Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Wishlist for Architectural Digest

Yes, I'm joining the fray of debate surrounding what will happen next for Architectural Digest. I was prompted by a lively post on the blog The Blue Remembered Hills. There are lots of rumors floating around ranging from who will take the helm all the way to AD going out of business. Any speculation on my part about who takes the lead there, would be just that - uphelpful speculation. But my secret hope is that AD will use this chance to substantially re-invent themselves. Two recent New York Times articles on Elle Decor and Lonny might provide some clues as to how to do that.

You may have your own opinions on each of these publications, but both of these magazines are doing something right. Most importanly, both have embraced new media outlets. With a more developped infrastructure, Elle Decor has been able to strengthen their brand with reality TV and social media, while other publications have folded. Lonny also has a strong social media presence, and perhaps the most compelling format for a "publication" out there - and at a faction of the infrastructure and, I'm guessing here, a fraction of the cost.

AD already has perhaps one of the best brand names to build on. It is occaisionally subject to some criticism regarding its content, but you always find top-end decorators' work there. The problem for some of the critics is perhaps that top-end does not always equal cutting edge. As someone in the trade, seeing these decorators' work is informative, and sometimes inspriational, but I would not consider it a trade resource.

So, my wishlist for this re-invention of AD: That the next editor is able to somehow marry the best parts of a traditional publication and an online one, while building on AD's high end reputation by being more of a resource for high-end decorators and designers. I can just see a junior decorator somewhere reading AD on his/her iPad and bookmarking the links of the pieces she/he likes to a "look-book" folder. But I may be dreaming...

It is safe to say that our industry is undergoing major changes, and in my opinion, those are usally associated with inflection points during which new paradigms are put in place. For our trade publications, in case the closure of House & Garden, Metropolitian Home and others wasn't a clear enough sign, they need to change as well. My fear is that the publishers of AD will make a safe pick with someone who hews too closely to their current formula. In my opinion, this will simply be putting off the inevitable folding of the magazine.


  1. I am worrying about Town & Country. I have been an avid reader for too long to count and do not want any changes. I'm worried about Stephen Drucker taking over the helm. T $ C needs no changes.

  2. Freddie, I don't think you are dreaming. I think that is exactly the way everyone wishes to interact with media now.

  3. Thanks for your comments!

    Donna, I also really enjoy T&C. It has a very good niche. But I also know Stephen Drucker is very good at what he does. I am sure, or at least I believe, any changes he makes will only enhance T&C's position in that niche.

    Shannon - totally! It is really interesting to see how the formats; print & online magazines and blogs are interacting with new technology like iPhones, podcasts and readers. I don't think any player has nailed the right combination (I think some navigation aspects could be done better for example), but someone will soon and it'll catch on fast!

  4. This was just brought to my attention, and well said indeed---now if only Mr. Newhouse pays attention....

  5. Thank you Down East Dilettante. We'll see about Mr. Newhouse, but that may be one wish too many!