Condé Nast on why it is optimistic about the future of Vogue Hong Kong

Vogue HK enters the market a time when overall advertising dollars for print have largely moved across the border to China.

Vogue’s strong editorial voice and integrity will help the title survive in Hong Kong’s well-established luxury fashion media market, says Karina Dobrotvorskaya, the executive director of editorial development at Condé Nast International.

Launched at the start of March 2019, Vogue Hong Kong (HK) is the 25th edition of the title and is led by Peter Wong as editorial director and Desiree Au as publisher.

“The main point of difference for Vogue is editorial excellence and unique talent. Vogue always maintains a balance between local and international content,” Dobrotvorskaya explains to The Drum.

“We work with world-renowned photographers, supermodels and we don't rely on syndicated content (which is often the case with international brands in the region) - the majority of Vogue Hong Kong’s content is produced by the local team with the contribution of international talents.”

Vogue HK enters the market a time when overall advertising dollars for print have largely moved across the border to Mainland China as the city’s limited population of 7.4 million sees fashion publishers face an increasingly tough fight for eyeballs.

Monthly circulation figures for the Hong Kong editions of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, both of which are distributed as part of the collaboration between the South China Morning Post Group and Hearst, stands at 45,000 and 32,000 copies respectively, according to fashion trade magazine Women's Wear Daily.

For Cosmopolitan Hong Kong, its monthly circulation stands at 58,000, and Ming’s, the lifestyle magazine owned by Ming Pao newspaper, at 30,000.

These are not good signs for Condé Nast, as, in other parts of the world, the publisher has struggled to adapt its successful print model for the digital age, suffering sharp declines in revenue and ad sales as readers migrate to digital platforms.

It was forced to lay off 80 employees and shelved the print editions of Self and Teen Vogue in 2017 to cut costs, including the merger of photo and research departments of different magazines. In 2018, it sold its Brides, Golf Digest and W magazines in the US and moved its Glamour magazine to digital only.

Condé Nast is looking to new revenue sources, however, as it launched Vogue Business, an online-only business to business title targeting fashion professionals at the start of January 2019.

However, in spite of Condé Nast and the wider industry's struggles with print, Dobrotvorskaya says the publisher is very optimistic about the commercial future of Vogue HK print title.

She explains that Hong Kong is an Asian cross-road shopping hub which has a strong luxury market. That means the market has huge commercial potential for Vogue despite its relatively small size.

“It has an enormous appetite for high fashion brands as well as modern art, offering a diverse mix of fashion and art, local and international, tradition and innovation,” says Dobrotvorskaya.

“Hong Kong is a vibrant and unique island with its own cool style and voice. We hope that our new Vogue will convey this distinctive voice and swirling energy. Vogue HK readers are affluent and fashion savvy, they are ready to spend on luxury goods. Vogue is the luxury market leader, and its first issue is full of amazing ads - beyond our expectations.”

Across the border, a Vogue China edition already exists, with a circulation of 1.6 million, more than American Vogue, which stands at 1.2 million. Due to the close proximity of China and Hong Kong, Vogue HK's first edition has already made waves with Chinese readers.

The edition, which features models Gigi Hadid and Fei Fei Sun, was slammed on Instagram because of Hadid, who was accused of racism in China for posting a video of herself screwing up her eyes to mimic the Buddha in 2017.

Dobrotvorskaya acknowledges that as Hong Kong is an international melting pot of cultures, it is imperative Vogue HK reflects that by trying to keep a balance between international trends and local talents and tastes, without drawing readers away from Vogue China.

“Vogue Hong Kong is relevant for the local audience - edgy, experimental and eclectic,” she explains. “Hong Kong is famous for its vibrant art scene, so many pages and sections of Vogue HK will be devoted to art and culture. Lifestyle will also be a strong feature.”

In addition, she claims when Vogue enters a new market, it stirs and elevates both the media scene and local fashion market to nourish the creativity and individuality that exists in the city.

To do this, it hopes to work with HK fashion designers and models to look for new faces and new names.

“Vogue as a brand has enormous influence, and we want to use this as a platform for good causes by contributing to the conversation around important social issues such as sustainability, female empowerment and diversity. We will also look into how we can innovate through video and social media,” she explains.

At the start of 2019, Condé Nast announced that it was putting its entire portfolio of magazines in the US behind a paywall. However, there are no plans to put the Vogue HK online content behind a paywall at the moment.

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