What The End Of Allure’s Print Edition Means For Beauty Media, According To Editors And PR Experts

Next year, Allure is going digital-only after 31 years of publishing print editions.

News of Condé Nast’s decision to cut the physical manifestation of the magazine wasn’t shocking to people in the beauty and media industries. The publishing company previously axed the print editions of Glamour and Self. Hearst ended O, The Oprah Magazine’s print edition in 2020, and Future Media jettisoned the American print edition of Marie Claire last year. Earlier this year, Dotdash Meredith terminated the print editions of six of its magazines, including InStyle, following the shuttering of Shape in late 2021.

In an interview with Beauty Independent soon after she was named Allure’s editor in chief last year, Jessica Cruel suggested Allure’s credibility extends beyond its printed pages. “What’s key to Allure is the trust that’s there. That little red seal is really the first time most people meet Allure. Sometimes, people don’t even read it, but they know, ‘Oh, this means it’s good. I know that this means this is quality. It’s been tested by a group of people,’” she said. “That level of authority and trust, not only that we have with our consumers and shoppers, but that we have with people in the industry who read us and collaborate with us on shoots and stories, that means everything.”

In the era of TikTok and Twitch, the prospects for legacy media remain uncertain. To shed light on them, we asked 12 beauty editors, journalists and public relations experts the following questions: What does the closure of Allure’s print edition signal about the present state of print media and its future? Do you believe there’s still a place for print beauty magazines in a digital-first world?

Linda Wells Founding Editor, Allure and Columnist, Air Mail

When I started Allure, the mission was to make beauty accessible to everyone everywhere, and it is now, extending far beyond the pages of a magazine— with TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Supergreat. Everyone can participate, everyone can see themselves and be themselves on their own terms. Beauty is at the center of the greatest flood of self-expression today, in products, imagery, language and business. Beauty is everywhere. 

With the end of Allure in print, beauty as a subject, as a territory, and as an expression has moved beyond the confinement of a paper magazine with a limited number of pages. It had to. Allure burst out of its physical restrictions—and that’s a credit to the magazine, its leaders and its mission. 

I wish Allure could exist forever in print because I have a maternal affection for a magazine that I can hold in my hands. But that’s like wishing I could hold my children in my lap; it’s impractical and impossible (also, my legs would break). That time has passed.

Instead, I believe the credibility and spirit of the magazine can continue robustly in its digital life and in the brand extensions we started decades ago. Allure.com covers daily beauty news with energy and authority. Allure Best of Beauty and the coveted red seal has resonance and respect among consumers and the industry; its influence has only grown since we started it in 1996. The Allure Beauty Box, a subscription service that introduces consumers to editor-selected products, is growing in a very crowded marketplace. 

I still have dreams of Allure in print, even though they’re not mine to realize. I imagine a quarterly publication as a cross between a book and a magazine with well-wrought essays, reportage and images on beautiful stock. Indie magazines have done this brilliantly.

Look at Self Service, Cherry Bombe, Delayed Gratification, Riposte (what great titles!). They’re wildly inventive, incredibly attractive, have strong, original points of view, and feel like collectible objects. With more modest revenue expectations and more ambitious creative ideas and execution, Allure in print just a few times a year could be really meaningful and special. That’s my fantasy. 

Jennifer G. Sullivan Beauty Journalist and Co-Host, Fat Mascara

I think there would be a place for print beauty magazines in a digital world if—and it’s a big if—they had the resources, talent and appetite for risk that great magazine journalism requires. No other medium combines photography, design, reporting and writing (and fact-checking!) in the same way.

Audio has an intimacy that's really impactful, but the visual element is missing. Video journalism, when it's done well, can come close, but it’s a more passive experience because the creators do all the work of combining the story and the visuals.

With magazines, the reader does some of that mental work; they engage with the words and the photographs and think about how to connect them, and that leaves a lasting impression. I don’t think anyone has figured out how to replicate that on screens yet—but I’m optimistic it will happen. And I think it's more likely to happen than a publisher figuring out a revenue model that can support print magazines at their finest.

Deanna Utroske Beauty Industry Thought Leader and Former Editor, Cosmetics Design

Printed beauty magazines hold value, but there’s more to it than that. Consumer beauty publications serve as a crucial link between cosmetic and personal care industry insiders and everyday people with a passion for beauty. Allure is no exception. 

