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Conde’s latest digital foray – Vogue.com

September 13, 2010

(Pic from NYTimes)

In recent times, Conde Nast has certainly generated quite a bit of fuss with their successful foray into the world of magazine apps.

It was a bit of a surprise initially because Conde Nast has never really been seen as a publisher that’s gone head first in embracing the World Wide Web. There has always been a sense that they’ve operated their digital channels at an arms length basis, being extremely protective and cautious in terms of how they approached and treated the medium.

Wired’s probably as good an example as any, as their own editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, noted during the launch of their first app:

“The irony that Wired, a magazine founded to chronicle the digital revolution, has traditionally come to you each month on the smooshed atoms of dead trees is not lost on us. Let’s just say the medium is not always the message.”

So you can imagine that, when they were one of the first magazine publishers to launch an iPad app that went on to achieve resounding success, they took everyone (magazine industry AND the world wide web), by surprise.

So much of a surprise, in fact, that they followed up with an announcement to give Gourmet a second lease of life as a digital only publication.

Now with all this chatter going on about Conde Nast and its strategy for moving its magazine content onto the digital platform, it was unavoidable that all eyes and ears would eventually shift their focus to one of Conde Nast’s most prized assets; Vogue.

It’s been called the most influential fashion magazine in the world… Well, I guess that’s as far as the magazine goes because it’s never really had a presence on the net. In fact, searching for “fashion” on Google brings up no Vogue results at all on page 1, while vogue.co.uk and vogue.com.au appear on page 2. No signs of Vogue US or Vogue.com (I’ll touch on this later).

If Vogue is the most influential fashion publication in the print world, then Google is surely the most influential portal for content discovery on the internet. If Google can’t see you, then you don’t exist. And that’s a problem for anyone if they want to stay influential to a whole new generation of fashion frenzy consumers…

In any case, Conde Nast isn’t ignorant to this fact and they’ve already re-launched Vogue’s US site just recently. The link is here http://www.vogue.com/?us_site=y

You need to use this link specifically if you’re living in Australia or NZ because the parent Vogue.com domain will initiate a geo-targeted redirect to Vogue.com.au… which could also be a reason for the parent .com domain being somewhat invisible to Google for the “fashion” search query (could be the way the redirect is set up, or maybe they need to look at canonising their various geo-domains into the parent domain).

So the new Vogue comes with a lot of promises for advertisers and readers alike. For advertisers, there’s nothing really innovative from a technology point of view. It’s just more “advertising friendly” (in other words, more content integrated advertising).

From a reader point of view though, there’s nothing really innovative about the site either… although I must admit that that’s hard to come by in this day and age. The layout and design aspects of the site are very typical to what we’ve come to expect of magazine sites. There’s a “lightbox” feature that allows the reader to build albums and share with the Vogue.com community but… that’s about it. Nothing that really jumps out at you.

There was one thing which struck me as rather odd when I first looked at the new Vogue US site, which is is how familiar the look the feel was to  www.interviewmagazine.com.

I thought it was odd because, while not directly competitors in terms of content and audience, both titles bore enough similarity (and surely, a good enough crossover of advertisers) that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to imitate the design and layout of an existing site.

In fact, given the weight of Vogue’s influence, brand and positioning… I thought that Conde Nast would’ve gone the extra mile to make their website as distinctive and differentiated as possible.

But, as it turned out after a few clicks of investigation, it became apparent to me that these two sites didn’t look alike by accident, as both interviewmagazine.com the new Vogue US site was built by the same company; Code and Theory.

I’m not sure why I got excited about the Vogue redesign in the first place. Perhaps, after Conde Nast delivered such an exciting new product with the Wired app, I was really looking forward to see what they’d do with the institution that is Vogue.

Unfortunately, it’s been a bit like watching a bad sequel to a great movie. Oh well…

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