This article about the sale of Net-a-Porter appeared in the back of Friday's WSJ Marketplace section.
What a new media success story. In 2000 Natalie Massenet was a fashion journalist with an idea to sell luxury clothing over the web. There were many doubters and haters. Fashion journalists were not supposed to do such things. They were supposed to be fashion journalists, which meant they were supposed to produce the words that went in between all those lucrative advertisements.
Fast forward to today. Those advertisements are not so lucrative any more. But well-executed online retailing in a specific niche is (see Amazon, Zappos, etc.). Once of Massenet's great insights was that she did not completely leave the journalism businesses, she just transferred it to a different platform. From the WSJ article:
Lately, however, the big luxury brands have made digital retailing a higher priority, having recognized that shoppers are increasingly willing to buy very expensive products on the Web. But selling $1,000 dresses online is different from hawking groceries or second-hand books: Customers want an editorial element, a guiding hand to replace the in-store salesperson and signal what's in style, which is where Net-a-Porter has carved out its niche.
The Web site, which says it has been profitable since 2004 and reported sales of about £120 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, has established itself as an interactive shopping fashion magazine, publishing 52 weeks of editorial content each year alongside its designer clothes sales operation.
"It's just as much a magazine as it is a store," said Ms. Massenet in an interview. "That really has served us well, because when you're online you lose the offline experience of walking into a store."
I doubt that Net-a-Porter is being studied in journalism schools, but it should be. I believe it represents one of the futures of the media business. The definition of "journalism" will become much more fluid, and the basic skillset of journalists, with a little adaptability, will continue to be in demand.
Update: Mrs. Massenet has been reading her Investor's Consigliere. Maybe. Here she is in today's Financial Times:
"I think there will be an increasing convergence between content and commerce . . ."