The award-winning magazine, aptly subtitled The Beauty Expert and often referred to as "The Beauty Bible," has for over 30 years now been a go-to book for information and inspiration. It exists as a channel for consumer education and plays an important role in helping to manifest the trends and movements that shape the future of our industry. Allure is where we see the conversation unfold and where industry innovations become culturally significant.

Digital media allows that conversation to be fully interactive, dynamic, immersive and global. If Allure in print was "The Beauty Bible," Allure in a digital-first world is the church, the temple, the shrine, the synagogue, the mosque, etc., an established structure that holds the potential to welcome and connect more of us through our discussions of beauty.

Allure reaches beauty consumers today on every thinkable platform online, across social media and beyond. The end of the print editions will mean more energy and attention can go into these important community building initiatives. 

Newness alone doesn’t solve problems, and often with change comes challenge. And it’s true that when 2022 comes to close and Allure Magazine goes out of print, we will lose something, something experiential, something tactile—a pleasurable object that has reinforced our identity, boosted our status, and at times, stood out as a glossy sort of conspicuous consumption.

From what I’ve been able to observe over the years, Dotdash Meredith (IAC) leans heavily on dollars-and-cents data to guide its media business decisions. So, I suspect that, in the end, the financial success (or failure) of a digital-only Allure will determine the longevity of this publication that the beauty world has come to know and love over the past several decades.

But the content, the consumer touch points, and the conversation that help advance and sustain our industry will go on.

Kirbie Johnson Journalist and Co-Host, Gloss Angeles

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m heartbroken about the print edition closing. I’m lucky enough to work with the brilliant and clever editors at Allure on the dot-com side. No greater joy was there than getting an email that my digital pitch was being co-opted for in-book.

Maybe I’m naive, but I always saw Allure as being one of those last magazines standing: It was the beauty reporter, after all, and having a book component surely gave them an edge on things like exclusives. I wonder how this may now even out the playing field in the beauty editorial world. Every brand wanted an Allure exclusive. I imagine part of that, at the very least, was in hopes of getting a potential cover. 

But it isn’t surprising. Anyone working in media knows that print doesn’t pull the numbers like it used to. My subscriptions were getting thinner and thinner through the years. And with so many brands (read: ad dollars) wanting to cater to gen Z, you have to ask yourself when was the last time someone that age actually touched a magazine — the nail salon? The airport? While copies of a magazine present longevity in a physical way, with digital, you get that longevity through SEO value and easy access. 

Maybe I’m hopeful, but I do think this is cyclical. What’s old becomes new again, right? Perhaps in a few years, someone will start a new beauty magazine because they long to hold something tangible in their hands again. Or perhaps Allure will come out of retirement. I do believe at some point people are going to want things they can physically touch again.

Being featured on a website is great for business, but being in print is great for stature. I interview many influencers for a living, and they always tout being featured in a magazine or on national TV as hallmark moments in their career. 

It reminds me of television streaming wars at the moment. Companies went full throttle on creating streamers because they saw the effects of Netflix and Hulu, and now we’re seeing the blowback of that—especially for writers who don’t necessarily benefit off streaming like they do for network television or the creatives who are seeing their work disappear after months (or not air at all). Getting back into theaters and on network TV is appealing once again. 

I have faith Allure will continue to lead the way and innovate in their dot-com-only era, and I’m excited to see what they have in store come 2023. 

Elise Minton Tabin Freelance Beauty Writer and Founder, Twiish

I grew up and started my career with print magazines. So, for me, it's sad to hear of more print publications taking a digital-only approach—or, worse yet, shuttering altogether. To think that the idea of a physical magazine is teetering on extinction is proof of the power of evolution. But, unfortunately, no industry is immune to a socially driven and digitally native world, especially magazines.

It's become nearly impossible for beauty brands, especially smaller ones, to justify the high costs of print advertising. It's harder than ever to quantify the ROI of a single print ad. With digital, everything is trackable, so an advertiser can see what drives sales. It's never been that easy with print, and the legwork tracking every new client or sale from a print ad is a long, expensive and tedious process. However, many print outlets have established other revenue streams, but, for some, it's still not enough to keep their books afloat.

