Karl Marsden: 'In the year ahead, trust has a major role to play'

Multi-platform print-based media brands can play a big part in the media landscape of 2015, says Karl Marsden, managing director of Shortlist Media.

Karl Marsden: 'In the year ahead, trust has a major role to play'
Karl Marsden: 'In the year ahead, trust has a major role to play'

Is 2014 over already? Another high-octane year has seen us at Shortlist Media secure a plethora of exclusives, including Martin Freeman interviewing Sir Ian McKellen, guest editorships from Lily Allen and Lena Dunham and phenomenal front-cover coups in the form of Angelina Jolie and, of course, Hillary Clinton.

New awards were added to the trophy shelf, fantastic advertising solutions were delivered for Kopparberg, Ford and Sony among many others, plus a perfect bound, full glossy, brick of an issue of Stylist appeared to mark the autumn fashion season. Overall revenues reached new highs, we may still be somewhat modest in scale, and free media will remain a tight margin business, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.

While our print brands remain the foundation block of our company, we are enjoying continued progress in the digital space. ShortList.com and Stylist.co.uk both migrated on to a brand new CMS in October and the subsequent traffic uplifts have been as gratifying as they have been significant. In addition, we launched our first app edition with Stylist, and quickly obtained the number download spot on Apple Newsstand – an encouraging start in this area and one we intend to follow up in short order.

Our email brands Emerald Street and Mr Hyde continue to grow in stature and reach; being invited to deliver a brand directly to the inbox of a target consumer is a privilege and a powerful communication opportunity based on that oldest of media industry aspirations: trust.

So, 2014 has been busy and 2015 will be a year where video, social media, technology, consolidation, localisation, scale, interactivity and collaboration are all key themes. However, I’d like to highlight content, data, mobile and trust as my themes upon which to expand.

Content is never off the agenda for media, but it looks like it’s come right back to the top of the debate as we head into 2015. As a free media business we have based our entire proposition on the premise that quality of content and relevance to your target audience drive engagement, as opposed to cover price.

We could not be happier to engage in conversations with agencies and clients alike about how to develop communication solutions that work with, or even within, our content streams – it’s a fascinating opportunity that requires sophistication, integrity and finesse, and I’ve no doubt that there will be some incredible work effected via this ambition in the year ahead.

Data and analysis of data will continue to play a growing part in how we work, as we all know. Possibly the biggest single data-related theme in media will be the rise of programmatic trading, and it will be fascinating to see where this high-interest sector will be within the Media Week review of 2015, just 12 months from now.

Mobile is once again proving to be a huge growth area for us. Our current traffic analysis tells us that, during 2015, mobile devices will overtake desktop as the preferred viewing/reading platform for our websites and email brands. Improving technology, bandwidth and the proliferation of ever-more advanced smartphones will drive this consumer trend with irresistible energy. We intend to fully embrace this movement making sure that our content is optimised across devices, enabling our fast-moving consumers to tap into us as and when they wish to.

And finally trust. Of course I am going to mention the trust that our brands bring to the media equation, giving marketers a platform to talk to our audiences via a brand and platform that they trust and value.

I’ve already mentioned our email brands, and that ability to arrive, invited, into the inbox of a busy ABC1 consumer, is a powerful privilege that we value and nurture accordingly. Whether it’s our emails, websites or magazines, each title represents an edited choice of material, cherry-picked from a mass of information and entertainment. These are curated into an interesting and aesthetically pleasing package for our consumers to enjoy, via a trusted source.

In the year ahead, trust has a major role to play in enabling brands to cut through the huge amount of noise out there vying for a consumer’s attention. If well-defined marketing messages can be interpreted into a look and tone of voice that the consumer already understands and values, then you are undoubtedly ahead of the game.

Trust, once obtained, will ultimately be the conduit for action.

Karl Marsden is managing director of Shortlist Media.

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