Talking New Media

‘Digital first’ claims another title: Conde Nast UK’s Glamour to cut print down to 2 issues a year

UK magazine market likely to see many more changes going forward, especially with the proposed sale of Time Inc. UK, as trends seen in the US regarding circulation and print ad sales are increasingly seen in the UK, as well

In the newspaper business the term “digital first” is usually used when laying off print staff, a convenient cover for cost cutting. In the magazine business it often means the print edition is being shuttered, or issue frequency cut.

Today, Condé Nast UK announced that it would be going “digital first” with Glamour, and while it didn’t announce layoffs, one can be pretty sure those will come at some point.

Going forward, the magazine will produce two special issues a year appearing in the spring and fall, with its last monthly print edition appearing this November (with a December 2017 date).

Glamour’s announcement reads like it was written by the Kremlin, and never mentions the cut in print editions:

“Our new digital first strategy for the new year will have our customer – and our reader – at front and centre more than ever,” the magazine told readers in cryptic, clichéd fashion. “From the latest products for the beauty obsessed; to catwalk and street style trends and how they translate to real life; to interviews with the world’s most talented beauty experts; to our fabulous Beauty Festival which will get bigger and better across every platform; and a raft of additional events, Glamour will provide beauty in every aspect of life.”

UK news reports say that the editorial and commercial teams will be “fully integrated” — though what they mean by that, other than trying to please advertisers, is unknown. But one assumes editors who don’t want to work for title big on native advertising will seek an exit, or have one forced upon them.

“The claim that integrating editorial and commercial departments is “a further innovative move” is not up to much, because many others have been forced to do the same,” said BBC media editor Amol Rajan. “And when editorial and commercial departments merge, it’s generally because the money is running out and so the commercial team actually control the editorial content.”

In the first few years of publishing TNM I used to get a lot of comments from UK publishers and editors wondering about the growth of digital in the US, and often commenting that they simply were not seeing the kinds of declines in print, and conversely the growth in digital that was being seen in the US. My response was usually “just wait.”

For Condé Nast UK’s Glamour, its readership numbers have slid since the end of 2010, but have really seen bigger declines in the past couple of years.

One big change coming to the UK magazine industry will be the sale of Time Inc. UK, or what used to be called IPC Media.

Time Inc. UK owns some good titles, including TV Times, Country Life, Horse & Hound, NME and Marie Claire. That side of the business used to be run by Evelyn Webster, who later was made the person in charge of most of the US portfolio, before being booted in 2016 when Rich Battista won the internal wars at the company.

Time Inc. UK was a logical choice to divest for Time Inc. because Battista wants to concentrate on growing the video, broadcast content side of the business in the US, building it upon the familiar weekly brands, brands that are hard to sell due to their print schedules.

Reports say that a private equity company may be interested in the UK division, PE ownership being another trend that was widely seen in the US before catching on elsewhere. Heads up, PE ownership rarely ends well.