Images courtesy of thenounproject.com.

Images courtesy of thenounproject.com.

The fashion industry loves content. Up until six or seven years ago, that content mostly appeared in print magazines, helping fashion brands tell their stories and earn customers. Both the fashion and publishing industries benefited – so much so that American Vogue is still considered a pillar of the Condé Nast media empire.

But the fashion industry also loves change, and has since discovered the advantages of the social web. Brands can now cut out the middleman and tell their own stories on thoughtful and beautifully curated websites, blogs and apps that rival any major publication.

Editors work for the brands they once discussed in the glossy pages of their magazines. Former Flare magazine editor-in-chief Lisa Tant was named fashion editor of Holt Renfrew late last year. The leading luxury e-tailer Net-A-Porter counts former Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans as its editorial director.

This shift has been a boon for brands, but it has left many publishers reeling in its wake. With declining subscription and advertising sales, magazines and newspapers are looking elsewhere for revenue. And while Forbes, The Atlantic and The New York Times turn to native advertising or sponsored content, fashion publications both online and off are hoping that shoppable content will close the gap.

The rise of shoppable content

In mid-August, Canada’s Fashion Magazine launched Shop.fashionmagazine.com, an e-commerce storefront featuring more than 1,500 items, each handpicked by its editors. Once shoppers choose an item, they are redirected to the website of the partnering retailer.

“Our mandate is to bring the world of international fashion home to our style-conscious readers and that’s exactly what we’re doing by partnering with both Canadian and global retailers,” said Angie McKaig, director of digital lifestyle brands at St. Joseph Media, in a recent press release.

Harper’s Bazaar and LouLou both operate models similar to Fashion, while the New York-based startup 72 Lux was founded primarily to facilitate retail partnerships, boasting top-tier publications like The Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue and Essence as clients. Its slogan: “Transforming publishers into retailers.”

Users of shop.fashionmagazine.com can browse through the curated selection of clothes and then click to the respective ecommerce platforms if they want to make a purchase.

Users of shop.fashionmagazine.com can browse through the curated selection of clothes and then click to the respective ecommerce platforms if they want to make a purchase.

Linking publishers to brands

A new crop of online ventures is also trying to cash in by using their authority as publishers.

Two of the biggest sites operating today are The Coveteur, which gives readers unparalleled access to tastemakers’ homes and closets, and the beauty equivalent, Into The Gloss. Both include shoppable content with every post. By clicking on certain links, readers are redirected to third-party retailers, and the publications earn additional revenue to ads.

For The Coveteur and major publications like Fashion Magazine, the revenue sharing model is what makes shoppable content possible. rewardStyle is one of the largest affiliate networks operating out of the U.S. and enables publishers to monetize their shoppable content by tracking readers’ purchases through rewardStyle-generated links.

rewardStyle was initially created to help fashion bloggers make money. Today, publishers big and small are using the model: from Vogue.com and Refinery29 to smaller sites like Eye-Swoon and The New Potato.

Creative Director Shala Monroque shows off her wares and style on http://www.thecoveteur.com/.

Creative Director Shala Monroque shows off her wares and style on www.thecoveteur.com.

Startups are the new black

While Condé Nast’s fashion properties Vogue, Lucky and Glamour all use the affiliate model, the company is finding opportunities in the startup world to expand its reach even further.

The media empire recently closed a third round of funding for Farfetch, a London-based e-marketplace for independent boutiques.

“Farfetch has a unique position, connecting boutiques around the world by e-commerce to sophisticated fashion customers like our magazine readers and website users,” said Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive officer of CNI in a press release. “It’s a natural for Condé Nast.”

This is the third investment by Condé Nast in 2013 alone. The first two were made by its German subsidiary, which bought online jewelry shop ReneSim and German design e-retailer Monoqi.

Given Condé Nast’s host of media properties that centre on the fashion world, you can bet this won’t be the publishing house’s last foray into e-commerce. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Publishers like Condé Nast need readers to become consumers. Reading, discovering and discussing aren’t enough anymore. You have to buy it, too.