The downward spiral in luxury ad spending was Time magazine’s stated reason for suspending publication of its spinoff Time Style & Design-and not an unreasonable one, given the market. But the title had other challenges unrelated to the lack of luxury bucks, print buyers said.
Print buyers have been skeptical about Time Style & Design since it started in 2001 as an oversized, twice-yearly special, covering style and various aspects of the fashion industry. While its recipients were high-end (its media kit says Style & Design is polybagged to 550,000 Time subscribers, with a median household income topping $160,000), they may not have been inclined to read about the world of fashion while they were in a hard-news frame of mind.
“You’re getting a Time magazine for a very different reason from the reason you’re getting fashion editorial,” said Kelly Foster, a senior partner at Mindshare USA.
Its association with Time magazine also made it difficult for the title, despite being well turned out, to talk to high-end advertisers.
“It’s a mass brand in the U.S., so to convert a luxury advertiser to it is a hard prospect,” Foster said.
Style & Design’s seesawing frequency, going up to six U.S. issues before retreating to four, also was problematic, said a print buyer for luxury clients not authorized to speak for attribution.
“That was awkward, and it changed a lot,” the buyer said. “It wasn’t always aligned with the top sales periods.”
Edited by Kate Betts, a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Style & Design won buyer praise for having high-quality, attractively packaged editorial. (She’ll stay on and continue to cover fashion for Time magazine, although six other staffers were let go.)
But the title couldn’t survive the deep dive in ad spending on high-end watches, cars and the like. Other titles that depend heavily on that category have had greater-than-average percentages of shortfalls in ad pages this year. Hearst’s Town & Country and Condé Nast’s oversized W, to name a couple, are both off 47 percent in ad pages this year through their September issues, per the Mediaweek Monitor. Condé Nast’s Architectural Digest, meanwhile, was down 49 percent.
“It’s not a must-buy for luxury, and luxury’s not buying the must-buys,” Foster said.
Downturns also tend to fall harder on spinoffs, like Condé Nast’s Men’s Vogue, which went under after two years; and USA Today’s Open Air, the Gannett newspaper’s one-year-old quarterly lifestyle offshoot which ceased publication this summer.
“It’s a time when extensions are the first to go,” said another print buyer who wasn’t authorized to speak for attribution. “It’s not their core business, so it doesn’t surprise me. Across the country, people are cutting back, and luxury is hard hit.”