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Publishing and the future of sustainable planning

  • Date:

    06 June 2024

Publishing and the future of sustainable planning

As the advertising sector moves towards Net Zero, Cath Waller, MD Advertising at Immediate, shares how they and the publishing sector are working to deliver this important goal.

Sustainability at Immediate is a core strategic goal. Our mission is to be a net zero company that inspires positive cultural change through our content.

Inspiring positive change

We believe our greatest opportunity to make a real difference to the climate crisis is what, and how, we communicate to our huge audiences – over 40m globally and 21m in the UK every month – ensuring our content reflects the reality we live in.

This serves both our company mission, and our audience need.

Incorporating sustainable content across our platforms is not just beneficial – it is essential. It fulfils our social mandate, unlocks substantial business opportunities, drives creative innovation, and aligns with the desires of our audience. By making sustainability a core component of our content strategy, we can inspire positive change and build thriving, future-proofed brands. Recent content initiatives include introducing carbon calories to GoodFood recipes and an Earth Day Radio Times special, guest edited by Chris Packham.

Reducing emissions is crucial

We’ve set net zero targets of a 30% reduction by 2030 to reach net zero by 2045 and initiatives already in place include:

  1. Collaborating with other Youth & Children’s publishers and retailers to reduce the carbon impact of our covermounts: rolling out recycling points for plastic toys in a major supermarket
  2. Introducing a sustainability questionnaire as part of the procurement process
  3. Our content studio, Imagine, work with adgreen to minimise the impact of photo and video shoots
  4. We actively participate in cross-industry initiatives to share best practice and accelerate change including the PPA Action Net Zero Pathway, Ad Net Zero, GARM, FIPP, isla, albert and the AOP
  5. Across our digital platforms we have been working to make our sites faster and leaner and to reduce the complexity of our digital supply chain, working with Scope3 to reduce the carbon intensity of our adstack by 27%*
  6. We are also now testing using ML to filter bid requests to ensure we only send requests that are likely to be monetised, reducing emissions by a further 12%**


A common assumption is that print will have a much larger footprint than digital. However digital has a significant carbon impact from server and device usage for processing, transmission, and storage. Measuring our footprint has given us greater insight and clarity when comparing the footprint of media plans on different platforms.

We have learnt when comparing print and digital we must ensure we are comparing like for like. If we simply compare carbon per reader to the impact of a digital ad impression, of course print has a higher impact. However, this ignores digital frequency, viewability and most importantly effectiveness, which is estimated to be 48% better in terms of recall for instance***. All of which mean you require far more digital impressions for the same overall shift in campaign KPIs. When controlling for these factors across Radio Times and we find that they have almost identical impacts****.

Sustainable planning

Digital, of course, remains highly effective, especially when running on trusted brands and within highly contextual environments like we have at both Immediate and the other Magnetic member publishers.

When planning digital campaigns, one should also consider attention and trust, and how magazine brand sites are proven to drive higher attention***** and levels of trust****** than other digital environments, therefore providing much higher impact for the same carbon output.

As responsible buying becomes increasingly important, a key factor is the environment, and this is where magazine media, and our sustainability strategy at Immediate, has clear benefits to advertising partners.

The ideal plan balances all media types, varying the mix for maximum carbon efficiency, depending on target audience, and chosen success metrics. At Immediate, we can now provide this information on every media plan, with our bespoke carbon calculator. We can score every line automatically, making it easier for planners and buyers to get the right balance. 

And watch this space. We’ll soon be launching a leading, low carbon digital offering which minimises impact and maximises outcomes, with design automated tools to help optimise the print / digital mix for our partners.

The ultimate aim is to lower the impact of all media plans, which will benefit not just advertisers and brands, but consumers and most importantly the planet.

Immediate is a signatory of the PPA’s Action net Zero Pathway. Details here >

*Reduction from Feb23 on
**Using Greenbids.IO to filter bid request on
***Newsworks estimate
**** Based on a readership for print of 1.1m vs 10.6m equiv digital impressions: controlling for Viewability at 80%, Frequency at 3.5, recall 48% higher for print. This gives us 0.98tCO2e for both print and digital equivalent activity. Carbon emission figures for print from IM annual sustainability report with Simply Sustainable, Digital from Scope3.
***Magnetic attention study
****** Magnetic Trust Study