StyleWatch’s Electro-Shop Therapy

Question: Now that consumerism has gone the way of the company 401(k) match, do magazines about shopping still have any relevance? Time Inc.’s People StyleWatch thinks they do, especially for its target: women in their 20s. The title has expanded an editorial feature that allows readers to send text messages to get more information on and buy products displayed in the magazine’s editorial pages. With the new application, the title hopes to glean information about readers’ likes and dislikes, while assuring advertisers that, yes, people are still shopping.

StyleWatch, a 10-times-a-year spinoff of People that shows readers how to mimic celebrities’ styles, will apply the text-message feature to 93 items in its March issue. Next to each featured item will be a code that readers can text to get links to a retailer’s or manufacturer’s site.

The arrangement might seem to cross the line between advertising and editorial, but editor Susan Kaufman  said all the designated items—from a $25 Old Navy sweater to a $438 Marc Jacobs handbag—are picked by her and her staff. However, she added, the magazine is exploring ways advertisers can get involved—for example, by sponsoring links to more information on a given topic, as long as the sponsor and editorial topics don’t overlap.

Publisher Michelle Myers said she’s using data resulting from the feature (powered by Snipp) to persuade prospective advertisers that readers are interested in their products.
So far, the most-texted items were, not surprisingly, under $100 (a $28 Gap T-shirt, 198 texts; and $69 Ann Taylor ballet flats, 152 texts). But people are still coveting luxuries; a Louis Vuitton agenda got 50 texts. “What has been really heartening,” Kaufman said, is that “our demographic is still shopping. Our reader isn’t worrying so much about a mortgage and putting kids through college.”

In the future, the magazine also hopes to learn how often people who text for information about an item actually end up buying it.

Decidedly, StyleWatch has enjoyed better-than-average paging results so far this year. Through its March issue, ad pages declined 18.3 percent to 58 versus a 26.3 percent decline in the fashion/beauty category overall (per the Mediaweek Monitor). Ad pages at Condé Nast’s Lucky, another shopping title, fell 35.3 percent to 203 in the same period.

StyleWatch’s circ grew 15.2 percent in second-half 2008, with a 102 percent subs increase offsetting a 3.9 percent decline in newsstand.