Magazine launch activity is booming, up 30% year-on-year so far in 2011.
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Just a tiny qualification. The launch activity I’m talking about refers to cross-border publishing. That is, launching a magazine that exists in one country into a new territory either under licence, or in a joint venture, or wholly owned subsidiary.
FIPP, the worldwide magazine media association based in London, monitors such activity (and publishes it, along with a host of other useful data in its World Magazine Trends Report, which comes out in December), as it’s a barometer of the state of international publishing.
In the 12 months to the end of August 2011 we have tracked 108 such launches - more than two a week on average - compared to 83 launches in the corresponding period to August 2010.
UK magazines as strong as ever
The world’s eagerness for UK magazine brands also remains as strong as ever.
The geographical spread of activity in the past year has seen Haymarket’s Autocar launch in Vietnam, Northern & Shell’s OK! launch in Venezuela, Future’s Metal Hammer launch in Norway and, just announced, Top Gear from BBC Magazines is launching in South Africa.
The international success of UK magazine companies is one of the better kept secrets of the industry.
T3 from Future, FourFourTwo from Haymarket or Mother & Baby from Bauer Media rarely make front-page media news headlines, but they all have fantastic international networks and as such are powerful brands in their respective consumer electronics, football and parenting markets.
We have also seen Italian publishers launching in Brazil, Swedish publishers launching in Thailand, Spanish publishers launching in Bulgaria and Chinese publishers launching in Turkey.
Truly global coverage from east to west, pole to pole.
So sure, the magazine industry has a focus on its digital future, particularly in the developed markets of the west, but the enthusiasm for magazines is very far from diminished.
It is in fact a golden age for international cross-border activity.
What's fuelling growth?
There are two chief forces at play: it’s relatively easy to do, and it can be very profitable - always a winning combination.
With the emergence of cheap content management and digital delivery systems, the magazine brand owner can re-use and easily supply their content assets at a good margin, and their partner gets high quality content and associated brand values at an affordable price.
It's a win-win. UK publishers have an added competitive advantage in that their brilliantly designed, finely crafted content comes in English, the lingua franca of international publishing.
Publishers have recognised that international expansion of a brand is not exactly quantum physics, it’s simply the addition of another platform to sit alongside the website, iPad app, podcast, event and the like.
The chief difference is that, unlike most of these activities, developing an international network needs only modest funding and has proven to have a great return, either in the absolute amount of money it makes for the parent brand or the margin it’s made at, but usually both. What’s there not to like?
And of course, publishers are now seeing their once exclusively magazine networks evolving into international brand platforms, and in a further development, the emergence of digital media only licensing, for example Dennis Publishing’s deal to launch their ITPRO website in India earlier this year.
Learning what’s happening in the world of magazine media couldn’t be easier.
From 10-12 October, several hundred of the great and good of the global magazine media industry will gather together at the 38th Fipp World Magazine Congress in New Delhi.
Included in the list of distinguished speakers, the UK is represented by the likes of Haymarket’s Rupert Heseltine and Kevin Costello, Nicholas Coleridge from Condé Nast, Paul Keenan from Bauer Media, Barry McIlheney from the PPA and Philip Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions.
While the programme is the key attraction, the opportunity to meet so many senior publishers in a short space of time is extremely efficient for all concerned.
And if you can’t make New Delhi, catch us at the Worldwide Media Marketplace (WMM), a pure licensing and syndication event, in London in May 2012.
Some of the biggest international magazine media networks have started in places that may not look too logical. Time Out’s first international edition was in Turkey, FHM’s was in Singapore and Top Gear’s was in the Middle East. But they got their networks rolling, or as the Mafia say: "The first killing is always the hardest."
Where you start is not as important as just getting started, and Fipp events have a well-deserved reputation for being the catalyst of many cross-border business relationships.
Come along and see for yourself.