Media: Double Standards - Opening in recession can be good for business

Two magazine editors who launched their titles this year reveal the secrets of their success and their predictions for the market in 2010.

LISA SMOSARSKI - EDITOR, STYLIST

- How would you describe the build-up to launching your first issue?

Rather like the preparation for the 2012 Olympics; only more complex, time-consuming and stressful ...

- In a market where there are already thousands of magazines, why is there space for yours?

We did extensive research before launching Stylist and spoke to women (both current and non-magazine readers) about what they were looking for. We discovered they had a hunger for intellectually stimulating articles, alongside more traditional fashion and beauty content. They couldn't find another magazine that already delivered this, so we saw our opportunity and went for it.

- How would you describe your magazine to people who have never seen it?

Stylist is a snappy mix of issues, shopping, ideas, fashion and beauty content for successful and busy career women.

- How much did you worry about launching a title at a time of serious economic downturn?

In many ways, recessions are excellent times to launch new magazines. We were able to plan a sustainable business model for Stylist and craft a cost-base knowing the reality of the economic downturn. And as competitors have their hands full dealing with declines in their core portfolios, they're not focusing on causing trouble for us. We were confident Stylist was a strong product and had a great business plan, and we'd done our homework and spoken to advertisers who told us there was a need for a magazine like Stylist. To be honest, no-one would launch anything if they listened to the most cautious voices. We knew it was a great idea. And it's worked!

- What feature or regular piece in your magazine are you most proud of?

Work Life. Proof that intellectual and successful women are just as fascinating as celebrities. It's time hard-working women got the recognition they deserve.

- It's early days but what has been the reaction from advertisers to your title?

The reaction to Stylist has been absolutely fantastic. We've already well exceeded target and I'm delighted to constantly learn that our advertisers are also avid readers.

- What's your prediction for the consumer magazine market in 2010?

It's going to be an incredibly tough year. 2009 was about battening down the hatches, but 2010 will be about innovation and creativity. It will be tough for those that play it safe; magazines will be rewarded for courageous innovation.

DAVID ROWAN - EDITOR, WIRED

- How would you describe the build-up to launching your first issue?

We're lucky in that UK Wired builds on the US version of Wired, which launched in 1993. The period before launch was a remarkably unpanicked few months of fine-tuning a magazine that works for a British readership - identifying our own heroes to cover, our own design style, our own newsstand language - while also retaining the credibility of the American edition. It's a bit of a cult.

- In a market where there are already thousands of magazines, why is there space for yours?

Wired is the magazine for people who want to understand where the world is going. Each month, we take an informed and intelligent look into the future - where business, technology, science, culture are taking us all in this disruptive era of constant change. We offer brain food, elegantly presented, and in a spirit of fun.

- How would you describe your magazine to people who have never seen it?

Wired examines the future as it happens - casting early light each month on significant trends and innovators that are redefining our world, whether the next generation of internet entrepreneurs or the beautiful shiny products that will change how you read books.

- How much did you worry about launching a title at a time of serious economic downturn?

We're optimists at Wired - it comes with the brand. We sincerely believe that there's room for a magazine that combines aspiration, intelligence and the highest editorial values, if it tells genuinely inspiring and informed stories. The short-term economic cycle isn't going to stop fantastic new medical innovations, or brilliantly creative new ways of crowdsourcing filmmaking, or the growth of social media. Besides, Conde Nast takes the long-term view about building a high-quality editorial brand. And often it's the titles launched in a downturn - I think of Fortune and BusinessWeek in the Great Depression - that go on to dominate their markets for decades. Because when advertising returns, it tends to do so quickly - and seeks the confident, dominant titles that understand their mission.

- What feature or regular piece in your magazine are you most proud of?

We're proud that we can tell an important story at the length it needs, and we can send reporters around the world to do so. So, as well as short, pithy 150-word pieces, we commission fantastic longer reportage at 4,000, or even sometimes 8,000, words if a story is exciting enough. In the past few weeks, we've sent reporters to Brazil, Kenya, India, the US and Italy.

- It's early days but what has been the reaction from advertisers to your title?

We're getting tremendous feedback - and fantastic support from high-end advertisers I'm really proud to have in the magazine, whether luxury-goods companies or car or consumer-electronics companies. We're also working with clients such as IBM and Motorola to offer value-added partnerships that work for everybody - so Motorola sponsored a beautiful poster of the internet mapped out on to the Tokyo underground system, and IBM sponsored detailed coverage of the TED Global conference in Oxford last July.

- What's your prediction for the consumer magazine market in 2010?

Commodified magazines that don't offer a unique reason to purchase will suffer. The internet is their greatest competitor - for attention as well as advertising. But there will still be value in niche publications that have a deep knowledge of their audiences, for whom they curate a high-quality weekly or monthly package.

At Wired we know we can't compete with the net by offering wire-service-type coverage of tech news or business news - but what we can uniquely do in print is bring readers stunning design and photography, exciting and revealing infographics, long-form features they won't read on screen.

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