The year ahead for magazines

Supported by a marketing body for the first time, the industry will be focusing on new distribution models and revenue streams.

Glyn Williams: expect magazine revenue growth from unconventional areas
Glyn Williams: expect magazine revenue growth from unconventional areas

Publishers are looking forward to another future-focused year. Their regeneration is developing at pace and great changes will continue to dominate the headlines. These changes will be necessary for magazine brands to stay modern and relevant. They will continue to deliver pleasure and purpose to their audiences, who will want to discover and rediscover them in new and different guises. 

Innovation and trial will be key and we expect to see a host of new strategies this year. Magazine brands will populate new touchpoints and look to reward their audience, as well as their advertisers, with quality experiences and quality brand solutions.

Distribution
Let’s begin with distribution. It’s always overlooked and, while it’s not as sexy as content, it’s equally important to the future of the business. Recent years have seen consumers (particularly millennials) leave the newsstand and not necessarily be tempted by the free alternative on the street. 

"Freemiums" will continue to increase in popularity but, crucially, circulation growth must find new environments other than the busy pavement. Pressure on distribution for paid-for titles is also mounting from big retailers as they continue to shift shelf space over to higher-yielding product categories. 

To overcome such barriers to purchase and pick-up, publishers will need to adopt different routes to reach the reader. We will see the sector develop more discrete, sophisticated methods of distribution, such as the student-campus approach that has worked so successfully for NME.  

Brand extensions
Methods of easy discovery and simple transaction will become a focus for the long-term future of print, where paid-for titles will move into new areas. Think promoted add-ons at checkout with online purchasing from favoured outlets or a brand experience at destinations of entertainment, retail or luxury. Here, the magazine brand will be offering a rewarding experience to a receptive audience, in exchange for trial, in order to gain long-term loyalty. Innovations such as the recent launch of the Men’s Health Lab vitamin and supplement range and Cosmopolitan’s brand-experience pop-up at Westfield are early movers in this territory.

Digital growth
Accelerated growth in the digital space will continue, and we expect the largest audience gains to be in this area. Social media will build in importance as it brings a new dimension to publishers with passionate audiences: a regular, live dialogue. 

Video distribution will also become a major addition as publishers big and small will be investing substantially to take their offering on to an audiovisual platform. 

Time Inc has recently highlighted how investment into editorial teams has allowed the company to expand into relevant and high-quality content, with their own studio and production and design teams who specialise in mobile. Video will drive publishers’ ambitions to take revenues away from established players, and it will be a crucial addition to their portfolios as they increase and strengthen their suite of services to advertisers and consumers.

Other revenue streams
Along with digital advances, we can expect revenue growth from other unconventional areas.

Commercial teams will continue to develop from vertical to horizontal structures, putting the brand at the heart of every solution. Everything will start to work as a scalable model, beginning with single brand solutions through to an idea working across the publisher’s portfolio for the larger strategic briefs, led by an audience or interest.

The door to bigger and better partnerships will now be widely open and, with agencies and publishers both focusing heavily in this area, the industry can expect some amazing work in 2016. 

Personalisation through smart data will become more visible and will invite consumers to develop deeper relationships with their chosen brand. Lifestyle and luxury sectors will naturally adopt a dialogue in this space, where exclusive content can be shared among like-minded groups. Big-ticket items and health and beauty will be the first to see the benefits from this more personalised approach. Esquire’s recent Big Watch Book, in association with Audemars Piguet, which was sent to an exclusive customer base on launch, brings this to life brilliantly.

Industry support
The arrival of Magnetic and increased support to the industry will be vital in 2016. The newly created marketing body for consumer magazines has an enormous task ahead and will be a force in the repositioning of the sector in the modern world. Magnetic must now collaborate with stakeholders to place magazines firmly on the agenda with agency planners, creative agencies and clients, and it must match the visibility, dialogue and marketing excellence from other trade bodies. There are some great stories, fantastic developments and core strengths that need to be promoted by a big voice, which has been lacking for a while.

The launch of the Publishers Audience Measurement Company will also play a role in demonstrating the effectiveness and power of the medium. The industry has been crying out for detailed measures of engagement for some time and we can expect Pamco and Magnetic to address this. Robust and independent data must be drilled down to detailed, quality measures in order to verify and evaluate what we already know – that magazine brands deliver high engagement levels. 

So there it is – 2016 will see the roots firmly planted for the future. Innovations will regenerate the publishing business, providing greater access to their brands, more share-able quality content, more personal experiences for consumers and better-quality advertising solutions.

Glyn Williams is the head of publishing at PHD

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