Experimentation and Imitation: The Journey to Elle 360
It is widely acknowledged that the media industries are facing an unprecedented period of disruption within the internet age. Whilst avoiding technological determinism, it is important to recognize the scale of the changes being faced and the altering landscape which media businesses, particularly those with a strong legacy, are forced to operate in (Chan-Olmsted and Chang, 2003; Küng, 2008; Küng, Picard and Towse, 2008; Küng, 2013). This paper focuses on the initial findings from a case study of Elle, UK and the title’s explicit engagement with multi-platform which has involved multiple and wide ranging product, process and content innovations. The paper focuses on an analysis of documentary evidence and semi-structured interviews with Hearst Magazines UK and Elle UK senior employees. With regard to adjusting to a multiplatform approach to publishing, Hearst UK is considered to have innovated more quickly than rivals (Halliday and Sweney, 2013) and Elle UK has engaged with a multi-platform strategy, ‘Elle 360’ for the past 18 months. Despite a public discourse of platform neutrality, evidence from the initial research suggests that the economic strategies, as a corollary work practices and content decisions, continue to preference the print magazine above emerging and alternative platforms. This is suggested to be a result of the fact that the print magazine remains the dominant source of revenue despite wider experimentation. The paper concludes by identifying tensions in the continuing experimentation with new business models and maintaining the delicate balancing act of editorial integrity.
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