What Lies Ahead For Magazine Brands in 2019?

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Seven things we learnt

 It was a full house for our first BSME event of 2019 - ‘What lies ahead for magazines and brands?’ on 24th January at the House of Hearst. Three excellent speakers - Douglas McCabe (Enders), Rebecca Ironside (Made You Think!) and Claire Sanderson (Women’s Health) - challenged, surprised and inspired the audience in equal measure. If you couldn’t make it along, here are seven key take-outs from the night:

  • Time spent on UK magazine websites doubled between 2015 and 2018 (from 500m minutes to 1000m minutes). But this is still dwarfed by the digital heavyweights, such as Instagram and Youtube. To put it into context, the total time spent on UK magazine sites is equivalent to just one of the biggest lifestyle channels on Youtube. Gulp.

  • Magazine brands need to master their customers’ data. Competing with every other digital brand for site traffic and a slice of direct-response digital advertising is unlikely to be a future recipe for success. Magazines have always been at their strongest when helping people to discover things at the top of the purchase funnel, not the bottom. To diversify revenue, magazine brands need to grow their communities of registered users, using the data to understand their needs and behaviours, and create the right things for the community (not chase the right things for advertisers).

  • Subscription models are booming. Registration may be the first step, but we shouldn’t underestimate people’s willingness to pay for quality content. There are 600m consumer subscriptions for content, and the US has seen huge growth in people paying for online news in the past few years - this is not purely down to the ‘Trump bump.’ And younger audiences are actually more likely than older ones to pay for quality content...

  • But data doesn’t tell us everything - curiosity is key. Overlooking the background of readers’ lives can lead to false assumptions. We should consider their whole lifestyle, not just their relationship with the magazine. And we shouldn’t forget that their expectations are set by what other digital brands are doing - not just other publishers. Your competition might not be who you think it is.

  • Scrutinise your content using a ‘needs matrix’. Make time to truly understand your audience, and their various ‘need states’ from your brand (e.g. ‘entertain me’, ‘inspire me’, ‘reassure me’). Then screen all your types of content against those needs to see whether they’re really doing the job you think they are. Anything that isn’t is just filler.

  • Audiences expect magazines to be a force for good. 86% of people in trust trackers believe brands should take a stand on social issues, and 62% are more likely to buy a product if they believe in its mission. Magazines can and should be driving positive change for readers and their wider communities.

  • Well-judged brand extensions present big opportunities. The magazine itself is the starting point for building trust with your audience, but editorial teams are increasingly diversifying - for example, through product licensing, accreditation schemes, events and reader retreats. Hearst delivered more than 30 branded events in 2018, which generated more than £4m revenue (year-on-year growth of more than 150%). Country Living has even launched branded hotels.


Speakers include: winner of the 2018 BSME Mark Boxer Award and founder of MagCulture, Jeremy Leslie; Rob Orchard, owner of The Slow Journalism Company, Michael Harvey, editor of Road Rat and Vivien Jones,editor of Kookie and winner of the BSME Launch of the Year Award 2018.  The Panel will be moderated by BSME Chair Alex Mead.

Further details and how to book to follow.