LONDON, United Kingdom — When it was first announced that pioneering fashion e-tailer Net-a-Porter was planning to launch a glossy physical magazine called Porter, there was no shortage of sceptics. Though Net-a-Porter was one of the first luxury retailers to elegantly integrate content and commerce — shortening the path between inspiration and transaction, and allowing them to more effectively engage and expand their audience and generate additional revenue by selling advertising — many wondered why an Internet-based company would launch a print product at a time when competition for readers and advertising dollars remains fierce.
Indeed, some industry insiders suggested that, for Net-a-Porter — which, according to data from Companies House, was marginally unprofitable in 2013 with an operating loss of about £25 million (about $40 million), having invested heavily in both human talent and global expansion — launching a print publication was a distraction from its core e-commerce business.
BoF’s Imran Amed sat down with Net-a-Porter Group founder and executive chairman Natalie Massenet, Porter editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans, and publishing director Tess Macleod Smith to understand the thinking behind the launch and how Net-a-Porter’s new print product — which will be published 6 times a year and costs $9.99 (four dollars more than American Vogue) — is doing things differently in the crowded and highly competitive market for women’s fashion magazines.
“We’ve talked about how the Net-a-Porter Group is actually not just a retail company, but it’s a media company. And if we’re a serious media company we couldn’t ignore one of the most important existing media, which is print,” Massenet told BoF. “We said if we’re going to do a print magazine, let’s do a great print magazine… and then the wizardry of the Net-a-Porter Group comes behind the scenes in shopability, personal service, customer care, globalness.”
Indeed, the global scope of the new title, which will be distributed in 60 countries, was a critical part of the strategy. “It’s the first global edit in English, a bit like The Economist where one edition goes around the world,” said Macleod Smith, adding that the title’s global outlook and distribution was something advertisers — including top luxury brands like Dior, Chanel and Saint Laurent — responded to positively. “What we’ve done is talk to brands about a global buy — it’s a very good value print buy for what you are getting globally,” she added.
The debut issue — which is composed of approximately 65 percent editorial content and 35 percent advertising, and will have a print run of over 350,000 copies — is also guaranteed to reach what is no doubt a high-value audience: Net-a-Porter’s highest-spending customers (what the company refers to as EIPs or “Extremely Important People”) who will receive the magazine for free.
For the Net-a-Porter Group, the magazine — which Massenet said would be both a brand beacon and a profitable business from the outset — is also a way to build and strengthen relationships with those brands who have thus far resisted selling their product on Net-a-porter.com, such as Chanel and Dior. “We are partnering with many brands that we don’t carry currently, and they now have access to our consumers via this and the Net-a-Porter brand, and it is inevitable that this will lead, one way or another, to us playing with them,” said Massenet, adding that this was not the central motivation for launching the magazine, but a potential by-product.
Importantly, the magazine not only drives traffic to Net-a-Porter’s e-commerce site, but also to the e-commerce stores of brand advertisers, without overtly pushing product. “What it’s filled with is lots of very powerful messages about the pieces that [our reader] needs, the pieces that are going to make her feel amazing. We don’t need to do that with lots of pages filled with cutouts,” said Yeomans. The price of an ad starts at $57,000, which includes both print and digital placements, as well as links back to the e-commerce websites of advertisers.
Porter’s cover story features a natural-looking Gisele Bündchen, shot by Inez & Vinoodh, and styled by Alex White. “In this day and age, via Instagram, you can see Gisele at home, and some of the pictures that are being broadcast about all the women that we love, that we aspire to be… we’re seeing glimpses into their lives with unprecedented, intimate access. And those photographs are actually more beautiful in their reality than artificiality,” added Massenet.
To see the full 35 minute interview with the Porter Magazine team, watch here.