The Glamour and the Gloss
Seno, Alexandra A., Newsweek International
Byline: Alexandra A. Seno
In the flagging media industry, only lifestyle magazines show signs of life.
Wearing three-inch stilettos and a giant Chanel ring on one hand, Anne Lim-Chaplain strides purposefully to a shelf in her office. The managing director of the lifestyle magazine Prestige Hong Kong picks up a prototype of her third-anniversary issue, due on newsstands in September, and tosses the 800-page volume on her desk, where it lands with a thud. Even compared with 2007's record profits, advertising for the first quarter of the year is up 41 percent. "Things are very good," says Lim-Chaplain, "The rich will always be a good bet."
Lifestyle magazines--slickly produced publications catering to the wants and desires of the wealthy elite--are flourishing in a global media environment where little else is. Every few days, a lifestyle glossy is born somewhere. The large-format, highly stylized books that typically focus on clothing and consumption have even lured some unusual punters to the table. Suffering severe advertising declines in its regular pages, the formerly staid Wall Street Journal will launch its much anticipated WSJ. magazine in September, following the successes of the New York Times' T Style and the Financial Times' How to Spend It.
This passion for fashion and other frivolities is, of course, as much about publishers' bottom lines as about hemlines. No one loves disposable income more than an advertiser. "There is growth in these magazine markets, coming from a low base, especially in India and China," says Vivek Couto, head of research at the boutique consultancy Media Partners Asia. Compared with general-interest publications, lifestyle magazines offer a more efficient dispersion of the ad dollar. "It's like pay television," says Couto. "Niche makes sense. You are targeting a top-scale consumer with good purchasing power."
Glossies also benefit greatly from the kinds of advertisers they attract. While many brands moved much of their marketing money to Web-based campaigns and television, luxury companies have remained fiercely loyal to published products. According to The Nielsen Company, the international data-research group, the $150 billion luxury industry invests 22 percent of its total advertising budgets in newspapers and an overwhelming 76 percent in magazines. The tactile nature of the glossy magazine remains the ideal vehicle for an industry built on exquisite craftsmanship and sensual experiences. "You have to feel and touch luxury," says Lim-Chaplain. "Our magazines are oversize, filled with beautiful pictures, beautiful people. It shouts luxury. …