Winner: Uwern Jong, editor-in-chief, OutThere
Uwern Jong has built OutThere into a global community of affluent, opinion-leading and socially aware LGBT+ people since he founded the title a decade ago.
2019 was a pivotal year for OutThere as it invested in its editorial brand, revamped its digital strategy and boosted print sales, while pushing through a significant cover price increase.
For the new digital strategy, Jong focused on what he described as a UPX (user-preferred experience) to safeguard the brand’s long-term value and grow audience engagement and advertiser demand.
Before the change, OutThere’s website was commercially performing well but was using "every trick in the book" – click-baiting and optimising volume – "but it just didn’t match up with the values of our beautiful coffee-table print", Jong said.
So, following research across 5,000 readers in January 2019, Jong took a bet on quality. He changed OutThere’s URL to a .travel domain and banned listicles and "multi-page, impression-driving waffle" in favour of "evergreen" features – with a tiered content strategy of short, medium and long reads. He also used analytics to reduce frequency and increase relevance – with "more visual eye-candy – photography and video".
Results were strong. Unique users online rose 37% year on year, pageviews climbed 43% and engagement/dwell time per user doubled to an average of nearly three minutes. Print sales rose 28% despite the per-copy price increasing from £5.99 to £10.
Brands such as Belmond, Ritz Carlton and the Tourism Authority of Thailand asked Jong’s team to make content because of its expertise in diversity and inclusion. Jong also showed leadership as a speaker at travel conferences as well as sitting on the board of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association.
The judges liked this compelling, founder-led story from the pre-Covid era.
Ellie Hughes, editorial director, Holland & Barrett, River Group
As editorial director of the Holland & Barrett content team at The River Group, Hughes oversees the strategy for and creation of all omnichannel content for the health and wellbeing brand. She has proved to be a bold editorial leader, who has been willing to push boundaries – from improving diversity in the pages of the brand's magazine, Healthy, to championing mental health in sister Holland & Barrett title Healthy for Men. Other innovations include a regular email newsletter that repurposes content with a topical spin. All of this helped to drive an 11% increase in sales of products featured within editorials.
Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief, Auto Express, Dennis Publishing