E-commerce platform BeachMint announced it will take over all operations for Lucky Magazine today. The takeover is part of a newly formed joint venture between BeachMint and magazine publishing giant Conde Nast. Called The Lucky Group, it will be led by BeachMint’s Josh Berman as CEO with Lucky’s editor in chief Eva Chen and the magazine’s senior VP, Gillian Gorman Round.
A partnership like this makes sense for both BeachMint and Lucky. BeachMint already had the built-in tech to make itself an ideal candidate. Lucky provides the demographic (upper middle class professional women in their mid to late 30’s) to pull in shoppers for BeachMint’s e-commerce platform. “BeachMint has spent the last few years developing a technology platform, growing digital audiences and scaling our commerce operations,” says Berman. “Lucky magazine is about shopping. It references hundreds of brands in every issue and is already responsible for thousands of purchases every day,” he added.
Like much of the publishing world, Lucky’s focus is increasingly on digital. Conde Nast, which owns Lucky, has been promising an e-commerce platform for the mag since Gorman Round took over marketing operations 18 months ago. Lucky’s overall ad sales have continued to slump the last couple of years and there’s been some chatter about how to save the magazine. The magazine’s publisher Marcy Bloom resigned in early 2013 and Gorman Round was brought in as her replacement. Anna Wintour then came on as artistic director and soon brought in Eva Chen as EIC. Wintour will also be an advisor to the new partnership.
More recent sales numbers showed the magazine had the steepest decline out of all major fashion mags this July. Lucky was down 34 percent from last year, with just 90 ad pages, according to the latest figures. However, Gorman Round believes using those numbers to test brand health is simply naive. According to her, digital sales are up by 33 percent and digital revenue is up 47 percent. “That means our P&L (profit and loss) is much healthier than its been in a really long time,” She says.
Much of the retail and publishing world is trying to figure out the best way to monetize using content. “Everyone talks about commerce and content and they’re adding content now,” says Chen, “But we’ve had 14 years of already having content.” She listed off the unique kinds of content Lucky has been sharing. Grumpy cat was in one of its issues. Jiff, the Pomeranian from the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” music video, was in another. “That’s something ppl can look forward to on the platform as well,” Chen says. “That’s something the Instagram generation has been craving.”
Andreessen Horowitz seems to be thinking along the same content and commerce lines with the recent $50 million infusion into online content generator BuzzFeed. Chris Dixon, who will now be advising BuzzFeed, wrote on his blog about the funding announcement, “Tech is now spreading through every industry and every part of the world. The most interesting tech companies aren’t trying to sell software to other companies. They are trying to reshape industries from top to bottom.”
This reshaping is what Berman and execs at Conde Nast believe they are striving for in this partnership as well. “From a tech perspective, there’s a lot of exciting companies working on how to transition a customer from print content to digital content through mobile technology,” says Berman. Competitors to BeachMint such as Shoedazzle and JustFab continue to focus on discovery within an online subscription platform. One Kings Lane sends out a quarterly shopping publication to reach shoppers. This new partnership is sort of a natural reverse of that approach for both Lucky and BeachMint.
Berman added that all of the Mint properties, ShoeMint, JewelMint, StyleMint and BeautyMint will remain member sites within the company. Celebrity partnerships such as with Rachel Bilson and its shoe vertical will also remain intact. Berman also hinted that the new venture would be testing the idea of allowing people to buy products without going into the membership. He then added, “Just to be clear, there’s no intention for the new commerce platform we build for Lucky to have a membership commitment. Where BeachMint’s innovation was centered around subscription and endorsement, we’ll look to innovate around integrating content, commerce and community for this new platform.”
Berman, whose background includes both Myspace and News Corp., is no stranger to the publishing world, either. “It is clearly different from the start-up cultures I’ve been involved in or created.” He emphasized the need for a new kind of platform that bridges the publishing world with online shopping in a 360 degree experience from beginning to end. “The macro trend is to bring content, commerce and community together. Women aren’t just shopping online. They are sharing and creating their own content.”
Added Chen: “Lucky is a magazine you talk back to. There’s already that engagement and conversation. It’ll now feel more like a little bit both commerce and a little bit magazine.”