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Retailers Build Out Lifestyle Content

  |  November 7, 2011   |  Comments

One longtime men's magazine strikes back, joining forces with JC Penney.

Commerce sites such as Gilt Groupe are poaching editorial talent from traditional publishers such as Esquire to build out their content offerings. And traditional publishers, such as Esquire, are working with retailers and startups to expand into commerce.

The increasing rivalry between retailers and publishers was dissected during last week's Mashable Media Summit's panel discussion, "The New Model of Content and Commerce."

"Brands have done a better job at becoming media companies than media companies have of becoming retail companies. Now you are seeing them facing off," said Maureen Mullen, research and advisory lead at L2, a consultancy.

Burberry, with 9.2 million people who "like" the brand on Facebook, was cited as a company that's excelled at developing editorial content. "They are doing a fantastic job through their creative director, Christopher Bailey, putting out content on a daily basis," Mullen said.

Alexis Maybank, CMO of e-commerce site Gilt Groupe, said her company has invested heavily in content since its launch four years ago. "We have eight studios in Brooklyn on double shifts. There are models running in and out of our warehouse space…we [produce] 1,500 images a day for our website," she said.

More recently, Gilt Groupe has increased its investment in writers. Consider the talent it recruited over the past year:

-Kate Maxwell, an articles editor at Condé Nast Traveler, was named editor-in-chief of Gilt Groupe's travel blog and deals site Jetsetter in August.

-Josh Peskowitz, style editor at Esquire.com, was named style director for the men's retail site at Gilt in December 2010.

-Former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl became editorial advisor to Gilt Taste, which sells artisanal hard-to-find foods. It launched in May.

Gilt Groupe also struck up a partnership with GQ to establish Park and Bond, an e-commerce site for men's apparel. Each month, GQ editors select key items from the pages of the magazine and make them available on Park & Bond.

Gilt Groupe is not the only commerce site to recruit top magazine talent. Jeremy Langhorn, Esquire U.K.'s editor, left last year to become editor-in-chief of Mr Porter, a commerce site specializing in men's designer fashions.

Esquire Editor-in-Chief David Granger acknowledged it was tough to lose both Peskowitz and Langhorn to commerce sites. "It's painful when you realize you are paying half of what the competition can pay and they are giving them a piece of the business," he said.

Esquire: Dressing up With JC Penney

This Wednesday, Esquire and JC Penney's venture arm will launch, Clad, an e-commerce fashion site for men. "We're doing a lot of original editorial [content] for it. I don't know if it will dovetail with purchase activity," Granger said.


When asked if it's too late for traditional magazines to become successful e-commerce players, Granger said: "The market seems so vast that, at least in the commerce space for men's apparel, the space is so huge – I am not sure there's [such a thing as] late."

One place where Esquire and Gilt Groupe differ over approaches: whether or not there should be "wall" between the creators of editorial content and commercial content or advertising, typically referred to as the separation of "church and state" in publishing.

Esquire believes that editorial content should be produced separately from material produced on behalf of brands. "We write stories because we believe they are the most important stories to be told," Granger said. "I've set up a separate staff for Clad to create editorial so my fashion department [at Esquire] is protected from the dirty work of commerce."

Gilt Groupe's Maybank says the "church and state" debate is archaic. "Gilt is a marketing platform, Esquire is a marketing platform. We are in the business of driving and creating desire and discovery," she said. "Consumers are smart and savvy. They know when they are being pitched. When something is not authentic, they will vote by not visiting or reading."

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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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