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Sue Todd on the year ahead

  • Date:

    25 January 2021

Sue Todd on the year ahead

Listening to the various speakers at recent Year Ahead events, it’s clear that any predictions and forecasting come more heavily caveated than ever before. That said, it seems to me there are definitely some key themes to watch out for that will have a bearing on the next 12 months and present a positive opportunity for brands who work with magazine publishers.

Pay (even more) attention to Attention

Two years on from our own collective industry drive on attention, the subject has gained considerable traction. There is much work underway from The Attention Council and its members, including Professor Karen Nelson Field and others on how attention could drive up effectiveness in 2021 (*WARC subscription).

It is generally accepted that attention metrics tell a different story from reach and frequency, and increasingly, attention is being discussed as a significant way to layer in a media planning quality metric that is relative across channels. Mediatel covered this recently in an article by Total Media’s William Hamner-Lloyd.

Oh and watch out for some new and important data from us in this space too.

Partnerships with purpose

The last Magnetic event of 2020 was our virtual awards Spotlight. From Dulux to Department for Education, Voxi, Virgin and Sainsbury’s, the winners and runners-up showed incredible understanding of how to leverage and inspire the engaged and active audiences across magazine media platforms.

A new category ‘Magazines for Good’ reflected just how strong the campaigning voice of magazine brands is and how active and animated consumers are in seeing how brands can drive change.

BMW’s work with Vogue on diversity; P&G’s with Hearst on body positivity and Bauer’s two editorial campaigns around mental health – Where’s Your Head At? and getting the law changed on the rough sex defence – We Can’t Consent to This, were all inspiring and positive examples of change.

Despite the industry’s ongoing debate about purpose driven marketing and its role, my  view is that within magazine media environments, this type of campaign will be even more common-place moving forward. The trust that consumers have in magazine brands and editors’ instinctive ability to pinpoint what’s of relevance to their consumers is a powerful meeting of two drivers of change.

I am personally very excited to see what publishers and brands can achieve together in 2021. Activism and changing the world for the better one step at a time feels like an important role for us all and I’m certain we’ll be better off 12 months from now again because of the work that brands like P&G, BMW, Vogue, Heat, Grazia, Women’s fitness, Cosmopolitan and others do. Keep up the positive work magazine media!

Passions and positivity will prevail

If the forecasters are to be believed, then at some point in 2021 – into 2022 at least – we are heading for our generation’s equivalent of the ‘Roaring Twenties’. This, for anyone not 100 years old or a fan of Downton Abbey, is essentially a prediction that after months of extended social abstinence we’re all going to go a little cray cray and embark on a period of substantial social interactions and expenditure.

Perhaps a little bit more realistic (though I am personally broadly supportive of the idea of partying for a decade as soon as we can) is that we will certainly see a lift in the public mood and it will be those sections of the population with the most optimistic outlook and greatest financial resilience that will be spending the hardest.

We know from previous research from Hearst and Immediate, how well magazine consumers index on spending power and we also know how positivity boosts key metrics like favourability and consideration (Hearst – The Power of Positivity). Look out for more from publishers this year on how we believe ‘the great unlocking’ will affect behaviour and spending.

We also know that for many, 2020 was a year when passions and interests, both new and old were (re)discovered to be of the utmost importance to our happiness and sanity.

Our work with Enders – The Passion Pound (2018), showed that spending on identity areas represented 79% of growth in household discretionary spending from 2012 to 2017.

My prediction is that in 2021 we will see not only a potential spike in socialising, but a continued thirst for passion-based content and increased spend on our interests.

We’ve all had way longer than the 90 days the behaviourists tell us we need to create new habits. The cooking, crafting, cycling, fitness, and photography that have become bigger parts of our daily lives, will stay.

An uptick in demand for online magazine content and subscriptions through 2020 is a key indicator of people seeking to engage with their passions through magazine brands, and looks set to continue in 2021.  Bauer has recently reported a 30% increase in subscriptions year on year, and similarly Dennis noted its non-current affairs titles were up 46% going in to 2021, with home schooling prompting enormous leaps for magazines such as Science+Nature (up 116%).

So for 2021 consider hard the four P’s when planning your media campaign: Passions, Positivity, Purpose and of course, who has the Propensity to spend. Watch out for more from the magazine sector to help brands navigate and access some of the most positive, passionate and attentive audiences in UK media.

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