Future of Fashion Magazines | Part Three – The move to fashion film

In the third and final installment of our in-depth feature on the future of fashion magazines, we address the biggest online trend of all — the fashion film.

LONDON, United Kingdom — Pioneered by SHOWstudio and powered by the spread of broadband internet and the popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, fashion film has emerged as the most influential new format for fashion editorial online. Shorts like “Black and White,” captured on set by Nick Knight and former assistant Ruth Hogben during Mr Knight’s shoots for British Vogue, use music and movement to communicate the power and poetry of fashion in a way that static editorial simply can’t.

Fashion film has taken off at Dazed Digital also. “We have been experimenting with some of these directors to shoot fashion videos direct to the web and the results are cost effective and really impressive,” said Jefferson Hack. For a recent editorial previewing the Autumn/Winter 2009 menswear collections, Dazed Digital published an online fashion film, shot by Matt Irwin and styled by Robbie Spencer, to accompany the still images.

But what’s resonating with readers? The beauty of digital is that publishers can monitor success and failure in realtime. “We’re able to pin-point with incredible accuracy, article by article and shoot by shoot, what people are really looking at,” said Jefferson Hack. “The blogging and re-tweeting of content also shows what’s really capturing people’s imaginations. It’s a tremendously useful feedback loop for the editors.”

Indeed, the ability to capture and quantify realtime feedback from readers themselves has helped build a stronger business case for lots of digital experiments and encouraged others in fashion media to follow suit.

Faced with the new digital reality, more and more fashion magazines are launching interactive experiments of their own. POP plans to redevelop thepop.com to coincide with its re-launched next season under new editorial direction, while i-D has promised that its “restructuring” will come with a renewed focus on the web. According to Matthew Hawker, Production Director at the magazine and the person charged with relaunching i-Dmagazine.com, the revamped web experience will include “a sophisticated content management system that will allow the world’s best photographers, stylists, DJs, filmmakers and designers to create their own environments within the editorial control of Terry Jones and the i-D team.”

So what will fashion magazines look like in a few years’ time? While websites like Dazed Digital and SHOWstudio point the way forward, offering readers greater immediacy and access, new opportunities for participation, and more multi-sensory content than ever before, nobody really knows the answer to that question. That’s because unlike print, digital is a medium that’s always evolving.

“We are now entering the restless world of interactive, self-created, digital-imaging: accessible, downloadable and constantly changing,” said Nick Knight. Indeed, unlike traditional photography that “ends” when the image is developed and printed, digital imagery on the internet has no fixed ending. It can be changed constantly by its creator or programmed to evolve based on inputs as varied as user interaction or time of day.

What Mr. Knight observes about digital imagery is true of digital media at large. Unlike print, the internet is not a stable medium with fixed properties. Quite the contrary. The web is an ever-changing universe in which new media forms like Twitter and Tumblr are literally being born every day. In this ecosystem of constant change, fashion magazines must accept revolution without end and learn to embrace constant experimentation, constant innovation and the constant birth and death of new editorial formats.

Read Part One – A Changing Landscape here and Part Two – Lots of Little Experiments here.

Vikram Alexei Kansara is a digital strategist and writer based in New York.

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  1. I think you’re right that every magazine is going to have to find its own niche and its own new-media business model. But I think one can make a few generalities: high quality content cannot be given away for free. It has to be paid for, online or off, and as the financial situation of content providers becomes more dire they will either start making their readers pony up or go out of business. In the next year or two I think sources such as AP, Reuters, NY Times and others will start to crack down on web aggregators stealing their stories. Compared to newspapers, fashion magazines are in an advantaged position: they can package and sell an unique aesthetic experience which readers will still want to pay to hold in their hands. So it comes down to a question of having the best content.

    Anjo from New York, NY, United States
  2. Being a Art Director / Designer in print I like Anjo’s stance on this. Nevertheless most magazine are facing a dramatically changed environment: people just don’t have the same urge to buy magazines as they pull most of the content of the net. Even me, as a dedicated ‘print person’ find myself skipping more and more magazine issues and titles, being kept in the loop via the net. So I guess the question is twofold: how will current magazines adapt to this (downsize?) and on the other hand what business model on the internet would allow any company to maintain high editorial standards, comparable to those of (printed) Vogue for instance?

    Philippe GALOWICH from Montrouge, Île-de-France, France
  3. these sites are too approachable! i think, that’s because luxury brands should find another way to touch its consumers instead of internet!

    demir from Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
  4. I agree very much with what has been said in the 3 parts of this great article:
    something that hasn’t been said, but that is maybe the underlying phenomenon/ force – at least this is what I believe- is a split in every one’s perception of reality: let’s face it: we are evolving as a species and becoming more and more conscious of the fact that we are creating our own reality every minute. It is natural that this is being reflected by the “multi-dimensionality” of the internet, which is neither a symptom, nor the cause.

    the sources of information and experiences (thank you Jefferson- i haven’t thought of this yet) have multiplied, and it seems that reality as we used to experience it is becoming obsolete- the unique and unifying voice of print media (not only in fashion) is being split up into many many tiny realities, instant newness, a flood of information and more and more for the reader /spectator to choose from.
    what happens is that any experience of the media becomes more and more individual, and yes, it is now the readers and customers who influence the success of an idea, an artwork, designer etc directly ( through tweeting , FB etc directly)
    The leading institutional publications ( print) are not building the customers opinion anymore, they still tell him what to buy, but ultimately the customer is confronted with so much choice that he or she will buy what she or he really likes based on what they perceive. Even if there is now a shift from leading print press to leading web press, because of the nature of the web, the ever changing new blog posts, the information the reader gets depends very much on the time of the day when he’s checking the site, if he’s not obsessively reading through all the posts of that day-

    I think that the quantity of printed mags will reduce drastically in the years to come, it’s started already and will continue: the purple fashions and self services of this world won’t be that affected, coming out twice a year or so they feature fashion as art more so than give information, they will survive as art objects, building a counterpart to the vanishing images and experiences online ( that they too offer ( at least purple)). Self service already changed its format to a bound book several years ago.

    i think there might be an evolution of that split in our realities that will lead to the fact that every designer will build or rather attract his own field of customers, but again, they could change every second, because there is also less faithfulness in terms of following a brand. However, brands that are sensitive to this internet phenomenon and intelligent enough to ride on those “multi -reality outlets” in a smart way will certainly succeed if the customer likes them.
    in terms of magazines, print as we know it will come to a slow end- the internet can’t force anyone to pay: this is very “out there”, but it could be something that will happen in other domains, not necessarily fashion, and that is, tithing- it might sound stupid for fashion, but it already happens in other domains on the web, in general for information that is not readily available for the masses: people are encouraged to pay a certain ( minimal ) amount of money to help the author survive and continue to give out this information- people in general are more and more inclined to give money for a good cause, would the fashionistas of this world give a tiny contribution in order to still get their fashion editorials and insider information from the internet publications?
    even if yes, we would still be quite far from the huge amounts of money the advertisers used to pay for print…. but maybe better than nothing?

    anyhow, that’s my personal take on all of this and i’m trying to understand where we are all going holistically – interesting times….

    mark from New York, NY, United States