Canadian Magazine Industry News
1 March 2012,     TORONTO
Magazine publishers are now brand managers: panel
Quoting business legend Jack Welch — "change before you have to" — and Charles Darwin — "it's not the strongest or smartest species that survive, but the ones most adaptable to change" — speakers at the annual State of the Magazine Nation gathering in Toronto reiterated that the old days of print-only magazine brands are gone.

But that doesn't mean print magazines themselves are irrelevant, and judging by actual sales of digital magazines — growing, but a pittance compared to print — there's good evidence to back that up.

State of Magazine Nation speakers Shelagh Stoneham, Jeanniey Mullen and Lynn Chambers
State of Magazine Nation speakers Shelagh Stoneham, Jeanniey Mullen and Lynn Chambers

"There are permanent shifts in the way people consume media," said Lynn Chambers, TC Media group publisher and one of three speakers. For example, readers of TC Media's The Hockey News have downloaded the brand's mobile app more than 830,000 times.

And where eyeballs go, ad dollars follow. In the U.S., ad spending in social media, email and mobile marketing is expected to increase from 16 percent of total ad spend in 2011 to 26 percent in 2016, Chambers said.

But Chambers is bullish on magazine brands because their content is trusted by readers. Readers also "accept the ads as part of the experience," she said to the audience of several hundred magazine and agency people.

The key is to take a magazine's brand and deploy it across other platforms in ways that make sense for the brand, readers and advertisers, and offer advertisers packages: something they appreciate in an increasingly fragmented marketplace. Chambers said 18 percent of TC Media's revenue came from partnership packages in 2011. She used an example from an Elle Canada promotion in 2010 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Barbie dolls, which was rolled out across print, online and events.

Chambers revealed that TC Media sold 10,244 digital publications in 2011, a growth rate of 117 percent versus 2010, but a drop in the bucket compared to the publishing giant's overall print circulations in the millions. Also noteworthy is that 39 percent of digital sales are from outside Canada. (Aside: the tablet edition of Masthead's sister title, Design Edge Canada, receives 60 percent of sales from outside Canada.)

Chambers also emphasized that advertisers today are looking for a combination of paid, earned and owned media, and publishers are well positioned to take advantage of this trend.

The cross-platform approach taken by many magazine brands gives more importance to total audience reporting, suggested Shelagh Stoneham, vice-president and general manager of brands and marketing communications for Rogers Communications. ABC's new Consolidated Media Report that shows audience figures for print, web and digital is an example of the new kind of reporting advertisers need, she said. (Stoneham is the chair of ABC's Canadian advisory board.)

"Magazine publishers really aren't magazine publishers anymore, they are brand managers," she said, pointing out that 39 percent of tablet owners read magazines on their devices.

To successfully jump formats, publishers need a "crystal clear" sense of their brand's "point of view," built on the brand's character and positioning, she said.

Jeanniey Mullen of Zinio, another speaker, focused on innovation in magazine publishing. Her company, for example, is experimenting with digital "Collection Issues," which combine relevant content from different magazines into one publication.

State of the Magazine Nation is produced by Magazines Canada and funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation. To read tweets from the event, click here.

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