MATTER OF TRUST
With circulation figures down, it’s easy to be pessimistic about magazines, but maybe we’re missing the bigger picture.
In 2007, English publisher Felix Dennis remarked, “It’s a long, slow sunset for ink-on-paper magazines, but sunsets can produce vast sums of money”.
While these sums might not be as vast as they were in 2007, people are still buying magazines despite fierce competition from multiple online threats.
But, magazines aren’t just spilling ink on paper, they’re spilling digital ink too and extending their brands in creative ways across a variety of platforms.
The scale of this increasingly fragmented audience can finally be gleaned through Magazine 360, an online measurement metric launched by the Magazine Publisher’s Association (MPA) in 2017.
The tool captures magazine audiences more holistically over all of their touch points to give a clearer picture of performance to advertisers, for better or for worse. These touch points include: print, social, digital assets (digital editions, websites and email newsletters) and events.
Previously brands relied on three separate sources of information: ABC for circulation data, Nielsen for readership and various sources for online and web traffic.
The new 360 metric is self-regulated by the publishing industry, meaning publishers need to provide much of their own data and adhere to a code of conduct, authorising the MPA to check it at anytime.
While its self-regulatory nature has been met with some trepidation regarding accuracy of data, it at least provides a general idea of how the industry, specific titles and their respective platforms are performing.
The big picture
MPA executive director Pip Elliott says the industry is seeing growth in audience numbers as the power and combination of print, digital and social work together.
“Magazines have been masters at storytelling through our craft in journalism, design and photography. These skills are translating over our many content platforms as demonstrated when you look at Magazine 360,” she says.
And while circulation figures in the industry are down, the tool has highlighted some interesting insights. For example, in September last year, New Zealand Geographic’s readership was 330,000 while its Facebook reach in New Zealand was 336,827.
Bauer Media commercial director Kaylene Hurley says Magazine 360 plays a role in showing the breadth and depth of Bauer’s audience.
“It’s highlighting that our brands aren’t just a singular print product, we’ve got numerous audience touchpoints,” she says.
“Like a lot of media companies, we’ve been much more than just a singular offering for several years now. We’ve had to innovate, diversify and engage with our audiences where they’re consuming their content.”
She says digital is now ubiquitous in those consumption habits. “So it’s a primary channel for us to further engage with our audiences.”
A matter of trust
One thing magazines have going for them is a level of trust and loyalty from their audiences.
Lifestyle magazine brands in particular, like Vogue, have long been trusted sources of taste and style as well as being harbingers of new trends.
Hurley says this is one of the reasons brands should continue
to advertise in magazines. “Trust. Whether it’s NZ Listener, Nadia, Next, Your Home
and Garden, both advertisers and readers can rely on the content and environment being trustworthy.”
She says because of the enormous amount of content online, time-poor consumers want a trusted, reliable source and there’s a great need for quality-curated content.
“Another major advantage of our print assets is that our audience is so highly engaged,” she says. “They’ve paid for the content so they want to maximise their enjoyment of the investment.”
She says readers pore over pages, and consumer attention is particularly important when consumer attention is so fragmented.
Homestyle magazine general manager Nick Burrowes agrees, saying advertisers enjoy greater audience trust and brand safety.
“And a very targeted reader that chooses to spend money on the medium, treat it as time out and sink themselves into an issue for an hour or more.”
And this is backed up from research from Nielsen’s Consumer and Media Insights (Q3 2016 – Q2 2017) over the last five years, showing there has been an increase in time spent reading.
In its top ten titles for total minutes read, the clear leader was the Christian title The Word for Today with 192 minutes, followed by Word for You Today with 183 minutes, and Lucky Break at 91 minutes.
This was followed by more in-depth journalist titles such as NZ Listener with 75 minutes, Readers Digest with 72 minutes, lifestyle titles NZ Gardener at 64 minutes, Simply You at 57 minutes and Good at 55 minutes.
While digital-native titles are clambering for subscriptions, magazines have had a loyal and commercial relationship with readers for a long time, says Burrowes. “And Nielsen survey data tells us high percentages of readers buy multiple issues of their favourite titles each year.”
Wired magazine’s Tim Wu says people today often pay for content with attention and time, often without consent, finding ourselves forced to watch or read content we don’t care about.
“There’s a big difference between leafing through a magazine, reading articles and advertising by choice, and being blasted at by a screen when you have no place to go. Indeed, consent is the usual way access to the body is conditioned.”
A fresh approach
Magazine brands have been increasingly creative in the way they work with other brands. While once innovation in magazines might have been rubbing a page to smell a perfume, or finding a free product sample stuck to an advert (though arguably still effective), today magazines are doing so much more.
For example, Idealog magazine by ICG Media (previously Tangible Media) worked with digital solutions agency One Fat Sheep with the support of Chorus to turn its cover into an interactive contents page using AR. It brought the main sections and stories to life, blending print with digital.
And last year NZ Geographic launched NZ-VR (with Sir Peter Blake Trust and The Pew Charitable Trusts), with an aim of connecting New Zealanders to marine environments by uploading VR and 360-video to its website.
Elliott says she’s seen huge innovation in the magazine industry including the launch of new print titles like Nadia, winning Magazine of the Year at the MPA Magazine Media Awards last year.
There’s also been success in custom publishing, she says. “Habitat, Kia Ora and
Living Well further highlight the industry’s willingness to collaborate with advertisers.”
She also points out the launch of digital hubs like Bauer’s Food to Love, Homes to Love, Now to Love, Noted and Stuff’s Homed site.
Established magazine brands’ long histories with their readers also bodes well for advertising, says Burrowes, who saw success with Homestyle’s award-winning, three-year campaign called ‘Style your Space', with client Citta Design.
“No media matches their content with their audience as strongly as magazines,” says Burrowes. “Magazine teams also have a deep category knowledge that clients can leverage or glean market information from.”
He says in Homestyle’s case, it has decades of combined intel from the home design, product and retail sector. “We have a solid grasp of the market, and what works for advertisers in the category.”
So, while this long, slow sunset of inkon-paper magazines might be unavoidable, magazines certainly still have a few selling points. And if magazines do go out of print, maybe they’ll see their sunrise in digital yet.