Unlike their print-based counterparts in the newspaper sector, magazine publishers have seen circulation figures remain fairly steady in the face of challenges from the digital world.
Nevertheless, the ever-threatening of winds of change mean that these businesses can’t afford to rest on their laurels. But this doesn’t mean simply continuing to evolve the digital versions of their publications. No – what we’re seeing is an entirely new approach to audience proliferation and growth…
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
A big clue to how such businesses are building for the future is in how they refer to themselves. Time Inc. UK isn’t a publisher but a branded media company, and Future plc is now an international publishing and media group, and a leading digital business.
Perhaps most tellingly, our client Immediate Media now describe themselves as the special interest content and platform company. Such language places them less amongst ‘traditional’ publishers and more alongside the likes of Mashable (description: a global, multi-platform media and entertainment company) and Buzzfeed (a social news and entertainment company).
“Immediate Media now describe themselves as the special interest content and platform company.”
THE NEW PATH TO GROWTH
Actions, however, speak louder than words. So what moves have we seen to suggest publishers are moving in a more dynamic direction?
One example is The Edge, a ‘digital pop-up brand’ launched by Hearst Magazines title Cosmopolitan in collaboration with Estée Lauder. It mixes three strands of content – influencer, native and user-generated – and is promoted in part through Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Discover platform.
Meanwhile US publisher Wenner Media is launching Glixel, a standalone platform devoted to the world of gaming. Considering the company doesn’t have a gaming title in its portfolio, it’s an interesting move. But CEO Gus Wenner feels “gaming is today what rock ’n’ roll was when [our title] Rolling Stone was founded”. So their aim is to capitalise on this demand and ‘own’ some of the conversation around it.
Time Inc. UK has gone a step further and opened its own Innovation Lab. Responsible for such digital products as List For Life and Live Smart, its team recently won Product Team of the Year at the 2016 BMA Awards. We’ve actually just started working with them on digital campaigns to promote their products.
THE BURNING QUESTION: WHY?
Exactly. Why launch a gaming site, when you don’t have a gaming title? Or create a hub like List For Life, with no discernible link to existing Time Inc. UK brands?
It’s all about building an audience. The opportunity to mobilise people – particularly millennials (though we have a general disdain for that word!) – around a compelling ‘idea’ is huge. Especially with the potential of social media to amplify content and further build loyalty around these platforms.
“It’s all about building an audience.”
Then, crucially, comes the chance to slip the publisher’s existing brands into the conversation, introducing them to what could be an entirely new audience. Communicated right, with the necessary balance of offers and products, it opens up a completely fresh range of revenue streams.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Like any trend or product sector in its relative infancy, there’s plenty of potential to develop these ideas to deepen the relationship between these new brands and their audiences – and monetise them too.
As they’re mostly digital, one move could be to go offline. A List For Life series of inspirational talks for example, or a Glixel gaming expo.
Physical products could also be an idea. The Edge already incorporates one, called The Estée Edit. But how about a Glixel game controller? Or a full-on console?
Perhaps the most logical step, though, would be to introduce subscription models whereby paid subscribers would get certain perks such as product discounts, access to events, ad-free browsing etc. And of course discounted magazine subscriptions!
The whole thing is definitely worth keeping a close eye on. Maybe we’ll do another post in a year’s time, with updates on how it’s panning out.