One thing is sure. Traditional Media are declining. Print giants like Hears or Conde Nast are revamping their business models to become digital leaders. Why is it then that independent fashion magazines are thriving and popping up left and right? Let’s find out.
Simple but genius
Thinking of fashion magazines we think about glossy paper, celebrities on the cover and huge publication numbers all around the globe. But this model is dying. Yes, it is dying. Sales for the big print magazines are declining. The trend is moving towards digital AND small independent fashion magazines. But what makes those small players different and why can they succeed where others fail?
Small magazines have small publication numbers and are mostly sold online and in special stores and magazine outlets. This means they are targeted not towards the mainstream but aim to reach fashion lovers who are interested in a different opinion and a voice outside the clutter of the big brands.
The content is usually a mix of fashion columns, interviews, brand reviews and all other content you would usually expect from a big magazine. The difference is that the revenue is earned by the high purchase price mostly and in-magazine advertising is secondary. This enables a more uncut opinion about current events and trends.
Speaking about the cost factor, the magazines are usually produced cost effective by large on-demand print companies, then shipped by logistics fulfillment houses. You will see way less high-quality gloss paper here than with the mainstream guys. The content itself is often produced part-time and collaboratively by freelance writers, bloggers, agency creatives, and brand execs who have access and know-how and want to promote their work in an independent outlet (it is way harder to be published by the big guys, where experienced editors and chief editors filter each issue like a hawk). This whole collaborative process lends itself to less than 12 issues a year, with a high purchase price, but way less production costs.
The graphic design and art direction (models, branding, photo-shoots) is more free and daring. Smaller brands have a way higher chance of getting exposure here than on with the major titles. The creative level of independent magazines is also often a bit more extravagant and as such can be a very inspiring source for people working in the fashion or luxury industry (or media / entertainment / agencies). The close connection to art, hospitality and local culture (especially urban culture, streetwear and sneakers) offers a unique point of view and strongly complements the individual opinions of bloggers and the mainstream fashion & luxury media. This sex-appeal also makes it often easier for these magazines to attract celebrities and influential figures for interviews, covers, and editorials. After all, it’s kinda cool to be in an independent magazine.
There are also a couple disadvantages to this business model, so wait a second before you throw your corporate hat into the garbage, curse your editor and venture off to create the next hit-mag with your agency buddies. Low volume, high price, and selected distribution means, you really have to be sure that there is some kind of social media buzz, guerrilla events or at least an interested hip audience who can make your new mag popular. Otherwise, you might end up sitting on a huge pile of unbought magazines that burn a hole in your pocket. Also, apart from barely breaking even, some independent fashion magazines will never turn out a huge profit.
Some creators just want their own little fanzine, for others, who want to grow their business to challenge the gods on Mount Olympus, the outcome might fall short. Some magazines don’t last very long and disappear fast, becoming somewhat of collector items. Some of them have grown so huge through their smart use of social media that they are in danger to lose their appeal and independence and become a part of the mainstream.
Welcome to the world of independent fashion magazines…
I’m not gonna post our favourite list of independent fashion magazines here (in the future, maybe we will) since, first of all, Google is full with boring top-ten lists and, second of all, the best way to choose your independent mag of choice is to go to a retail store, pick up the magazine, feel the weight of the paper and let the creative energy of the magazine speak to you. After a bit trial and error, you will find what you are looking for. After all, there are more of them every day.