I recently attended a panel discussion at Web Summit to hear how fashion magazines are adapting to the growing influence of digital.

The speakers were Jo Elvin, editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, Christene Barberich, co-founder & global editor-in-chief of Refinery29 and Laura Bradley, editorial director of Dazed Media.

Here are a few of the most interesting points raised.

Start with the story – not the channel

While fashion magazines might have separate editorial teams for print and digital, the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred.

Speaking about how Glamour approaches digital content, Jo Elvin said that the key is to start with the story first – and think about the platform or channel later.

Instead of thinking ‘we need to create a presence on Pinterest’, it should be ‘what do we want to say and why?’

These questions should be the starting point for every article or feature in order to feel authentic and relevant to the reader.

The concept of storytelling is not something that should only be considered by fashion brands either, but the magazines writing about them, too.  

Christene Barberich elaborated on this, explaining how Refinery29 strives to speak about fashion in the wider context of readers’ lives – not just in line with the changing seasons. 

Similarly, as the audience interested in fashion tends to be smaller than general lifestyle, Refinery29 uses the vertical in relation to others like beauty, health and entertainment.

Finding the right platform

Further to the subject of storytelling, Laura Bradley spoke about how the pressure to be present on a multitude of social media channels can be overwhelming. 

Consequently, it is important to stick to the platforms that best suit the magazine’s style and that the audience responds to the most.

For Dazed Media, this is undoubtedly Instagram.

As a lifestyle-orientated channel, it enables the brand to create a world for users to become immersed in and to return to on a regular basis. 

Alongside Dazed’s multiple accounts, such as Dazed Fashion and Nowness, the company’s writers and editors often use their own personal accounts to further the brand’s presence online. 

Some use it to curate funny videos or to celebrate their own sense of style, but whatever the topic, it helps to bring a personal touch to the wider brand. 

Laura also explained how, more often than not, she also responds to the brands that place less emphasis on the product, and instead focus on the setting, surroundings, or general aesthetic of an image.

She cited Glossier, the cult beauty brand that started life on Instagram, as a great example of this. 

Its feed is full of understated posts ranging from flowers to subtly made-up faces – but the products themselves are barely there.

Embracing tone of voice

Is there a difference between writing for digital and print? According to Jo Elvin, the answer is no. 

While many people assume that writing for online is always fast-paced and focused on short and snappy features, she explained how Glamour no longer differentiates between the print and digital reader.

Instead of being entirely separate entities, the magazine’s teams work together to ensure that the tone of voice is consistent across the board.

On this topic, the discussion moved to the importance of having a distinct tone of voice – as well as what kind of voice works best when it comes to digital.

The panel agreed that, while it might not suit luxury or high-end fashion, a relatable and relaxed tone is often the most successful. 

Magazines like Glamour aren’t afraid to use emojis or write in the first person because it knows that the audience does too.

The key is tapping into the voice of the reader and being a reflection of this.

Interestingly, Glamour has recently experimented with podcasts having found that the medium works well with its informal, chatty nature.

Emphasising the importance of a conversational and relatable tone of voice, Laura also added how magazines are using social media to provide customer service as well as great content. 

If a reader wants to find out about a particular product release, for example, Twitter is the perfect platform to establish this connection.

Social influencers are not the enemy

Finally, the panel commented on the recent controversy surrounding Vogue’s criticism of fashion bloggers, and the impact of social influencers in general.

The general consensus was that Vogue appears wildly out of touch.

Speaking about the early days of Glamour, Jo Elvin explained how many people were sceptical about its potential for success, especially when the market was already flooded with women’s magazines.

However, she firmly believes that there will always be room for quality – and the same principle applies to influencers.

With many dedicating years to building their own mini-brands, there’s no reason why a blogger can’t have the same authority as someone who works for the biggest fashion magazine in the world.

Social media influencers simply add to the fabric of the fashion industry, reflecting what readers are interested in and how they are able to connect to it. 

Instead of criticising it, it is clear that this new competitive (and digitally-focused) reality needs to be embraced.