Two vastly different retailers – one catering to the Versace set, another to the sweat sock crowd – have both recently launched paid-for print magazines that look quite at home next to each other on the newsstand.
What’s going on here? How is it that luxury fashion e-tailer Net a Porter and decidedly un-luxury Sports Direct both decide to dive into marketing their content in glossy, full-color print?
“Both suggest some sort of re-orientation of the world of publishing and its role for content. The rediscovery of print as a medium with which to reach savvy, upmarket women and sports-oriented men sounds, on one level, a bit retro,” notes Dominic Mills in his InPublishing article.
“On another, however, it’s counter-intuitive. Clicks, not bricks, are surely the future, and digital publishing likewise: Net a Porter is a digital e-commerce venture, and Sports Direct, while it has a large bricks-and-mortar presence, is ramping up its e-commerce operations,” Mills continues. “According to its latest company financials, e-commerce now accounts for 15.5pc of total sales, up 43pc year-on-year.”
“So why become paid-for print publishers, and why produce titles that are closer in spirit to commercial competitors than, say, long-established customer titles from, say, Boots, M&S or John Lewis where the content is closely and explicitly tied to the host brand?” Mills asks.
He surmises that it’s all about brand positioning.
“In the broadest sense, the answer has to be image,” Mills states, noting that in Net a Porter’s case, “there is a symbiotic link in consumers and brand’s minds between high-end fashion and glossy print.”
For Sports Direct, the brand is looking to use print to correct an image issue, hoping to move toward “cool, on-trend, youth fashion,” says Mills. And print is a great way to do this.
“The keys for both titles, of course, are quality and credibility. Both, in their own way, are quality reads as you would expect in any paid-for title, and comparative with the likes of Vogue or Shortlist. I’m not into boxing, but Forever Sports’ profile of Floyd Mayweather is as good a piece of sports writing and journalism as I’ve read in a long time,” Mills says.
It’s a great marketing strategy for both brands, given print’s undeniable ability to engage and the favorable rating its readers give print ads. And crikey, it works.