How an image of Kim Kardashian turned around Paper magazine’s fortunes
Just two years ago it’s likely that you hadn’t heard of 30-year-old indie magazine Paper, but a plan to #breaktheinternet and a naked Kim Kardashian turned that around in 2014, transforming the ailing publication in a complete 180.
The decision to ‘break the internet’ came from chief creative officer Drew Elliot who returned to Paper in 2014 after a stint at theAudience at a time when the business was “lopsided”, with 65 per cent of revenue coming from the magazine itself, and just 13 per cent from digital assets and its website.
“In 1996 we were the first lifestyle magazine online, it was an amazing time but we hadn’t really gotten there and needed a new way of thinking about things,” said Elliot, speaking at this week’s FashTech event in London.
“Even with the name Paper we are the underdogs at the very start of things how do you turn that around [in the digital era]”.
The magazine was redesigned and its logo returned to the original 1984 typeface to play on nostalgia which “over performs in social” with busy cover lines stripped away to create the look of a movie poster. “We had to stop thinking like a magazine and start thinking about Paper as an entertainment company,” said Elliot.
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“We decided how do we use the printed mag to create a digital sensation and that big idea was break the internet and we booked Kim Kardashian to be on the front cover in September .”
In what would be a fortuitous turn of events Kardashian was unable to shoot the cover in time to make the September issue, so Elliot made the decision to dedicate its annual November art issue to the reality TV star and the power of social media and virality.
Paper worked with a variety of Instagram stars such as The Fat Jew to leverage a power house of a combined 127 million fans and followers, to essentially “have the internet inside a printed magazine”.
On the day of release each of the Instagram starts released images in a ripple effect and the now iconic image of Kardashian posing with a champagne bottle resting on her bottom, as well as a serious of naked alternatives, sent the internet in to a frenzy, with 50 million people clicking on Paper’s website and social channels.
The magazine’s Instagram followers jumped by 326 per cent, Tumblr increased by 125 per cent and on the day of release 1 per cent of US traffic went to papermag.com.
“The break the internet hashtag created a tension in side of social media, did she break the internet? Did she not break the internet? It’s unbreakable it’s not a thing to break it created excitement and it was fun.
“And our company is totally different today… We learnt so much and our traffic is 10 times what it was a year ago, and revenue in digital will [now] overcome the magazine.”