Domino magazine officially stormed newsstands last week after a four-year hiatus. The interior design magazine, one of the first and last magazine-catalogue half-breeds, has been refashioned as a quarterly that retails for $12 and an e-commerce site of decor wares. The Times officially trumpeted the news, which I had already reported, citing unnamed sources, a month earlier.
At the time of its closing, Domino had a circulation of 850,000 that was padded with subscribers from the shuttered House & Garden and that advertisers defected in droves in its last two years. But in the years since, it’s also been fondly remembered by a certain strain of interior design geek who was left inconsolable when the magazine was shut down in 2009, a phenomenon that was recorded in an extraordinary story again by the Times’ Penelope Green. 2009 must have been a simpler time.
What are these super Domino fans - the Domi-monde? - getting for their $12? The first issue of the print quarterly is 128 pages, eight of them advertising pages, though all but the front and back flaps by sole sponsor Target, are house ads. Pages in Domino’s March 2009 issue: 118. Price in 2009: $10 for a year’s subscription. Today, monthlies Architectural Digest and Elle Decor cost $5.99 per issue and had 230 and 248 pages, respectively, in their October issues.
The quarterly’s editorial mix is cobbled together from old parts from the first Domino and new ideas. New editor in chief: Michelle Adams. Her role at the old Domino: market assistant. Some of recurring features will be familiar to fans of the old magazine - shopping picks from the magazine’s creative staff and a back-page of ten things that make a celebrity happy - Sofia Coppola picked a $3,550 bag she designed for Louis Vuitton. Others are new ideas, like a list of “things we went nuts for,” for instance, “Travel-friendly fashion guides (by a Vogue Paris correspondent!).”
In the feature well, we visit the home of Nate Berkus and his husband to be, which would be newsworthy if his home hadn’t already been featured on the cover of Architectural Digest last year, Elle Decor in April, Harper’s Bazaar in May and, in March, in Lonny, the digital magazine Adams left to be Domino’s eic. Who else is inside? Eva Chen, the new editor in chief of Conde’s Lucky.
But we shouldn’t mind the print magazine too much, even if it carries a $12 price tag. Domino isn’t a magazine anymore, the New York Times enthused last week. It’s a store. Its main organ is an e-commerce site.
And so we’ve come full circle. While magazine content might have once been the main reason a magazine became popular the most basic components of the medium - like editorial judgment, personality, writing - are incidental to the new proposition. What fans are expected to buying into now is the aura of the brand. Its url, dominomag.com, is a misnomer - the mag part is a vestigial leftover, like an appendix, from some other time that no longer serves a function. A magazine that was a refashioned catalog to begin with has now been further reduced to its most basic commercial function - to move product. The editor here isn’t an ostensible arbiter of taste, but instead plays window dresser, selecting and embellishing and arranging product just so to entice passing customers to pay a hefty mark-up for a lamp.
This raises the other question about the new Domino. How useful is it as a retailer? Consider this table lamp from Barbara Cosgrove. It is copper patina on brass. Price on Dominomag.com: $862.50. How much is that on Amazon.com? $425.00.