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Glamour Goes Digital-First

To stay ahead of the proverbial curve, many traditional print magazines have moved to a digital-first approach to publishing. Glamour magazine is one such publication that took the right steps in order to meet their customers’ desires.

Digital-first has become one of the critical decision points impacting print publications across industries. The fashion industry has been significantly impacted by target markets choosing digital alternatives to printed publications. With the advent of high-speed internet and devices that provide instant access to information, the fashion industry has struggled to maintain a leading mind-share position on trends in style with their readers. 

Glamour, founded in 1939, is a women’s magazine with divisions across the US, UK, and various European countries. The magazine is published by Condé Nast , one of the largest fashion publishing groups with a global reach of over one billion consumers across digital media outlets. 

Prior to 2016, management at Glamour recognized that the shift towards a digital market would require a change on their end. The UK branch of Glamour first took steps toward a stronger online presence back in 2017, when they began cutting back on printed issues in order “to become a digital first, beauty-first brand. ” 

As a leading fashion and beauty magazine, Glamour currently holds a strong position across online platforms, boasting more than 11 million online users and a social media following of over 14 million. Thus making the permanent shift toward a digital-first platform a sensible decision for the company’s future growth. 

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle Deborah Joseph , an editor for Glamour UK, said: 

“For me the exciting thing was: how do you take a brand like Glamour that’s been built over 17 years as one of the most successful and well-known women’s brands across the UK, from a print title of 12 times a year and grow it across multi platforms — social, experiential and, obviously, online?”

The move for Glamour to cease their printed issues was hinted at when the magazine’s editor in chief, Cindie Leive , stepped down after 16 years. Samantha Barry was then hired in January 2018 to lead and accomplish this change in Glamour’s approach to its readers. Barry recognized the demand to secure a strong digital presence for the publication, and her role as editor in chief has allowed Glamour to transform their brand in the expanding world of digital media.

Upon Barry’s arrival, the plan to relaunch the US branch of Glamour on a digital platform was officially set in motion. In an interview for The New York Times , Barry said, “It’s where the audiences are, and it’s where our growth is. That monthly schedule, for a Glamour audience, doesn’t make sense anymore.” 

In October 2016, In Style UK made the decision to close their print editions permanently as a result of falling circulation patterns. Marie Claire UK  reacted to market pressure in the same manner. The magazine announced in September 2019 that they plan to cease print publication after November. A spokesperson from Marie Claire UK told BBC News , “A strategy focusing on Marie Claire UK’s digital business will give the brand the best opportunity to secure a profitable and sustainable future.” 

While these two popular UK magazines made the switch to digital in order to stay afloat, this was not necessary Glamour at the time.Unlike In Style UK and Marie Claire UKGlamour’s print publication was highly successful when they announced their digital shift. What this seems to indicate is a keen sense of market movement and the corresponding flexibility to accomplish a significant change in business direction.

Camilla Newman, Glamour’s publishing director, spoke about the magazine’s decision at the PPA (Professional Publishers Association) festival  in May 2018 saying, “It’s really important to point out that the print circulation of Glamour was really healthy when we were looking at changing the format to a digital-first brand.” In fact, the company’s 2018 market value  was ‎€15.5 million, or $17 million, with an estimated growth forecast up 21.1% over the next five years.  

At the time of their decision, Glamour indicated a revenue growth model for the next twenty quarters. However, it’s not apparent whether the marketing impact that drove other publications into digital publishing to avoid significant loss was a part of their consideration.

With the success in printed editions and, at the time, no downward move in print revenue, the shift toward a solely digital platform was both a bold and proactive choice for the company. Not many publicly-traded companies have a management team with the fortitude to make decisions that could negatively impact revenue and stock-holder dividends. However, with the strong positive growth across all digital media outlets, it seems Glamour timed their move well.

Even with the digital-first approach, Glamour hasn’t forgotten about their consumers that prefer print. The magazine produces a “biannual, collectible, glossy ” edition that celebrates diversity among women, while at the same time, reaching their audience with the nostalgia of a physical issue. This decision to blend the “old with the new”, shows the sensitivity of Glamour management to their customers. Further, these special editions hold the potential of becoming collectibles which will contribute to cementing Glamour as one of the leading fashion brands since 1939. 

While Glamour isn’t the only magazine to make the digital-first transition, they are one of the few companies to take a proactive approach in the world of digital publishing. Since Barry’s rise to editor in chief, Glamour’s online views  “have risen 12 per cent, to 6.3 million.” “Glamour is a brand – it’s not just a magazine ,” Barry says, and this approach has truly transformed the iconic publication while still managing to maintain the integrity it held before a digital shift.