As part of Mediatel’s The Future of Publishing event, Magnetic CEO Sue Todd shared her views on how publishers are navigating their way through the pandemic.
Mediatel: Three months after going into lockdown, how do you feel the publishing industry is coping in what has obviously been a very difficult period where revenues have been hit hard?
Magazine publishers moved quickly to adapt to the national lockdown.
With newsstand closures, subscriptions have seen a surge, up 200% in some cases, and publishers were quick to redirect supply chains and support supermarket outlets.
Editorial switched immediately to helping audiences cope with their working and lifestyle changes and have continued to provide useful and reassuring information to consumers. The close relationship magazine titles have with their readers has helped deliver highly relevant content that has been ‘on point’ in terms of the mood of the nation.
From a commercial perspective, advertising teams moved quickly online and produced a series of sector-specific targeted webinars to help brands and agencies navigate through the changes. Insight teams have supported these with regular tracker studies to provide the very latest in consumer sentiment and the feedback to this has been incredibly positive.
Mediatel: What are the most innovative ways in which you think publishers have reacted to make sure they continue to engage with consumers?
Magazine media business models and day-to-day operating has evolved at a pace. With the majority of people working from home, some magazine titles have had to completely pivot. The Big Issue – typically sold by street vendors – had to overhaul its distribution model and move in store, seeing deals struck with chains such as Sainsbury’s and Co-op. Time Out whose raison d’etre centres around city culture and entertainment, switched to becoming Time In.
Large-scale events that are popular with readers went online attracting vast audiences. A great example being Women’s Health Live which was viewed by over 10.9 million across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They also added over 10,000 to their Women’s Health Live Facebook group, creating a new online fitness community in a matter of days. Grazia staged distanced photoshoots in hospital carparks to feature NHS staff on their covers. Vogue also gave over its covers to keyworkers, featuring a TfL traindriver, a midwife and a supermarket worker.
Mediatel: The announcement from ABC that newsbrands no longer need to make their circulation details public throws up an interesting set of questions around new measurement techniques to reassure advertisers in a post-COVID future. What are your views on how publishers should and could be measured in the future?
The UK publishing sector has some of the most robust standards in audience measurement in the world. We have market-leading standards of auditing with the ABC, innovative gold standard measurement of audiences with PAMCo and new digital measurement around the corner from UKOM. Advertisers can be confident that what they buy and plan are what’s delivered. It’s incredibly important that in the sector which has the highest levels of consumer trust (as measured by Ofcom, Kanter and others), we are trusted to do the right thing on the commercial side and offer transparency and accountability at all times.
On top of this, we know advertisers are interested in understanding how magazine media’s deep engagement translates to attention and action for their brands. It is something we are keen to explore with them.
I think the more we can all do to support cross-platform measurement the better and the more effective comms planning becomes. We are all watching the development of Project Origin with interest.
Mediatel: Media analysts have been predicting that this pandemic will accelerate huge changes in consumer behaviour. With that in mind, what is the future of publishing?
Magazine editors have always been well attuned to cultural changes, so diversification of publishing brands will certainly accelerate. In the context of Covid-19, people are attributing a higher value to content and experiences that serve their passions, be that food, fitness or fashion, motoring, music or Minecraft.
We know from previous work with Enders Analysis that ‘the Passion Pound’ ie the money (and time) consumers are carving out for identity-defining pursuits and interests is the only part of discretionary spend on the up (probably bar groceries since Covid). Behaviour during the pandemic would support this with subs and spend around hyper-relevant passion areas seeming to be high.
As publishers move the conversation with brands from being just about ad sales to marketing services, some core truths remain. That a deep understanding of what consumers want, delivered in a positive way, means magazine brands stay relevant and are able to offer brands an environment that commands strong attention and trust.
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