The second of our Decoded London speaker interviews comes from the visionary Duncan Edwards, Design and Editorial Director at ASOS Magazine. Having relaunched the in-house magazine in 2009, Duncan has played a pivotal part in the changing way retailers connect with their customers. He brought with him experience from redesigns at More and First magazines and it is his exciting blend of engaging editorial and interactive, shoppable product that makes ASOS magazine such a hit with consumers.
EDITD: Did the development of ASOS Magazine have a noticeable impact on growth for ASOS as a whole?
DE: It’s definitely played a big part. In the UK – where 450,000 copies are distributed every month – customers who get the magazine spend more on the site than those who don’t. The online version of the magazine has 100,000 readers every month and we see direct revenue from that. And the iPad version acquires new customers globally. But the hidden benefit is the amount of international press we get for our cover stars, especially in the US.
Executive editor Francesca Babb has mastered the art of featuring actresses and singers at the tipping point between them being the ones-to-watch and household names. Recent examples include Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Rita Ora.
We don’t pay cover stars, instead we offer them a good photographer and unrivalled coverage. Zeba Lowe, fashion editor, styles them in a mix of ASOS and non-ASOS clothing and – because we don’t have to protect newsstand sales – we can openly syndicate the pictures. Money couldn’t buy that sort of reach and brand endorsements. And because the coverage is so vast, it’s a win-win.
EDITD: The latest mobile title from ASOS, Fashion Up, sees publication move from monthly to weekly. Was there a big demand for this?
DE: It was because mobile phones are integral to our 20something customer’s life, rather than any demand for a different frequency. If we could produce enough content I’m sure we’d do a daily. But right now a weekly feels right. Fashion Up on iPhone has taken off and we’re only just realising its potential.
EDITD: How does the ASOS reader/customer differ from other readerships you’ve worked with?
DE: ASOS Magazine is the first customer magazine I’ve done. I suppose the biggest difference, compared to consumer publishing, is we can take more risks. We can put exciting new people on the cover and inside. We can challenge the reader. I think this is harder to do in consumer mags where, in most cases, commercial forces dictate a safer approach.
EDITD: You’ve used features such as a mobile device digital treasure hunt in the magazine. Is game-ification a big part of the media-retail future?
DE: Social media is giving rise to more games and competitions because that’s how you get better engagement. I don’t see this changing for a while. We use it a lot for timed sales and discounts. And it will continue to play a big part in promoting Fashion Up.
EDITD: How closely do you work with product design teams and buyers?
DE: Very closely. It was the reason ASOS Magazine moved in-house three years ago. The design team has produced one-off pieces for cover shoots – jackets for Florence Welch and Rita Ora, for instance. The buyers help us shape the issues. We meet regularly to review the content and discuss how we can help launch new brands and collaborations on the site.
EDITD: In your opinion, what will the future look like for traditional fashion and print media?
Print will continue to decline slowly along with the people who grew up reading it, until the digital generation rule the planet and print becomes a niche, premium product – and probably the height of sophisticated cool. You could say this is happening already with recent launches like the quarterly Port and bi-annuals The Gentlewoman and Style.com that make a virtue of their high production values.
I’m always amazed at ASOS, where people live this total digital existence yet still get excited when the new issue arrives in the office and start stroking the cover. If only the same could be said for a website.
Notwithstanding people’s love of glossy paper, it’s inevitable all media will be digital one day. It’s cheaper to produce and deliver – it’s faster, it’s global and soon you’ll be able to do more with it. Paper with printed words and pictures no longer makes business sense on a large scale.
Next year in the UK, 4G will radically change the amount of rich content seen on mobile devices. More and more fashion brands, bloggers and pure play websites will produce mobile content and usurp print-based media companies, who rely on having to charge for their content and sell ads. In the digital world more and more premium content will be free as brands use it to win new customers. To stay in the game media companies will diversify and add ‘experience’ and retail to their offer. The old adage that a credible fashion magazine needs to retain its independence will have no tender in this new world.
As long as brands are trusted, they’re better placed digitally to satisfy people’s hunger for inspiration, validation and knowledge of the new. Brands such as Burberry, Net-A-Porter, and, dare I say it, ASOS, already lead the way.
EDITD: Thanks Duncan for sharing your insight and keep up the good work – we’re big fans in the EDITD office!
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