A couple of months ago, I attended a talk by Condé Nast on fashion innovation. The talk could be summed up into three powerful words: innovate or die. I sat gripped to this fascinating talk and this is what I learned…
What is Condé Nast?
Condé Nast is a traditional, global mass media company. The company was founded in 1909 by Condé Montrose Nast. The company is in charge of many brands, including Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Wired and Architectural Digest to name a few. Through its brands, Condé Nast attracts more than 84 million consumers in print, over 366 million in digital and 384 consumers across social platforms. During the 20th century, Condé Nast and its publications dominated the creative media sector. Their print magazines flew off the shelves, selling by the masses all over the world.
How the Blogging Industry Affected Print Magazine Sales
Fast forward to the 21st century and the situation began to change for Condé Nast. With the rise of websites, bloggers and social media influencers, they found themselves being replaced by a new type of media. The mid-2000s saw the rise of bloggers and less traditional forms of journalism.
The Rise of Bloggers and Influencers
If you’ve read the story of how I got into blogging, you will be familiar with the story of Tavi Gevinson. At the age of just 11, Tavi started a blog back in 2009, which consisted of her quirky daily outfit posts. The blog quickly got noticed and Tavi rose to fame as a new, interesting and somewhat unconventional fashion editor. This story inspired as many as it infuriated. It wasn’t just Tavi Gevinson that traditional journalists were targeting their anger towards, it was all bloggers. Many traditional journalists were not happy about bloggers replacing them on the front rows at fashion shows and receiving exclusive brand partnership deals that would have once been reserved for magazines and mainstream media.
This is perfectly understandable. Journalists study, work hard for years and rarely receive personal appraisal for their work as an individual, which is especially the case for magazine editors. Bloggers are praised for being diverse, forward-thinking and covering topics that really resonate with their audiences. Yet a blogger requires 0 formal qualifications in order to be successful. Despite many journalists across the world openly criticising bloggers as a new form of media, the blogging industry continued to grow.
The main issue is that absolutely anybody can setup a blog and label themselves a “blogger”. Too many people think that they can earn a fast buck from setting up a blog filled with poorly written content, no business plan and lacking the dedication it takes to really succeed. Whether or not you side with traditional media or the new digital age, there’s no denying the hard work and commitment that goes into building a successful blog. It might be cheap and easy to start a blog, but no brand will pay good money and send cool stuff to the owner of a website that’s rarely updated and full of careless typos.
The truth is that blogs and magazines are very different. Some blogs resemble online magazines, but the content, relationship with the audience, and brand partnership deals are not the same. It’s important to acknowledge that traditional print media and digital content creators should be valued and appreciated in their own way. Magazines speak with authority, whereas bloggers have influence. Use what you have!
During the talk by Condé Nast, bloggers, social media and influencers were labelled as “Digital Disruptors.” Social media and influencers changed the value chain in the media industry, therefore they became known as “Digital Disruptors.” Until bloggers and influencers arrived on the scene, brands could only seek out traditional advertising opportunities in print magazines. There is no denying that this had worked well for both parties for many years, but brands quickly learned that their potential return on investment could be higher from working with bloggers than when advertising in magazines. It turns out that what magazine editors disliked about bloggers and influencers: having their own voice, covering new topics, diversity, a personal connection with their audiences, were all the qualities that brands loved!
How Condé Nast Innovated and Moved Away from Digital Disruptors
Condé Nast’s short but sweet advice was: innovate or die! As bloggers took over digital media, sales of print magazines plunged to an all time low. Consumers were embracing the convenience and accessibility of online media, which brought a seemingly sudden halt to print magazine sales. Naturally, one of the first steps Condé Nast took was to utilise their websites to share more content. Up until this time, most magazines had their own websites but they were mainly being used to tell readers who they were and how and where to buy their magazines. Nowadays, magazines offer a wealth of free content on their websites, different to what’s available in their print and digital magazines, plus they now have digital versions of their magazines that you can subscribe to as well.
As mentioned earlier, magazines tend to be considered the authoritative voice, whereas bloggers have the personal connection and the influence. Condé Nast partnered with Mayo Clinic to gain professional information on subjects relevant to their health and wellness brands. Conde Nast used the acquired information from Mayo Clinic and turned it into written content that their readers would find easy to digest. This strategy of using their data and turning it into something relevant for their partners helped Conde Nast to move away from digital disruptors by creating the type of authoritative content that their readers go to them to consume. And it wasn’t just the health industry they applied this practice to, they continue to seek out professional data from all types of reputable organisations and provide it to their consumers in the way that resonates with them best. Conde Nast went on to advise focusing on your partners when it comes to innovation. How can you use what’s accessible to you? What sort of information do your readers want or need to know, but would prefer to read in your style of writing?
As a business owner, I think we always need to look at ways to improve and innovate so that we’re never short on cards to deal should difficult times strike. You can read more on Amazon’s advice on non-stop innovation in this article here.