Over the last couple of months, Penske Media Corporation—the parent company of 22 media brands including Variety, Rolling Stone, WWD, Deadline Hollywood, BGR, and others—has made some great strides in its global expansion plans, launching in China two of its brands: WWD in mid July and Variety on 1 August.
Both new editions feature a blend of original content and on-the-ground reporting that caters to Chinese language audience.
PMC has long had an interest in Asia, and China in particular. “With Variety we have been the first international publication attending all the major film festival and markets in China and have long-term partnerships with the Shanghai International Film Festival. WWD has a long history in China. Shortly after the US and China reestablished relations under President Nixon and Mao, Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild were invited to China along with a group of American designers including Bill Blass. The visit was covered in WWD at the time. In recent years, we have successfully executed the Global Fashion Forum in Beijing in 2016 and in Xi’an in 2018,” explained Gurjeet Chima, PMC’s senior director, International Markets.
“There has always been an interest to expand to China. We currently have a long term relationship with Trends Group which has been publishing Robb Report in China since 2006. In previous years, the focus has always been more consumer centric titles, with the market evolving and becoming more sophisticated there is a need for high quality B2B brands. Both Variety and WWD are considered the strongest and most well respected brands in their respective fields of fashion and entertainment and we were fortunate to find the right partners this year,” she said.
Founded in 1910 in New York, WWD covers news and trends in fashion, beauty and retail. Its first international edition was WWD Japan, which was founded in 1979, and features in-depth analysis of trends in the Japanese market. WWDJapan.com has continued to do well and currently has an average monthly pageview of 18.5 million and UUs steady at 2.4 million.
“There wasn’t really an iconic, global and authoritative brand reporting on the fashion industry within China. Especially with the Chinese market evolving so quickly. China is on the way to becoming one of the world’s biggest luxury markets, so it is a good time to launch a title like WWD in the market.”
To launch WWD in the Chinese market, PMC partnered with China Mind Next. The partnership launched on 1 August. WWD China operations, which will consist of digital content and events will be lead by CEO Lena Yang, former CEO of Hearst China and Marie Claire Taiwan. The chief content officer will be Johannes Naubacher who worked as editor-in-chief for Financial Times group publication in China FT Rui. The team expects to work closely with Miles Socha, editor, international WWD US, who currently oversees the WWD Paris, Milan, London and Beijing bureaus. WWD China will also publish targeted print editions throughout the year, most likely at the brand’s major events.
“WWD China will cover the relevant business angles on the fashion, textile, retail and beauty industries. It will be clearly focused on what is happening in China and include original content and on the ground reporting, but also special reports, WWD features and local versions of signature events.”
The Chinese market consumes information in different ways to European or North American markets. “In China, not that many people access news through websites,” Chima explained. “More and more, people access data, information and services through their mobiles. They’re going to apps and to social media platforms.” For WWD China, the main portion of its content would be published through WeChat and Weibo, in addition to WWD China’s website.
Variety China, a new Chinese-language international edition that will feature original as well as syndicated content geared towards a Chinese audience.
Variety has partnered with Woruitai (Beijing) Culture Media on the project. The partnership includes daily digital content from 1 August and monthly print issues beginning 15 September. The title will create content across a wide range of platforms including digital, social, custom, video, events and print.
“The approach with Variety is that we will obviously retain and include the authority that we have in the entertainment industry in the US, and then curate and create content that will be geared to the taste of the Chinese audience,” Chima said. “Working with WoRuiTai, we would offer real-time access to news, in order that Variety becomes the leading source of entertainment news in China.”
PMC’s global expansion
Expanding these titles in China is important to PMC, where they will be sharing real-time information between both the local edition and the US editions. “These are not hands-off editions but extensions of our global news organisations.” Chima explains. “The idea is that people have to have some knowledge of the titles first, before we would be able to launch these,” she explained. “Variety and WWD are considered global news organisations and there was already brand recognition in Asia. That has made it easier for PMC to break into the market. And over time we will seek to expand all of our iconic brands in Asia.”
Since Variety and WWD are global news operations, and Chima explained that they separate markets by languages, not by territory. “So, when we do approach different licensees, the main objective isn’t about launching a print publication, rather it’s about how to transform these global news brands and adapt them to a certain territory because the markets everywhere are changing so regularly.”
Entering the Chinese market
In China, it is essential that publishers and media companies go into the market knowing the rules and regulations. “With their experience, both our partners China Mind Next and WoRuiTai understand the media and digital industry and accept that rapid change is also part of the Chinese media landscape.”
The Chinese market is changing very quickly, compared to Europe, North America, or other Asian countries. “As an international media group, it’s very important for us to be aware of that change and to adapt to it quickly,” Chima said. “As a company headquartered in New York and Los Angeles with additional offices in 11 countries and journalists worldwide, we have to learn to adapt efficiently and cater for the demands of the Chinese audience and Chinese readers.”
Abridged and re-published with kind permission of FIPP, the network for global media