If the world of print continues down its current trajectory, at some point, physical magazines (and newspapers) will be obsolete. It's unfortunate, but it's where it is probably headed. While I still read the glossies every month (I'm a rarity), not everyone has the same mentality. Many people have stopped renewing their subscriptions and prefer to consume all their beauty information in real time via email newsletters, blogs, digital editions and even social media. 

Today, everything is accessible on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Magazines and newspapers aren't even a part of gen Z's vernacular, but social media and podcasts are. Even textbooks are becoming obsolete in our school systems as paperless options are the current way of the world. It's just more proof that printed mediums as a whole are slowly disappearing. 

The present state of the print media industry is, unfortunately, treading on thin ice. I wish I could say otherwise, but it's the evident truth. It's tragic that one day, people won't know what role a beauty editor or publisher plays. As we see these changes take hold—and fast—editors and writers need to learn how to pivot and put their good learnings to use. I hope there's still a place for print beauty magazines in a digital-first world, but it's probably unrealistic for them to survive in the coming years.

Tyler Williams Founder and CEO, Nouveau Communications

The loss of Allure’s print vertical is a great loss for the beauty industry, as well as a loss for journalism. When it comes to beauty media, there is simply nothing else out there like the reporting and creativity that the Allure print team produces.

For anyone who works in media, including those of us on the public relations side, it's no secret that print has been a volatile—and oftentimes struggling—medium, especially since the Great Recession. There are difficult economics at play: Magazines are expensive to produce, and advertisers are more motivated by short term return on investment such as immediate sales, click-through and other KPIs that are easier to directly measure in the digital space.

With beauty media becoming much more heavily commerce-driven, with affiliates providing a revenue stream for publishers via sales and clicks, I do wonder about the future of beauty media. If a publisher’s goal is to drive sales, where does that leave room for journalism?

It will be interesting to see how (or if!) content pivots on digital. Allure.com is already a reliable platform for real-time beauty reporting. I’m hopeful Allure the team will be able to continue their journalist pursuits on this platform.

To Linda Wells, Michelle Lee, Jessica Cruel and their teams: Brava and thank you!

Jessica Matlin Beauty Director, Moda Operandi and Co-Host, Fat Mascara

People are saying that Allure print shuttering is a sign of the times, but I keep thinking about how ahead of the curve it was. Thirty-plus years ago, Linda Wells founded a beauty magazine at Condé Nast—one that didn’t sound like a typical beauty magazine —and by doing so elevated an industry, getting it a seat in the same publishing house as Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. That is no small feat.

Every single month, Allure filled their print pages by covering every possible angle of the beauty industry: Paris runway micro-trends, real-girl makeovers, cosmetic chemist product reviews, makeup artist product hauls, beauty editor picks, body image essays, readers’ choice awards, the list goes on. These sorts of interests were at one point "niche." I can say that with confidence because I went from being an Allure reader in the '90s to an Allure staff writer in the '00s.  

However, in the 2020s, I can say that in the past decade, beauty has gone fully mainstream. Knowing makeup artists' first and last names, having a favorite skinfluencer, or hoarding a vast perfume collection no longer means you're "nerding out" on beauty; you're just participating in the culture.

When I look at TikTok and Instagram, beauty coverage is all about being as specific as possible, and also elevating the people in the industry, from the artists to the scientists to dermatologists to brand founders. I can see why social media has supplanted the need for a print edition, but, with this new media void, I predict a hunger for beauty magazines in the future.

I’m thinking about beauty photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, and other professionals whose work is all about aesthetics and details. Looking at their work on an iPhone doesn't feel the same as on a printed page, despite the incredible, connection-making, career-exploding reach social has to offer.

Some of these photographers and artists—and writers—will want to see their work on a variety of mediums, including a glossy printed page. This may draw them to smaller, more independent magazines, a movement that's already happening and is likely to continue. 

What also warms me: Print may be something new generations will embrace and appreciate. You can see it right now with vinyl, cassette tapes, and of course, vintage fashion. Also, I don't know a soul who is looking for more screen time in their lives. Anything is possible.

Stephanie Saltzman Beauty Director, Fashionista

I've spent the entirety of my editorial career on the digital side of things, so I of course see the most opportunity for innovation, growth and momentum in digital. For journalists, digital platforms allow us to leverage technology, to connect directly with our audiences and to tell more diverse, niche stories in a way that print often limits.

