the storytailing potential available to your brand:
As the latest step in a major overhaul of its online presence and brand value, Australian online fashion retailer Brands Exclusive recently launched a free (to online members) monthly magazine for its customers and brand partners called The Exclusive. The e-zine showcases products with high-detail images and call-to-action links back to product pages on the website, as well as designer profiles and recurring segments for the menswear and homewares ranges.
“We want to share exclusive stories about fashion, beauty, style influencers and trends with our members, and we also wanted to create a place where we can tell our brand partners’ stories in style,” CEO Alexandra Mills told Power Retail in an interview in March. “Brands Exclusive is no longer just a fashion retailer, it’s an exciting fashion experience. And we didn’t feel we could achieve this without creating a new visual home and creating premium content for our members.”
California-based subscription commerce platform BeachMint took over operations of ailing shopping masthead Lucky from magazine powerhouse Condé Nast late in 2014. Lucky had foreseen the future of editorial and advertising elements blending into a single reader experience, but the company did not take the last step of making it a place that people could buy from. As CEO of Beachmint, and appointed head of the newly formed venture The Lucky Group, Josh Berman held former media experience with both MySpace and NewsCorp. He recognised the need for a new kind of platform that bridges the publishing world with online shopping in a 360 degree experience from beginning to end.
When it first began, people in the industry regarded Net-A-Porter as a scrappy e-commerce site masquerading as a digital fashion magazine. Today, the 10-year-old online luxury fashion retailer, founded by British magazine editor Natalie Massenet, employs more than 900 people (more than a vast majority of newsrooms and magazines), features products from 3,000 high-end designers, and has four million visitors a month.
Net-A-Porter’s iPad app takes commerce and content not only mobile, but one step further. The magazine offers an editorial narrative in the horizontal format with a parade of models sporting the latest designs, but when the user turns the device to portrait mode, individual items pop up in a retail environment, ready to buy with the swipe of a finger.
“For 10 years, we have been giving people information they want in a compelling, entertaining format while they shop. We fuse content with commerce and fashion,” says Claudia Plant, Editorial Director of Net-A-Porter.
Mr. Porter, men’s clothing site and companion to Net-A-Porter, is an advanced example of the retail and media trend, with its printed fashion magazine styled like a 1950’s newspaper.
Former Esquire editor, Jeremy Langmead, oversaw the launch of the magazine, which contains engaging and non-salesy articles such as ‘How to put outfits together’ and ‘Nail it at the office’, the type of content men might have sought out in print publications like GQ or Men’s Vogue, and which is likely contributing to the declining readership of these magazines. And rather than seeking revenue in the form of advertising, all the product in the magazine is available for purchase in the Mr Porter store.
To assist with linking the physical magazine to the Mr Porter store, there’s a phone app that allows you to hold the phone camera over an article, then directly purchase the products from the Mr Porter store. In addition, hovering over certain articles allows you to watch videos related to the article, including interviews with profiled people talking about their approach to style. There’s also online content available via The Journal, complete with ‘Shop The Journal’ functionality.
Immersing consumers in a brand through interesting content is typically the aim of online magazines, but it’s not necessary for all the content to be original. Through its Flipboard social magazine, Levi’s curates authentic and relevant articles about its products and the Levi’s brand from existing publications like Complex and E! Online. The magazine includes original videos, Levi’s product shots, consumer tweets, and other social media mentions that incorporate the #LiveInLevis hashtag, all with e-commerce built into the digital experience.
A challenge brands face when making the leap to a magazine is ensuring that their offering isn’t misconstrued as a catalogue. Reading an online magazine should induce a different kind of mindset. Luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman does an excellent job of going beyond the glossy catalogue with its 5th at 58th site. More of a New York lifestyle magazine than a blog, it features interviews with designers, runway collection reviews, and beauty and fashion advice similar to what you’d find in Vogue. The site also relays the culture of the brand, with photos and descriptions of its famed store windows, and cleverly ties content to the offline store; in addition to the magazine name – which represents the store’s actual location. It also features a ‘Seventh Floor’ section where consumers can find gourmet recipes – in the offline store, the restaurant can be found on this floor.
Video content and user interactivity have become vital to digital publications of all kinds, so it’s no wonder that brands are leveraging these elements in their own content. Burberry live-streamed its menswear show from Milan and consumers who tuned in could not only watch the models come down the runway, but also click and buy anything they wanted and have it delivered direct to their door.
UK clothing company Monsoon uses its online and mobile magazine Swoon to deliver shoppable content in combination with style guides, video and animated GIFs. Users can select from different apparel animations, choose their desired fabric, and see footage of a model wearing the item, plus click to buy.
Target Runway, a curated collection of the Target retail range made specifically for Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival 2015, offered browsers a stream of the catwalk as Target products were being showcased. Customers could pause to browse products featured in the side-tabs, then restore for more from the runway. Low-fi browsers could also find each item the traditional way with the Shop The Runway page redirecting to products on Target’s retail homepage.
Target in the US also has an online magazine called A Bullseye View, which adopts a Pinterest-like layout to provide lifestyle tips, often from celebrities, as well as showcase the retailer’s brands and products.
Beverage brand Red Bull‘s monthly publication, The Red Bulletin, started out in print back in 2005, morphed into a newspaper supplement that dealt with sports, and later into a ‘men’s active style magazine’ with a focus on adventure and entertainment. It brings the target readership, and customers, the extreme sports stories they crave, and has amassed a global circulation of more than two million, expanded to include a mobile app, and is now online.
Creating content that is compelling and engaging is a way for brands to both share their stories and showcase their products at the same time. Compelling brand magazines filled with engaging content can create content marketing kings, and those able to find a niche market can see huge boosts in their marketing efforts. So perhaps it’s time for your brand to delve into brand publishing?
Just remember these two key points:
- Fresh content far outweighs stagnant product information. A brand is better off with a loyal, long-time fan base built on a common interest, than with a single sale a visit to a product page might produce.
- The concept of delivering informative content without smothering the reader with branding is paramount from the start.
Which other retailers have you seen creating great media content? Feel free to leave your comments below.