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image: Goop

Within the past two years or so, Condé Nast shuttered Self, Details, and Lucky magazines. Penthouse did away with its print edition, and More magazine folded entirely. Yahoo announced in February 2016 that it would shutter a significant number of its digital magazines, and before that, in 2009, a huge slew of magazines, including Domino, Men’s Vogue, and a number of other Condé titles, as well as Hearst’s CosmoGirl, all ceased publication.

All the while, amidst layoffs and restructuring at just about every other print magazine, rumors were abound regarding additional closures of additional glossies. So, why – in the age of rather regular magazine deaths – are both Hearst and Condé Nast working on brand new print publications?

Condé Nast, the publisher behind Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Glamour, among others, announced this spring  that artistic director Anna Wintour is working with actress Gwyneth Paltrow to turn her lifestyle website, Goop, into a quarterly print publication. The idea behind Goop, the magazine, will be to position Paltrow “as the Oprah Winfrey of wellness” and give the digital brand a physical presence, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Condé’s closest rival, Hearst Corporation, revealed last year that it had a new magazine in the works, a travel publication with Airbnb, the $31 billion home-sharing platform. Airbnbmag, a print-only publication, hit select newsstands and mailboxes this past May. Its selling point? Many of the articles, including the debut cover feature, are mined thanks to billions of anonymous data points collected by way of the Airbnb service.

Speaking of Airbnb mag, Brian Chesky, the company’s chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal: “No one has billions of demand search data points for nearly every country in the world. That gives us a leg up.” The Airbnb data will help editors to shape the magazine’s content. As such, the first issue was driven by what people have been searching for most frequently on Airbnb: Cuba.

The magazine, which retails for $3.99, makes its second drop this month, and “if readers and advertisers like what they see, the magazine will have a more robust publishing schedule in 2018,” per WSJ.

A BluePRINT for Success?

Maybe the most interesting aspect of both of these new magazines is that they are being launched to cater to already-existing fan bases, so to speak. Michael Clinton, publishing director at Hearst Magazines, said that Airbnb already has a large built-in community. “We think they’ll support this magazine from a subscription point of view because it reflects their community,” he told WSJ.

The platform does, in fact, currently boast 150 million users, and Hearst’s Johanna Coles – who has been spearheading the mag along with Chesky – said that she hopes to see it on “every coffee table of every Airbnb host.”

Catering content to the search preferences of that existing audience certainly does not hurt either.

Goop’s magazine venture might be a bit of a harder sell, as Paltrow has faced a lot of flak for her wellness platform, which has been called out for being expensive, out of touch, and downright bogus. As Vox noted in May, “Paltrow has for years faced intense criticism from the medical and scientific communities for selling junk health products. From jade eggs for vaginas to detox diet and cleansing regimens and vitamins and supplements with dubious health claims, Goop is a multimillion-dollar empire built on misleading people about health.”

Such nay-saying does not appear to trouble the powers that be at Condé, though. According to a statement from Wintour in connection with the Goop launch: “I’ve long known Gwyneth to have wonderful taste and vision — but with Goop she has built something remarkable, a thoroughly modern take on how we live today. Goop and Condé Nast are natural partners and I’m excited she’s bringing her point of view to the company.”

The saving grace for Goop – aside from the fact that it comes to the table with an existing readership (namely, web traffic and newsletter subscribers), something a brand new publication certainly does not possess – is timing. For the past several years, in particular, wellness has been cementing itself as the ultimate for well-to-do consumers. It is the reason that Paris-based conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is investing in bike brands and companies like Juice Press, Soul Cycle, and Honest Beauty continue to thrive.

As New York magazine noted last year, “These days, people aren’t above paying $40 several times a week to ride a stationary bike to nowhere, followed by another $8 to cool down with a watermelon juice.”

Similarly, Vogue stated: “There are the $180-a-month gym memberships, the daily $10 cold-pressed green juice, the pricey all-natural and organic skincare products, and the piles of fresh produce and hard-to-find supplements from Whole Foods…not to mention some of the more extravagant options out there ($500-an-hour trainers, $750 facials) and the sporty designer duds to complete the look.” 

It further posited, “For most people, spending so much on staying fit and healthy would be a preposterous indulgence, but for a growing percentage of individuals with high discretionary income, wellness has become an important part of the luxury lifestyle.”

With this new(ish) trend in consumer spending in mind, and the ability of these new magazines to tap into proven interest by way of their existing base of subscribers, they stand to set themselves apart from the crowd. Add to the mix the fact that their publication schedules are light and initial distribution not too ambitious. We just might have two new titles that will actually survive, while many others are struggling. Right now, that is certainly no small feat.