After waiting years for the Chinese market to attain sophistication and maturity, Vogue, the high-fashion title owned by US publisher Conde Nast, has finally launched its Chinese Mainland edition with China Pictorial Publishing House, staking out territory amidst the crowd of China's health and beauty titles.
Vogue is aiming to capitalize on the fast growth of the luxury goods market in China, currently 20% year on year, according to the China Brand Association Strategy.
The first Western fashion magazine to enter the China market was ELLE back in 1988, when no one here had ever heard of Prada and Armani, either real or knock-off. Now, seventeen years later, with designer goods outposts popping up in all China's cities with hefty promotional budgets in tow, the market may be ready for the ultimate fashion mag to make its play. But Vogue is no stranger to tailoring its content to the Chinese fashion-plates: in 1996, it made a splash in Taiwan.
Vogue has spent about US$617,000 to launch its Chinese Mainland title, and some media watchers say if it maintains the quality of its inaugural issue, it could be a real contender. "They did a really good job," said Julia Zhu, a consultant with Redgate Media, a Chinese media group which holds licensing rights to several western lifestyle titles. "They had a well balanced mix of western-produced content and locally-produced content. The transition between the western content and the locally produced content is natural and smooth, in terms of quality and style of photographs, layout and writing."
Taking cover with local partners
Since foreign titles are banned from launching and distributing Chinese editions directly in China, foreign publishers work with local publishers. Hachette Filipacchi's ELLE, for example, has partnered with Shanghai Translation Publishing House, and Hearst Magazines International has licensed their women's titles, including Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, CosmoGirl,/i> and Seventeen to Beijing-based Trends, China's leading fashion magazine publisher. Things could get easier for foreign publishers: Beijing is expected to eventually lift restrictions on magazine distribution by foreign publishers in line with WTO requirements, although the timeline has yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, with more than 40 imported beauty and health titles in China, readers have their pick of the litter. The clear favorites are Japan's Rayli titles, with a combined 36% of the market, according to Century Chinese International Media Consultation. Next up: Trends? Cosmopolitan, with a little more than 10% of the market. The other titles are not as successful, according to Century, which cited reasons including a lack of differentiation among the titles and a tendency to promote fashion that isn't practical for the average woman.