BY ANDREA FERRARI AND ELISABETH KING
One of the biggest mistakes many people make is to look at magazines as a single homogenous market. Some areas are under huge pressure but as Roy Morgan Research reported recently, 10 of Australia’s leading 15 magazine titles increased their readership over the past year. Why? As the so-called Infobesity overload of social media, podcasts and the growing number of TV channels overwhelms consumers, the pendulum is swinging back and there is a growing demand for a finished package – a magazine – that helps them to understand what’s going on.
It’s true that some magazines have been shuttered or lowered their frequencies, but great print publications remain powerful communication tools and the springboard for many platforms and touchpoints, including digital, roadshows, events, books and collaborations. News of print downsizing has been pervasive, but shutdowns and layoffs, difficult as they are, are often the result of innovation and change in the magazine industry. Magazines have always been willing to try new ways to further the connection between major brands and audiences and continue to do so. Many have successfully innovated and adapted to market conditions and this is an under-told narrative amid the hysterical headlines.
CURATED CONTENT, AUTHORITY, ENGAGEMENT
Few chief executives in the publishing industry know this better than Paul Dykzeul, CEO of Bauer Media Australasia. A highly respected veteran of Pacific Magazines and ACP Magazines, he was appointed CEO of Bauer Media New Zealand in 2008 before returning to Australia to helm Australia’s largest publishing house as CEO of both markets in June 2017. His core mission is to implement the changes required and strengthen the relevance of some of the most important magazine brands in the country, including the Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, House & Garden and Harper’s Bazaar, to build a viable and profitable future.
I’m not here to manage the status quo is one of Dykzeul’s favourite expressions. “If you don’t change, you get overtaken. We’re all guilty of allowing the digital revolution to overtake us.
It’s a bit like when people saw the first trains. They stood there in stunned amazement and watched them flash by. The reality is that the magazine industry is now playing catch-up”. Dykzeul has never wavered in his passionate belief that magazines remain important as the media landscape convulses with change.
“We’re curators of content in an independent way that is really important to audiences which I don’t think influencers and social media can replicate. There’s a great deal of credibility, experience and cut-through that goes into producing a magazine that enables readers to get an authoritative view on how to choose the right face cream, for example, when they are looking for beauty advice”.
Magazines are and have always been important points of engagement with key audiences and I get desperately sad when I read stories about print disappearing, says Dykzeul. “Advertising revenues have declined, but we have never given up delivering content that readers want. A lot of people still buy car magazines and the leading auto companies love the credibility of our magazines but don’t place enough ads in them. It’s ironic to see a TV ad for a new car with – “As reviewed by Wheels magazine”.
READERSHIP GROWTH/ STRONG BRAND VALUES
Magazines may not be selling the number of copies they used to sell, but research shows that readership has not followed the same downward trend and engagement has remained stable. Bauer Media is also rapidly growing engaged digital audiences, notes Dykzeul. “Our digital storytelling has all the relevance, passion and connection of the magazine brands, just curated in a different way and at a different pace. To me, that will be a major main driver of the brands going forward”.
Consumers base their knowledge of a brand on personal experience and interaction. Dykzeul firmly believes that building a brand, whether it’s a car marque such as Tesla, a fashion giant like Louis Vuitton, a heritage beauty player such as Estée Lauder or an iconic magazine like the Australian Women’s Weekly, is a really important and highly misunderstood issue.
I think that backing off from brand building is a terrible mistake whatever business you are in, he adds. “We are guilty of it, too. We have put tip-ons, offered GWPs and all the artificial stuff to try and stimulate retail sales of our magazine brands. However, I believe the magazine industry was at its strongest when it was doing the most brand promotion. The brand values of the Australian Women’s Weekly, Belle and Gourmet Traveller, for example, were the cornerstones of everything connected to those titles. The way we did this in the past is probably not the way we would do it today. But I think there has to be some sort of return to brand in terms of positioning and driving them forward”.
Dykzeul singles out esprit magazine as a good example of connecting with targeted readers through strong brand values. “When esprit goes into a retail or brand environment, its own brand value is extraordinary. You could put that onto so many other vehicles which would acquire those brand values by association, just as Estée Lauder and Coty do. Brands across categories become really significant because they mean something beyond the physical product”.
STRONG AND UNIQUE INFLUENCE
The word influencer might be bandied about more often today, but the phenomenon dates back to ancient times and the only thing that’s changed is that technology and speed spread opinions and reviews much faster. It seems to me that anyone can become an instant expert with a click of the finger today, says Dykzeul. “But just as beauty advisors undergo training and put in an enormous amount of work to become knowledgeable in order for consumers to trust their advice, the people we employ on our magazines have an enormous amount of experience and authority and it shows in the content they produce. I believe there’s a place for independent influencers, but along with traditional methods of influencing. At Bauer we have a stable of some of the industry’s most sought-after influencers and we are also adept at amplifying the influence of others. One of the great strengths of magazines has always been their deep and long established connections with their audiences”.
Good print is very much alive and well, says Dykzeul. “I’m sick of people talking about the death of the magazine business when it’s still a very profitable business. It’s not the same as it was but show me an industry that hasn’t changed. The business model has changed and we just have to do things differently”.
In a world of insta-images and a growing number of screens to keep track of from smartphones to tablets, there’s still something beautifully tactile about magazines, notes Dykzeul. “There are thousands of people every week who buy our magazines. They buy them because they are passionately involved and engaged with the content our magazines deliver. Whatever magazine they buy, it’s “theirs”. There’s still an awful lot of people in Australia and around the world who love to sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and read a well-written story they can relate to”.
Pass-on readership has always been a subject of debate, but it’s growing adds Dykzeul. “Today’s hair salons and doctors’ waiting rooms have to provide the latest magazines and that’s a huge readership. I regard digital reading as a bit seagull-like. People swoop in and out quickly. When people sit down for a good read, an absorbed read, the impact is more lasting. I think this is unique to magazines and newspapers because people read print for a different reason”.
Dykzeul is known for his direct approach and telling it like it is. “A lot of the criticism of the magazine industry comes from within the media industry itself which I find extraordinary”. He’s right. And he’s also adamant that magazines can still do a lot of things that digital-only players can’t.
MAGAZINE READERSHIP THE FACTS
12.47 million Australians aged 14+ – 62.6% of the population – read print magazines
10 of Australia’s 15 leading magazine titles increased their readership in the 12 months to June 2017
5.87 million Australians – 29.5% of the population – read food and entertainment magazines
3.385 million read mass women’s magazines -17% of the population. The category leaders are the Australian Women’s Weekly (1.471 million) and Woman’s Day (1.28 million)
2.933 million Australians read home and garden titles – 17.7% of the population
Source: Roy Morgan Research, August 2017