Condé Nast's W magazine is reducing its print frequency from 12 issues a year to 10 while amping up its digital presence.
While other magazines' frequency cuts usually are a symptom of falling ad pages, the oversized fashion glossy's first-quarter ad pages are the highest they've been since 2008 (the March issue was up 3 percent year over year), after a year in which ad pages rose 10.3 percent over 2011, to 1,202, per Publishers Information Bureau, leading to new publisher Lucy Kriz's recent internal recognition at the Condé Nast publisher’s awards.
Editor in chief Stefano Tonchi said the frequency change (which will combine the January/December and June/July issues, which are typically thin on ad pages anyway) wasn't a response to financial problems but was designed to free up money to invest in the magazine's digital brand. "We don’t want to be just long-lead anymore, so that means putting the investment [in digital]," added Kriz.
To that end, W will overhaul its website in May with a platform-responsive design, with social media features and a visual encyclopedia that will allow visitors to create an inspiration board of images from the magazine’s archives using filters like color, celebrity, or designer. Sweden Unlimited, a New York-based interactive firm whose clients include fashion brands like Michael Kors and Jason Wu, oversaw the redesign.
“One of the things that I had to do to find the money [for the website] was to save on the printed edition, and I really didn't want to change the quality or the format of the magazine, or the kinds of shoots and portfolios that we create with photographers like Mert and Marcus or Steven Klein or Steven Meisel,” said Tonchi, referring to the expensive editorial content that W is known for.
W is also doubling down on its mobile offerings. The Daily W, its tablet news app, was recently relaunched. The magazine still doesn't have a full-fledged digital edition, but it's been talking to Condé Nast corporate about launching one by the end of the year.
Tonchi made no attempt to hide his feelings about cutting the winter and summer issues. “The January and July issues are so small, and they’re not good for the brand because when you see them at the newsstand they don’t look good, they are expensive to produce, and they’re basically making a hole in the profitability of the whole printed operation,” he said.
While the regular frequency is decreasing, W is planning to produce an issue for the booming Chinese market to coincide with the release of its Global Style issue in November. The one-time issue will contain select content about global fashion and shopping guides around the world, all translated into Cantonese. Around 100,000 to 150,000 copies will be distributed in cities like Beijing, Macau and Hong Kong, while some extras will remain in New York for the tourist market.