I was a digital employee at Condé Nast from 2012-2016, and I had a front row seat to the internal struggle between print and digital going on at the company during that time. It often felt as though digital was fighting to get even a tiny fraction of the respect and resources that print received, and there was a general understanding that digital was somehow "lesser than."

At the same time, I also had (and continue to have) a profound respect for all that went into researching, reporting and vetting print stories. Allure's print editors pioneered beauty storytelling, and in many ways, set the standard for what beauty reporting could (and should) look like to this very day. The urgency of the digital production schedule doesn't necessarily allow for that same care and attention to detail. But, as a digital editor, navigating that challenge to still produce high-caliber work is just part of the job.

In my time at Condé, I began to see things shift as publications made more room for quality storytelling in both print and digital formats, which was really encouraging. We're now seeing media companies that have spent decades funneling the majority of their resources toward print publications freeing up that budget to invest in their digital teams, and it's a huge opportunity for course-correction.

I hope it will be a chance for digital to finally get its shine, for companies to build more robust digital teams—and actually compensate them appropriately—and to cover an even broader array of subjects. As a friend who also works in digital beauty media put it: "I wholeheartedly believe quality journalism can exist in digital-only spaces, and digital media doesn't have to mean 'worse media.'"

That said, I still believe that there is room for both printed beauty magazines and high-quality digital beauty publications to coexist—just maybe not in the way that they historically have, within the same company and under the same brand umbrellas. It's unfortunate that print and digital platforms have been pitted against each other by the corporate structures in place. In reality, print and digital reporting can serve different needs and have different capabilities, and they are both valuable.

I hope that by shuttering print publications to focus on digital growth, legacy media companies (and their advertisers) will finally realize what they've missed out on by not supporting digital all these years. And then hopefully somewhere down the road, there will be room for new print publications to emerge once again, and to do so in a thoughtful, modern way.

Liz Kaplow Founder and CEO, Kaplow Communications

The closing of print titles brings to mind the Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are a-Changin.’” The truth is times changed a long time ago. The great magazines offered the perfect recipe of smart editorial expertise, stellar journalism and stunning photography. And for years that effort was well appreciated, with generations of readers finding unparalleled escape through their pages.

In a digital-first world, where much of our news is on the go, can print survive into the future? It is hard to forecast, but I still believe that people care most about good content, they just want it faster and in a more digestible format to fit the lifestyle they are living today.

For instance, gen Z seems to enjoy having a conversation live about things that matter. Yet, the local bookstore is still beloved by many, as people are reading books in print as well as onscreen and by audio. The long form is thriving in documentaries and in podcasts.

The key is that content is available when people want it as opposed to at the grocery aisle or the newsstand, where they have to wait for next month’s issue. And while the beauty consumer is as plugged in and discerning as ever, there is so much information, so much noise and too many options competing with those print pages, not to mention that the current reflex is to find out information with insertion of a few key phrases on Google.

Where does this lead us? While I certainly can’t predict the future, my hope is that print publications will still have a place, albeit in a striking new way, with bold recognition that the “The Times They Are a-Changin.’”

Amy Keller Laird Founder, Mental and Former Editor In Chief, Women's Health

I did two rounds at Allure, first as beauty features editor, then as beauty director—the latter from 2006-2011—and both under founding editor Linda Wells. When Linda created Allure, she had a vision for a beauty magazine that was unlike any other, where its editors interviewed dermatologists and cosmetic chemists and plastic surgeons and anthropologists, where we didn't believe in a press release's stats until we verified it all—ingredient percentages, delivery systems, claims verse reality, where we got every detail on the hair and makeup backstage at fashion show when no one else had thought to pay attention to backstage beauty. You bought an issue of Allure, and it was the most insider-y beauty reading you could do. At the time, many experts learned about the latest skin studies or hair developments in the pages of Allure.

And then our creative director, Paul Cavaco, would go off and create the most fantastical images, bringing the stories to life in a way that was both fashion-y and somehow attainable at once. I love digital. I love social. I've worked at multiple places in both mediums. But you just can't replicate the immensity and the gravitas of these giant print spreads, images, and packages in the same way.

Today, nobody is investing the money in making a print magazine that's truly worth spending on, particularly in the lifestyle space. Unfortunately, many media companies went the short-term-gratification route for lowest-common-denominator digital clicks, then drove down print prices so consumers were spending less than $1 on an issue.

