LONDON • Two decades after the Internet changed everything, magazines mostly have yet to figure out how to thrive in a digital world.
They have either retreated from print altogether or appear on newsstands infrequently. Titles once so culturally influential have been supplanted by social media and blogs, and are sometimes so thin with advertising and editorial pages as to look like brochures.
Except at interior design magazine The World Of Interiors – published since 1982 by Conde Nast Britain – which has lost none of its gloss and seems utterly unaffected by modern media trends.
Other than a cursory, if reasonably popular, Instagram presence and website of inspirational indices, it is not really on the Internet or trying limply to be “of” the Internet as so many other legacy titles are.
“It enjoys a semi-indie status among our titles,” said Mr Albert Read, managing director of Conde Nast Britain. The people who produce it, he said, “are all artistic bohemian types. It’s the antithesis to the data-driven digital attitude that we have to embrace in other part of our business”.
He held up the October issue of The World Of Interiors. It was thick as a phone book with advertisements and printed on heavy 100g wood-free coated paper, the most luscious, most expensive paper of any Conde title. The cover was a simple, enticing photo of the shaded veranda of a house in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of north-west Africa, with barely any typeface to muck it up.
“It’s just such a beautiful thing,” Mr Read said, biased but not wrong.
The World Of Interiors’ readership is small, with a circulation of 55,000, but influential. It is beloved by those in the creative and visual arts especially.
The magazine has a tiny staff of 13, many of whom have worked there for years, ageing happily in place, after arriving in roundabout ways. All are skilful at multitasking and undaunted by travelling economy.
It is common for magazines to commission stories only to kill them for one reason or another. The World Of Interiors cannot afford such waste, so magazine editor Rupert Thomas and his staff have developed a way of art-directing stories in advance, to work confidently and efficiently.
When the digital-advertising apocalypse came for print in the last decade, gutting budgets along with staff, The World Of Interiors scarcely had to adjust. Budgets were neither reduced nor increased.
And as always, the money scrimped from places where it did not show was spent in areas where it did, like continuing to shoot on film, printing on sumptuous paper and twice a year shipping a huge amount of furniture to Italy to be photographed in a rented villa or castle.
The Instagram account was introduced well after the social media platform became popular and only upon careful consideration of how to approach the medium, said Ms Emma Redmayne, the magazine’s publisher. Very few stories are available on its website.
To experience The World Of Interiors, you still have to buy the print magazine.
So why start churning out clickbait like “5 Ways to Get the Downton Abbey Look?”
The World Of Interiors is meant for a niche audience and the people who run it are fine with that.
“It’s so successful as a business, and so solid, that I’m very wary of pushing them in directions they feel uncomfortable going in,” said Mr Read. “I mean, if the World Of Interiors’ circulation suddenly jumped to 150,000, I’d almost be worried.”