Publishers seek new models

16 February 2011

LONDON: Magazine publishers such as Bauer and Condé Nast International are seeking to exploit a range of new revenue-generating opportunities in the UK.

In an example of this trend in action, Bauer is holding a three-day event in London during August 2011, linked to its film-related title Empire.

The company already runs similar annual initiatives on behalf of publications like Motor Cycle News, thus leveraging its print portfolio in innovative ways.

"It's an important and growing part of the business," Paul Keenan, Bauer's chief executive, told the Evening Standard.

"Printed magazines remain the beating heart of the brand," he continued. "This activity is a really good driver of growth but it needs to sit on a really brilliant magazine and radio business."

Further schemes have included creating a new unit, Bauer Access, which will partner with agencies to identify broader options.

These may incorporate advertiser-funded content, possibly encompassing magazines, broadcast and digital, alongside offering "experiences."

"Consumers and audiences value content for the content, not necessarily for its provenance," said Keenan.

Condé Nast International has also launched a Vogue Café, GQ Bar and Tatler Club in Moscow, and is opening sites in some cities where the magazines in question are not even on sale.

Elsewhere, the organisation is soon to unveil a Worldwide News Store in the British capital, offering its physical, online and mobile output from across the globe.

"This is a statement about our products, our brands," said Jonathan Newhouse, chief executive of Condé Nast International. "In the past, we had only one way to express our brands. Now there is a multiplicity."

According to Newhouse, the company's international magazine arm saw ad sales climb 6% last year, meaning new media is providing incremental growth rather than simply offsetting declines.

"If you didn't know there was a digital revolution going on, you wouldn't think there was anything happening with the magazines," he said.

"I believe strongly in the future of print as well as digital ... Not out of emotional attachment - it's a good business. The numbers support us."

Arnaud de Puyfontaine, chief executive of NatMags, owner of Cosmopolitan and Men's Health, suggested the recession had lent renewed impetus to a longer-term shift.

"The collapse of advertising in 2008 and 2009 has been a tipping point, which has amplified the pace of change and led to a change of the business model," he said

Looking ahead, he argued companies should endeavour to secure 50% of income from sources other than advertising and circulation, with e-commerce one potential channel of interest.

Reader's Digest, acquired by private equity group Better Capital last year, is aiming to achieve just this kind of objective.

At present, 15% of its revenues come from the magazine, and 85% are yielded by direct mail, and customers buying items like books and DVDs.

Reader's Digest now plans to deliver more engaging content through what ceo David Titmuss described as "3D editing", uploading material such as video and images to supplement articles on the web.

"In the digital environment you are not constrained by cost and space. 3D editing sets us apart from our competitors, it adds layers and depth, that's where we are going," he said.

"We know our brand has the wrong perception at the moment, but we cannot change this with one campaign; we need to do a 1,000 things and do them well consistently."

Data sourced from Evening Standard, New York Times, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff