The Problem with Vogue’s September Issue

I tweeted the following question in late July: Vogue US’ September Issue will be their biggest yet, with 658 pages of ads. Does it really matter, if their print circulation is going down? 

Turns out I was wrong about the print circulation (it’s actually steady year on year), but there are still other questions to be answered.

All in, the September issue of US Vogue weighs 4.5 pounds (and is even causing issues for US Postal Service workers!) and has a total of 916 pages.  So let’s get this straight – 916 total pages in the book and 658 of those pages are advertising.  71% advertising.  Obviously this is a great deal for Vogue –  it’s their largest issue to date, which they put a lot of PR against and more importantly,  their September issue enables them to generate a lot of ad revenue in a declining market.

Is it a good deal for advertisers? For readers?

It appears that advertisers are persuaded by a quantity argument. The September issue of Vogue, as well as for other fashion print books, is traditionally the largest issue of the year, followed closely by March. They know that people who are might occasionally buy Vogue or one of its glossy competitors are more likely to buy in September, when they know they’ll get an update on the trends for the year to come… or so the old argument goes. I think this is less true in the digital age, when you can easily check out the numerous fashion and styles blogs for an instant update.

The other argument, which holds more weight,  is that Vogue is still a trusted curator of fashion and style, especially to older, affluent female audiences. This makes sense, given that the Vogue US reader has a median age of 37.4,  is 89% female and has a median household income of USD $63,000. September is the big moment to reach as many of these readers as possible.  Vogue’s current print circulation is 1,248,121, which is steady year on year.

Are readers persuaded by this quality argument?  Glossed Over has a great live-blog post of her reading the September 2012 edition of Vogue and includes this gem: “THERE ARE A LOT OF ADS. So many ads I’m actually looking forward to getting to the content… There are twenty pages of ads between the first and second pages of Wintour’s letter, and another twenty pages of ads between the second and third pages. Good call, Vogue. It’s really easy to read a dozen paragraphs when you spread them over forty pages.”

The majority of people buy magazines for the content, not to see advertising. In my view, great ads are a bonus. This trend of blockbuster issues of fashion glossies is already feels gimmicky. In a world where people just want to get to the great content, I wonder how much longer fashion books will be able to play this ‘biggest issue ever’ game, without backing it up with at least a 50% advertising to content ratio.


How To Make It In America

I noticed a lot of activity for this new HBO show when I was in New York last week and was intrigued as the activity kept popping up in my media space.

From what I can see, the show’s been launched via a really kick ass integrated media campaign – so kudos to whichever agency planned it (I think it might be PHD New York – anyone know?).

They did a lot of outdoor, press and online display – so far, so standard.

HBO put a lot of content (behind the scenes, interviews, photos) on the HTMIITA microsite on the main HBO website – yeah, yeah, I know you’ve seen that before.

But then, what they did, which lifted the campaign and really extended the characters & storyline, was run a lot of integrated activity with key online sites.

Foursquare: If you check into venues that have been tagged by the show, then you can get one of four special badges – Culture, Living, Cocktails, and Nightlife. They’ve also incorporated information from NYC city guide websites like Black Book, Eater, Urban Daddy, Flavourpill and Racked. Willsh has rightly pointed out that the NYC Uniqlo is not the only one in the Western Hemisphere.

Facebook: Check out the mixtape tab – how cool is that?

Twitter hashtag: They’ve taken ownership of their hashtag, which is really nice forward thinking about how to aggregate tweets that come in when the show airs on Sunday nights.

YouTube: You can watch short clips here.

Flickr: Fans of the show have joined this Flickr group and contributed their photographic takes on NYC. There is a lot of great music in the show, so a very nice library has been created to collate the show’s musical influences.

Nicely done.

Barbie’s Next Career

What will Barbie be next? That’s what Mattel are asking, in a cute campaign I spotted in New York earlier this week.

She’s had over 120 different careers!  Over the years, Barbie’s been many things, including a Doctor,  an Astronaut and a Race Car Driver – quite a bit more prolific than the average 7 -10 jobs a person is supposed to have over their career.

So what was the result of the vote? Quite excitingly (or maybe the result of a rigged popular vote?!), Barbie is going to be a Computer Engineer! Oh, and a News Anchor as well- the result of the Girls vote.

