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Once a Condé Nast 'cash cow,' Glamour magazine's regular print issue is being put out to pasture

Once a Condé Nast 'cash cow,' Glamour magazine's regular print issue is being put out to pasture
Glamour's relatively new editor is taking the 80-year-old publication away from print. (Matt Baron / REX / Shutterstock)

Add Condé Nast’s Glamour to the list of magazine’s that are actually no longer magazines.

As WWD first reported in September, the 80-year-old beauty glossy is ceasing to be a traditional print publication at the start of 2019. The move comes as a surprise to no one as simply looking at the latest issue of the magazine, pamphlet size at barely more than 100 pages with roughly 40 pages of third-party ads, is a clear indicator that things in print are far from what they once were.

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Glamour for many decades was a huge money-maker for Condé, frequently referred to internally as the publisher’s “cash cow.” Payments for placements and ads poured in from the beauty industry, making the magazine’s shift away from print all the more striking. Beauty brands have been some of the fastest to adapt and thrive in the Instagram age of advertising — none need the approval of a magazine editor when they can have an cadre of influencers posting praise of products.

When the last print issue of Glamour comes out in January, editor in chief Samantha Barry will be having her year anniversary in the role. In a memo to staff, Condé chief executive officer Bob Sauerberg made sure to position the end of print as part of Barry’s “vision” for Glamour and made sure to add, speaking on behalf of Condé: “We believe in [Barry’s] leadership and we are investing in the future of the brand.”

A Condé spokesman said the end of print will come with no further layoffs.

Sauerberg touted Barry’s connection with Glamour readers on Instagram, where the magazine has 1.6 million followers, and pointed out that she was “talking” to them even during this year’s Women of the Year summit. “That’s today’s Glamour — connecting with women wherever they are,” Sauerberg said.

For her part, Barry positioned the end of print as “growth” of the brand, making sure to push her preferred “headlines” in her own memo to staff, those being “doubling down on digital” and bringing Glamour content “to the platforms our readers frequent most.” She wrote of it as “an investment plan” and stressed that print will still be used “to celebrate big moments,” but there is no regular print schedule after January.

“I’ve spent the past year getting to know Glamour’s audience, and I’m confident we are heading in an exciting new direction,” Barry said in her memo. “Think about it this way — in print we reach 2 million readers, but when you look at our digital footprint, we reach 20 million Glamour fans.”

The distinction between “reader” and “fan” is an important one, especially for advertisers who are more and more looking for brands that have a real hold on an audience, as opposed to simply a large number of followers. While Barry pushed the growth of Glamour’s web site as rising 12 percent year-over-year and the growth of video, a big investment area at Condé, rising 111 percent, different numbers tell a different story. According to the MPA-Association of Magazine Media, year-to-date numbers as of September show combined print and digital readers down 11 percent, web readership down 20 percent, mobile readership down 17 percent and video up 58 percent.

Glamour’s shift to online-only is a path that has become common for some of Condé’s B-list brands. Over the last decade or so, Condé has turned Self and Teen Vogue into online-only brands, along with Glamour in the U.K., which also has no regular print schedule but occasionally does a special issue. The publisher has also consolidated its U.S. and U.K. Condé Nast Traveller magazines, folded the web site of Epicurious into Bon Appétit and closed outright a slew of magazines, including Lucky, Men’s Vogue, Vogue Living, Vitals, Details, Jane, House & Garden and Mademoiselle, and roughly a dozen others. W magazine, already down to eight issues a year, is also up for sale, along with Brides and Golf Digest.

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