How Vogue is growing audiences by focussing on readers’ needs

And how it contributed to making Vogue India online readership grow by 129% in one year

Illustration by Freepik

Of all international publishers, few deserve the adjective ‘global’ as much as Condé Nast, especially the Vogue brand. Since 1892, when the first issue was published in the US, the fashion magazine has launched 26 editions all over the world, without taking into account sister publications such as Teen Vogue.

Vogue has a global web audience of 56 million people and aims to double its traffic from 2017 to 2020. But how can you develop a strategy to grow audiences in so many different markets at the same time?

Sarah Marshall, head of audience growth at Condé Nast and a director of Hacks/Hackers London, told the HHLdn community how Vogue interviewed readers from ten editions to better understand the needs and tailor the content they produce to their readership.

You can read a summary of her talk below or watch the full speech from the October meetup on our YouTube channel.

For years the media industry has tried to anticipate readers’ wishes when writing an article or shooting a video. Google Trends, audience metrics and educated guesses are among the tools that journalists use to give the audience what they want, possibly with the help of some good, old SEO.

Sarah Marshall offered to the HHLdn community a different approach to this problem: instead of trying to find out what people are looking for, they asked their readers what they want from Vogue.

The audience research team at Condé Nast surveyed 3000 loyal readers of 11 Vogues (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, and Russia) and 2000 people who don’t read Vogue but are interested in fashion. As a result, the audience research team identified six readers’ needs: “inspire me”, “educate me”, “divert me”, “update me”, “make me responsible” and “connect me”. Then, they mapped the most important needs for each market:

To find out which needs Vogue articles meet, the team went through every story published by the titles in March 2019. Every headline was assessed to define which need each story met.

A spreadsheet of Vogue Spain articles labelled by needs

The audience research team found out that, of all the stories published in March 2019, 38% were under the category ‘update me’, 26% ‘divert me’, 21% ‘inspire me’, and just 2% ‘make me responsible’.

They also looked at the performance of stories based on the needs they met and found out that “inspire me” and “educate me” content overperformed while “update me” under-performed. ‘Inspire me’ stories drove the highest average readership, while the lowest were ‘update me’ ones.

Article count vs. average readership

“There was some white space — but what happens if we write more about ‘make me responsible’ stories and slightly less about ‘update me’ stories? If we can better respond to those needs to be more useful to people, can we grow more?” said Sarah Marshall.

To help the ten Vogues with their strategy, the team at Condé Nast gave a specific audit to each of them, with specific advice tailored to the needs of their audience.

“Many of the Vogues got really passionate about it and eight out of ten really used our findings to change their editorial strategy.” Among them, the edition that worked the hardest was Vogue India, Marshall revealed.

The team in London provided recommendations on which kind of stories to cull and how to tweak some articles to improve performance — for example, finding a different angle on the same story to meet a different need; Vogue India, meanwhile, held monthly meetings in which the data team shared the month’s under-performing stories.

As a result, ‘update me’ stories decreased to less than 15% of the content produced by Vogue India while the number of users last September grew by 129% year-on-year.

“This research influenced the way the Vogue sites commission stories — with ‘needs’ in mind,” said Sarah Marshall. “I think it’s a good way of having a set of criteria. It’s good to ask yourself if you are being useful, if you are helping somebody do something in their daily lives, instead of just writing what the editors want to write.”

Want to join Hacks/Hackers London? Check our website or subscribe to our newsletter for future events and info about our guest speakers. You can also watch the talks from previous meetups on our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Hacks/Hackers London

Journalism x technology, London style. Hashtag: #HHLdn

Francesco Zaffarano

Written by

Journo, nerd • Social media editor at The Telegraph • Former social and engagement at The Economist, la Repubblica, La Stampa • www.francescozaffarano.com

Hacks/Hackers London

Journalism x technology, London style. Hashtag: #HHLdn

Francesco Zaffarano

Written by

Journo, nerd • Social media editor at The Telegraph • Former social and engagement at The Economist, la Repubblica, La Stampa • www.francescozaffarano.com

Hacks/Hackers London

Journalism x technology, London style. Hashtag: #HHLdn

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store