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Domino Restyles The Magazine Industry

Gigi Gastevich |
October 8, 2013 | 11:01 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The new domino cover. Photo courtesy of domino PR.
The new domino cover. Photo courtesy of domino PR.
Beloved décor magazine domino is back and open for business with a new online concept that could revolutionize the magazine industry. 

Domino, a Condé Nast publication focused on high-style home design, garnered a cult following during its 2005 to 2009 run. Its shutdown due to economic troubles was devastating to many, but after its four-year hiatus the magazine has returned to glory.

“The domino brand was so cherished by its readers that I really felt like it was my job to bring exactly that back,” said Michelle Adams, the new domino editor-in-chief. “I didn’t want to tweak the design or the original intent, the message and DNA of the brand, because people loved it.”

The features of the new issue of domino are just as stylish and inspirational as before. Editorials like “Throw a Cocktail Party (in Under an Hour!)” and “Great Gifts, Good Karma” read like old friends. The format of these stories, however, is all new. Domino will publish a print magazine quarterly, but the team’s real focus is on the new domino website. In addition to exclusive web-only features, all of the content in the print magazine will be available online in an expanded format. “When you go from print to web, you have more room to add more content,” said Adams. “So each of these stories has never-before-seen photos [and] different outtakes.” 

The new domino online is designed with reader interaction in mind. There are three ways to view each story: a magazine-style visual with text and images, a photo collage, and, most excitingly, “Shop this Story,” where readers can directly purchase every single item featured in the spread.

A peek at the new domino homepage. Courtesy of domino PR.
A peek at the new domino homepage. Courtesy of domino PR.
 Even the 2005-2009 domino archives, which the magazine’s team is in the process of formatting for web and uploading online, will be ready to shop. “We’ve done all the market work to make [the archived stories] ‘shoppable’ with products that are currently available,” said Adams. 

The big idea is this: instead of listing or linking to products, domino will be selling the products directly. All sales transactions take place within the domino website. The products are shipped directly from the manufacturer to the reader, which means that domino facilitates and profits from the transaction but is free from the restraints of buying and keeping an inventory of products. “Since we don’t actually have to buy the inventory and warehouse it first,” explained Adams, “we’re able to offer a much larger product selection and better serve both the reader and the manufacturer.”

This method of partnering with artists, manufacturers, and stores with “drop-ship” capability allows domino to take “larger margins” than a traditional magazine-manufacturer sales partnership. And this new model gives domino an edge in a much bigger way: traditionally, magazines rely heavily on ad revenue for funding, but if domino succeeds in generating large profits from e-commerce, they’ll pave the way for a whole new economic model for magazines that’s not dependent on pages and pages (and pages) of ads. 

What’s most exciting about this new concept is its potential to make global connections on a grassroots level. “It’s all free,” said Adams, referring to the design content and inspiration on the domino website. “So anybody worldwide who wants to check it out, can. I get emails like, ‘Hi from Sally in Dublin, Ireland,’ who says, ‘we don’t have anything like [domino] here. Thank god you guys are online.’”

Editor-in-Chief Michelle Adams. Courtesy of domino PR.
Editor-in-Chief Michelle Adams. Courtesy of domino PR.
Domino’s sales model allows it to partner with independent artists and small businesses who wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach this global audience. They’re able to bring together readers like Sally in Dublin with artists like Caroline Hurley in New York. Ms. Adams told me about how domino went to Ms. Hurley’s apartment to photograph an entertainment story, and ended up contracting Hurley to produce prints of the mixed media pieces she’d made for her dining room. “When we got the film back [from the shoot], [the painting] was so vibrant in the background. We thought, ‘we know our readers [will] want this!’” Adams laughed. “So we called her up and said, ‘hey, do you sell this?’ and she laughed and said, ‘no, I made this for my apartment.’ So we said, ‘alright, can we set you up with a local printer who will print those for you and sell them to our readers?’ So she got them printed up, and editioned them and signed them for our readers, and now when you go to the shop section of that story, you can buy the art on her wall.”

Domino 3.0 just might be the new big thing. It has the potential to change the economic structure of the magazine industry in a groundbreaking way. Even more importantly, it’s positioned itself as a powerful advocate for the “democratization of design,” as Ms. Adams puts it in her Editor’s Letter: putting the entire magazine online, focusing on reader interactions, and partnering with independent and local designers positions domino as a new space for the worldwide exchange of design ideas. Well done, domino—you’re off to a very exciting new start.

Reach Staff Reporter Gigi Gastevich here


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