The Bottom Line | Condé Nast 2.0

Vogue.fr screenshot | Source: Condé Nast International

LONDON, United Kingdom – Moves this week from within Condé Nast International suggest that some of the media giant’s edgiest fashion publications – including French Vogue and Love magazine – are finally gearing up to seize the digital opportunity in a more meaningful way.

Superstylist Katie Grand, the creative force behind Love magazine, took to her brand new Twitter account Monday to announce the appointment of Alexander Fury in the role of editor. The news coincided with the launch of Vogue Paris’ English language site, designed to increase international traffic.

Fury, currently fashion director of Nick Knight’s pioneering website SHOWstudio, will replace Isaac Lock, and will oversee both the print and online editions of Love. “We’ve always given as much attention to what goes on our website as to what goes on the shelf,” Grand said in a statement. “So for us it has always made sense to have the same person overseeing both.”

Although the magazine has produced a number of fashion films, some of which have earned a significant number of views on YouTube, and made video content central to their website, Love is best recognised for its print magazine and the addition of Fury to the team suggests that the magazine is poised to up its emphasis on digital channels. “It’s rare that a magazine manages to foster a unique presence across both mediums,” Fury said of his new post. “I’m thrilled to work with the Love team, especially at such a pivotal moment in the relationship between magazines and the Internet.” Grand’s recent personal appearance on Twitter and the mobile photo-sharing platform Instagram also underscores the editor-in-chief’s growing interest in digital.

As for Vogue Paris, the magazine’s website was overhauled in February, resulting in a 130 percent rise in traffic according to figures provided by Condé Nast. “Today, Vogue is the leading brand on  social networks in France, with more than 500,000 Facebook fans and nearly a million followers on Twitter,” Sarah Herz, director of Condé Nast Digital in France told BoF. “Digital is at the heart of our brand development strategy, and we have built some very strong synergies between the digital and print teams at all levels.”

With the launch of an English language version of their website, the French magazine is also making its international aspirations clear. “We know that we have a very international audience, which is why we expect the English edition to drive even more traffic and help us develop the brand,” continued Herz. “Our strategy is to embed the style and feel of the magazine across all formats, as it responds to the new way in which we consume information today, and meets readers needs in terms of temporality and mobility.”

Sister magazine Vogue Italia has already had proven success with its own bilingual site strategy, and editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, has been one of its greatest champions. With unique visits to the site reaching over 1 million per month (nearly double that of Vogue.fr), opening up foreign language sites to English-speaking markets can clearly have a positive impact on traffic, and business.

“The English version will allow us to geo-target campaigns based on users’ IP addresses in a complete sales offering which allows us to meet the needs of advertisers who want to reach an international audience,” added Ms Herz.

Indeed, amongst Condé Nast’s online fashion properties, it is the English language sites that have the largest audiences. American Vogue launched Vogue.com in 2010 with a hefty payoff: within a year unique views topped 1.2 million per month and the pioneering Vogue.co.uk, launched in 1995, now reaches more than 1 million unique users each month. But it is digital granddaddy Style.com – which incidentally published the second edition of its own print edition last month – that leads Condé Nast’s fashion websites in terms of traffic, with an average of 2.6 million unique visits per month and a whopping 205 million monthly page views

In many cases, strong personalities seem to be a driving force. After all, it was Anna Wintour who accepted the Webby Award for Vogue.com and Emmanuelle Alt who took a star turn in a high-fashion YouTube remake of a WHAM! video that became an online viral sensation.

But some Condé Nast brands may be taking these online personalities too far. Last week, Vogue.it announced that it was suspending its own Twitter account, urging followers to follow Franca Sozzani’s own account instead.  Without an official Vogue Italia account, the magazine risks losing its own direct communication with fans. What happens when Ms. Sozzani retires? Who owns these followers then? When Hilary Alexander left The Daily Telegraph, she took her followers with her. Individual editorial voices are important, but they should not outweigh the official voice of the magazine itself.

The Bottom Line: To compete in the digital age, Condé Nast’s niche fashion publications are looking to digital platforms for continued growth, at home and abroad, a smart, if somewhat delayed, response to the ongoing digital revolution which continues to disrupt fashion media.

Editor’s Note: This article was revised on 19 April, 2012. An earlier version of this article neglected to mention Love magazine’s focus on digital fashion film.