Now, we've now got a media ecosystem where very few people want to pay for digital lifestyle content—different from hard news—because it exists in vats and loads all over the place. And very few people want to pay for print because these issues are thin shells of their predecessors. That is, unfortunately, what happens when media executives decide to slash staffs and budgets, rely on old business tactics for too long, then pivot too late.

Of course, the internet and social media changed the entire game, but there may have been a different ending had companies not devalued print so drastically. It could have been a gorgeous quarterly "Apple store" for a brand, which you'd find on the daily on digital and social.

Then there's gen Z. Different stats show different things about whether gen Z is interested in print, but it seems pretty clear they're not interested in print from mainstream brands as it exists now. Smaller, more independent brands with a strong aesthetic and a true POV that aren't trying to cater to the masses are what gets print traction these days. So, with mainstream brands run by conglomerates, you've got that hurdle. Add on print advertising declines (read: thin issues), and just enough editors to keep the engines puffing. It's not that hard to see why print is failing.

I do think there's a place for print and specifically beauty in print, but it would need to be done in the way Cherry Bombe has for food or Kazoo for kids. They're special, different, and not pedaling the same stuff you can find online. They've found a very particular niche.

The type of beauty journalism Linda created, which was once unique to Allure, has become much more widespread now, so it's harder than ever to really break through. I applaud Allure's current editors for mixing culture and beauty together in a very modern way. Maybe print will re-emerge as special collectors' editions once a year? There is hope with new business models.

Dianne Vavra CEO, Spotlight Beauty PR and Owner, Vavra New York

The anticipation of opening up a fresh, crisp copy of the latest issue of a magazine, and the ritual of carefully folding over the weighted cover while sipping coffee (or wine) will always exist for me. It's the ultimate self-care moment and will continue to be for as long or as short as it lasts. It has always been a welcomed escape. The news of some many print closures saddens me, as these amazing print publications and their talented writers have been a part of my daily life for decades.

Being a beauty publicist as well as a retail shop owner—both focusing on beauty brands—gives me a wide customer perspective. The beauty digital space is so crowded and tends to be overwhelming for consumers. They receive new information and product updates hourly instead of monthly. They come to me for advice and clarity. I use both of my roles to assist them in finding their way, much as the beauty and fashion magazines have done for us over the decades.

Emily Dougherty Consultant and Former Beauty Director, Elle

I didn't fall in love with magazines because I love paper. I fell in love with magazines because I loved what that paper delivered: discovery, escape, inspiration—magic that can be created just as easily in the digital space. The New York Times, for instance, consistently shows us how multimedia touch points can make a digital article so much more immersive than its print version.

However, for many media brands, the success of an article is measured not by how it thrills the reader, but by how many clicks it gets. Short, SEO-friendly online news posts take less time to research and write than a long-form article. And, as for those gorgeous print-magazine photo shoots, search engines don't really take photo quality into account when ranking articles of interest. So, why invest in photo shoots? So a switch from print to digital often comes with a move away from discovery and inspiration—discovery just isn't search-engine friendly.

What I loved most when I was a print editor—I was the beauty director at Elle for 15-plus years — was that we had to be predictive. The printing schedule meant that our ideas and insights took five or six months to reach our readers. It was the best grad school for learning how to be a futurist. Our brains were trained, season after season, to look way beyond what was happening that day in beauty to explore what hadn't happened yet. We didn't have the immediacy of digital, so we couldn't do hot takes on cultural conversations. We had to create entirely new conversations.

The best magazines didn't just report on trends, they created them. The best articles aren't SEO-centric—they introduce readers to new ideas, to things that they had never googled before.

The wonderful thing about Allure, and the reason I'm excited to see what comes next, is that the editors, print and digital, haven't sacrificed discovery. Every month in print under brilliant founding editor EIC Linda Wells, and now every day online under the fantastic Jessical Cruel, Allure brings me something new, something interesting, something to Google for the first time.

As a beauty industry futurist trained in the print beauty trenches, I predict great things for the future of beauty journalism and, hand in hand, the future of beauty. And thank you, Allure editors past and present: You're my inspiration!

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty editors and PR experts, please send it to editor@beautyindependent.com.