Much better than the Teen Talk Barbie of ’92, which was programmed to say “Math class is tough!”

I love that Computer Engineer Barbie (her 126th career!) is going to be kitted out with a smart phone, a laptop case and a Bluetooth earpiece and her t-shirt has binary code all over it.

Hopefully this will inspire more girls to study computers, engineering and start coding away!


The Oprah Effect

In a moment of nostalgia, I was watching Oprah last week while I was in New York. Now, I never watch Oprah – it’s on at weird time and on a weird channel in the UK. 

Anyway, a woman was being interviewed about her fairly traumatic childhood. One of her childhood friends was being interviewed remotely (Oprah’s studio is in Chicago) at his home in Missouri. What would normally happen is that Oprah would get a local film crew in and then remotely connect and interview him.

What they did instead, was use Skype to connect him to the studio and interview him.  How cool is that?

She did a whole show on Skype last May and now integrates Skype into most of her programmes, including today’s show, when she’ll be speaking to one of the American missionaries jailed in Haiti via Skype.

I watched this documentary on ‘the Oprah Effect’ recently and it really is stunning to see how much being on Oprah drives sales uplifts and even appearing in O magazine will create tangible sales effects. After Whitney Houston did her famous Oprah interview last year, she saw a 77% increase in album sales and now unsurprisingly, there are PR firms who companies hire with the specific objective of ‘getting their company on Oprah’.

Jamie Oliver’s just filmed a segment for Oprah, which will be airing in the U.S in March and it will be really interesting to see what will happen afterwards. Will the States go crazy for the Naked Chef? Will there be a food revolution in the U.S.?

Does a similar effect occur in the UK when something is featured on Loose Women or Richard and Judy? I know when Richard and Judy were on Channel 4, their book club was very popular, but does it still exist?

Does anything like ‘the Oprah Effect’ occur in the UK?


Drive Thru America

Having lived in London for the past 8 years and relying on my feet, taxis or other various means of public transport to get around, I forget how utterly reliant Americans and Canadians are on their cars. Whenever I go back home or travel somewhere in the U.S., there are always so many brilliant reminders of this.

I was in Miami this past Christmas and rented a big old American SUV to get around. Even driving from the car rental place to the highway,  there were so many amazing examples of how interwoven cars are into American culture.  American advertisers seem well aware of this, creating very stark and easy to digest large outdoor creative executions.

Many businesses have geared their services towards this and it was incredible to see the variety of companies offering drive-thru services, beyond the usual suspects like McDonald’s and fast-food restaurants of that ilk. Many banks, pharmacies, even doctor’s offices all had a drive-thru lane.

While we were driving around, we listened to the radio a lot. It was clear from all the dial turning we did that commercial radio is alive and kicking and there are stations in each market to cater to every niche – Spanish, hip-hop, R&B, C&W, classic rock – anything you can think of.

Even in New York, a city known for its subways and taxis, this was true. Apparently 1010 WINS, the local AM talk radio station, gets over 12 million listeners a day because people rely on the station to give them up to date local news, weather and information, all with a quintessentially New York spin.


Scenes From New York

Apologies for the radio silence, but I’ve been off recharging my batteries in Miami and New York. Two weeks away, with very little internet access (other than the wi-fi I was able to steal) does not good digital connectivity make.

Anyway, I saw lots and lots of interesting things on my trip.

1. Disused storefronts and buildings used as media space.

2. A really great Google Maps / local business partnership – spotted outside the Y3 store on W13th Street.

3. Obama cupcakes from Chelsea Market.

4. An amazing plea for a tip on the bill from Cafeteria in Chelsea – 18%!  The service barely constituted a standard 15% tip… just saying.

5. The incredible elevator (that people were lining up on the coldest day of the year to take) that only goes up and down one floor and the madness in the Apple Store below.

6.  The amazing New York Bomb Squad logo. I didn’t believe this was real when I first saw it, but a quick chat with some NYPD officers verified its authenticity.


Swiftcover Do Good Spotify

This popped into my inbox earlier today – a really nice partnership between Swiftcover and Spotify. Much better than the full-screen overlays they’ve been running recently, I might add.


With this and the Tories running ads on the service, I wonder how many more premium memberships Spotify are going to sell?

I guess they need to sell many, many more, just to prove the naysayers wrong.

If anyone wants this offer, let me know and I’ll send it on.