What's Next for 'WWD'

With a new weekly print edition and bureaus across the globe, 'WWD' is undergoing its biggest transition since the late John Fairchild left the trade.
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Chantal Fernandez
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With a new weekly print edition and bureaus across the globe, 'WWD' is undergoing its biggest transition since the late John Fairchild left the trade.
Photo: WWD

Photo: WWD

With the launch of its new weekly print edition on Wednesday, Women's Wear Daily is redefining its role as the fashion bible by toeing the line between magazine and newspaper.

"The challenge for us is to strike the balance of the contextual print vehicle with the much more urgent and perishable WWD.com, which is more of a 24/7 approach," says Editor in Chief Edward Nardoza.

The journalistic commitment remains the same, Nardoza insists, but the media channels are changing. Gone is the daily print edition; online at WWD.com, Penske Media is building the infrastructure needed to cover the industry 24/7 with offices across the world. "We have information in real time from Asia, then Europe picks up the ball in real time in Europe, and then we get New York ... and after that the West Coast in LA," says Nardoza.

WWD is also expanding its presence on social media and plans to make it a formal part of the staff's job responsibilities. Well-known editors and writers will soon use Twitter and Instagram to report and comment on the industry, something that journalists at other publications have been doing for years. "Those of us who worked for Mr. Fairchild were always taught, 'It's not about you, it's about the reader and it's about the paper,'" says Nardoza. "But the fact is that digital media — and particularly social media — responds to individual voices in a very active way, so we’ll experiment with it and see how it works." 

Nardoza insists that brands and merchandise will not be promoted on these accounts, as they often are by magazine editors. "We’re not going to have our writers and reporters taking pictures of their shoes and saying, 'Everybody go buy my Jimmy Choos,'" he says. "But if they tweet that the new trend at Jimmy Choo is flats, or whatever, that's perfectly legitimate."

Meanwhile, the weekly Wednesday print edition opens new possibilities for in-depth and topical industry coverage. The most striking change from the daily is the image resolution and paper, which allow for better graphic design. "[In a daily newspaper], style is subordinate to the substance, of getting the information on the page," Nardoza says. "Now, with this more sophisticated format, we're looking at style and substance finding a greater equilibrium."

Advertisers are responding to that visual change, too. "So much of our business is luxury and image-driven," says publisher Paul Jowdy. "Advertisers who may be hesitant or resistant to running in newsprint now see this beautiful, oversized weekly where the quality of their ads is spectacular." He cites Apple as an example, which is advertising its watch in the second issue. "Even though running the Apple Watch makes a lot of sense because of our readers, they would have never done that with newsprint," says Jowdy. "Already after one issue this has changed our advertising mix."

As Jowdy says, newsprint has a very business-to-business (aka b2b) feel; now that the weekly exists in such a visually striking and familiar magazine format, he thinks fashion-obsessed readers from outside the industry will be more motivated to buy it on the newsstands, where it's available in the top 10 designated market areas in the country for $9.99. 

The launch issue has a whopping 105 ad pages, which Jowdy says is higher than the expected number for forthcoming editions. Subscription fees will remain unchanged this year. Even though Jowdy says the business response has been positive, he says the weekly is not restricted by a typical magazine ad-to-edit ratio. "If there are issues where the ad-to-edit is 20 percent ads and 80 percent edit, so be it," he says. "For us, showcasing our editorial content is most important." 

Nardoza says that despite the predominance of fashion and luxury advertisers in the weekly, WWD's editorial coverage of those companies will not be impacted. "It's always been a tricky and challenging dance at WWD, but that's gone on for generations even before us," he says, adding that the brand has always reported on the people who are its advertisers and its readers.

"Burberry advertises all the time on our website and they have a nice beautiful print ad [in the launch issue]," he says. "It doesn't affect how we cover Burberry the company and Burberry understands that if they have difficulties, we’ll write that. If they have victories, we’ll write that, too. I think the industry is used to that. It's not that it doesn’t make it uncomfortable sometimes — it does, frankly. But it's nothing we’re not used to."

Nardoza says the weekly issue is a work in progress, and it will take some experimentation to find the right balance of coverage between timely news and deep-dive features. "Will we hit a home run with every issue? Probably not, no one does," he says. "It's the information and the access to the information that are important. If someone is a creature of print and has to have to print, we are going to service that reader. If someone is pure digital and doesn’t want to touch another print publication the rest of his life, we'll service that reader, too."