Fashion Magazine or Catalogue or Both?

Japanese fashion magazines are often referred to as having catalogue like layout and being way too full of products and not enough editorial content.

Part of that is due to the publications being way too happy to accept advertorials as a key income stream and thus, there is so much paid advertisement disguised as editorial content that Japanese fashion editors are more like merchandisers for such advertisement than journalists.

Services exist whereby consumers can contact a web site and tell them that they want an item featured in XXX magazine on page XX so that they do not have to do the leg work themselves, but publications have now crossed the threshold over to the catalogue side of publications.

VOGUE NIPPON (Conde Nast Japan) may still insist on being a publication selling information and inspiration, but rival ELLE (Hearst Fujingaho) has the ELLE Shop, and it looks like any other online store....

Actually, Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi look far more glamorous than the ELLE Shop... The site's key selling point is that it is a "select shop" edited by the editors of ELLE, but unfortunately, there is very little "editorial" inspiration and direction visible in the shop.

Fashion magazine publisher Shueisha, who publishes SPUR and other titles truly leads the way in terms of trade volume with FlagShop.

Non-no, MORE, BAILA and the other names in the tabs are separate publications and each have their own home page. But the e-commerce function is consolidated in this one place. With promises of free shipping, next-day shipping, and that returns and exchanges are welcome, the site is a serious e-commerce destination.

Kobunsha, publisher of such popular titles as VERY, CLASSY, and STORY, has

Of course the online stores and publications are heavily linked, and some magazines actually have analogue inserts of the fashion catalogues for the online store in some issues.

What is interesting is that Kobunsha has a links section, which takes users to a landing page that clearly stipulates that clicking through means going directly to the brands' online stores and that the publisher (Kobunsha) is not to be held responsible or liable for any exchanges and transactions between the consumer and the brands' online stores. Obviously, this is a revenue stream for them while Shueisha seems to have decided that it is best that their audience stays in their site.

Another interesting thing, while studying the products promoted on the sites, is that the publications have already caught on that "buying" products from the brands does not offer enough margins and that it is more lucrative to develop their own private label products - the golden goose for select shops throughout Japan (and abroad, I am sure. We don't have to look far: Opening Ceremony is but one obvious example).

Advertisers can be offered a comprehensive package of both digital and analogue coverage, but also a distribution agreement, whereby highlighted products can be sold through the publication as well (whether they will actually buy the goods up front or ask that it be done on a commission basis depends on the strength of your brand).

Perhaps interesting to note while on the topic is that some (especially late night) TV programmes  are strongly linked to tv shopping and online stores which may be their own. And when a brand is featured on the programme, the brand may also be offered a distribution deal whereby featured product can be sold through their retail channel on a time limited basis.

It is obvious from monster publication Sweet (Takarajima), whose volumes grew four fold in a short time and exceeded 1 million copies a month while other respected titles were going out of business and being taken off shelves, that readers in Japan do not necessarily buy magazines for the editorial content. Sweet's secret to success is the gifts with purchase in every issue. I was told that the CEO does not attend editorial meetings, but when it comes to meetings deciding what to include in the next issue as a gift, he makes sure he has his say.

Now, it seems, some of the more trend-setting publications are becoming more catalogue than magazine and while this means they are fighting with their advertisers for the consumers' share of wallet, it is a growing trend one cannot ignore.