Why Bloggers Won’t Kill the Fashion Magazine Star

Despite their popularity, most fashion bloggers have insisted for a while now that they aren’t competing with fashion magazines. A quarterly report on magazine revenue suggests that it’s time to listen to them.

Fashion magazines: not dead yet

Fashion blogs are undoubtedly part of fashion’s future, and give a platform to everyone from the intelligent young teen to the photographer who sees editorial opportunities on the street. Without worries about publishing costs, newsstand placement, licensing costs and salaries, blogs in every category are leaner operations than magazines. Blogs don’t have legacy costs, but they’re nowhere near print magazines in terms of revenue either.

When it comes to numbers, few individual editors or writers can compete with the most popular bloggers. Mario Testino may be more established, but in terms of sheer numbers, Scott Schuman reaches more people looking for style inspiration on a daily basis. Though they’ve captured respectable fashion audiences, bloggers have yet to capture the advertisers.

Allure, one of the few fashion magazines to show a year over year decline in revenue and ad pages, still sold more than $33 million of advertising in the 3rd quarter. People Style Watch, a relatively new title that focuses on celebrity fashion, brought in $15 million. That’s one quarter, or 3 months. Granted that the 3rd quarter includes September, when fashion magazines often receive the most ads; still, it would be difficult to find a single fashion blog that brings in $15 million in advertising in one year, probably even two or three.

Part of the allure of many fashion blogs is an alternative point of view that’s not tied to how many ad pages a company controls. In an industry where legitimate criticism can result in revoked show invitations and snubs, the outside status of bloggers is seen as more trustworthy. So much so, that the FTC created specific regulations for bloggers that don’t apply to the people who write for print publications. Especially in fashion, where there’s rarely a hard hitting look at business practices and it’s commonplace for editorials to feature many of the same products that appear in paid ads, it may also be what keeps fashion blogs from ever becoming big business.

In fairness, it’s not only bloggers. Style.com, owned by Vogue publisher Conde Nast, is well established and well regarded. For years, it was backed by both Vogue and W magazine, yet even that hasn’t been enough to draw the kind of revenue that the print publications command. Vogue claims a readership of 1.2 million, while Style.com claims 2.3 million. Yet a 1-page color ad has an estimated CPM (cost per thousand) of $125 while the last media kit to include rates has Style.com commanding a $30 CPM – which is actually fairly high for online display advertising. Vogue increased both ad pages and revenue by more than 30% in the 3rd quarter. The raw numbers? $109 million in revenue in 3 months, and over $255 million from January through September. There’s no single fashion site online – including Style.com -  that even comes close.

3rd Quarter Fashion & Women’s Magazine Revenue

Publication 2010 Q3 Revenue 2009 Q3 Revenue % Change
Vogue $109,701,838 $81,224,493 31.80
In Style $101,257,095 $85,176,010 14.79
Glamour $86,802,482 $62,068,950 36.55
Elle $83,503,299 $72,593,099 14.41
Redbook $60,851,528 $44,805,436 28.40
O the Oprah Magazine $53,035,085 $42,541,132 27.01
Brides $50,597,111 $46,435,612 5.40
Harper’s Bazaar $48,153,132 $43,979,474 6.55
Marie Claire $38,696,019 $34,364,561 10.37
Lucky $35,416,443 $36,319,935 -6.24
Allure $33,800,911 $36,095,812 -9.21
Essence $31,788,332 $24,922,481 20.85
W $29,352,801 $24,708,258 15.88
Seventeen $25,823,777 $28,604,284 -11.17
Teen Vogue $25,533,786 $21,308,454 16.22
Bridal Guide $21,401,681 $18,765,334 8.52
People Style Watch $15,531,599 $9,506,100 54.02

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