World Magazine Congress: Successful business models for multi-platform publishing

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | October 14, 2011
The session brought into light some of the imaginative and exciting case studies taking place in magazine publishing to find new and profitable revenue streams.

The second day of the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress was a power packed day, with publishers from across the globe discussing and sharing their views on the future of magazine publishing.

The panel of the session on successful business models for multi-platform publishing comprised of Paul Keenan, chief executive officer, Bauer Media, UK; Peter A Kreisky, chairperson, Kreisky Media Consultancy, USA; and Kalli Purie, CEO, India Today Group Digital, India. They discussed the importance of finding new and profitable revenue streams as the prime objective of today's magazine media group.

Paul Keenan, CEO, Bauer Media

Keenan focused on how Bauer Media brought unique sets of assets together to create new advertising and marketing commercial programmes for large-minded brands.

He said that brands which do not add any value to the consumers are nearing their end. Two issues confront the publishers in the developed market -- consolidation of brands and agencies, and procurement-driven agenda. This consolidation and procurement is commoditising the media, he said. "Digital disruption is causing billions of new advertising opportunities," he added.

The biggest challenges faced by the publishers is that of explosion of supply, and in order to stand out, the publishers need to move from analog to digital and back, not getting bothered by the boundaries of the multi-platform scenario. "We have a very significant weapon in our armoury, which is the influence our brands have on the customers. We should seek media agencies as partners because they, too, want to establish that we have strategic contribution to make to the advertisers' communication agenda," he said.

He added that the lines between advertising and content is blurring fast, with paid content making its way deeper into the content - but in a subtle manner to add value to the advertisers. However, it is more sophisticated than it was once.

Another thing that changed was the digital watermarking or QR code of commercial messages to bring to life a brand.

Peter A Kreisky, Kreisky Media Consultancy

Kreisky spoke about the new business model for magazine media - a blueprint for change. He said that during the last summer, the top five magazines recorded a staggering 33 per cent drop in ad pages.

He noted that something fundamental has changed in the industry and in three months, the leadership of the entire media industry in New York changed, giving way to a younger leadership.

He pointed out that in the 'vortex', three things have changed - structural shifts in ad spends, internet, smartphone and tablets, and recession. But, the curated value of content, audiences relationships and communities, and multi-media business models have remained constant.

He added that magazine brands have moved from being print-centric to 'magazine everywhere' format (multi-platform). He also emphasised that free and paid models can work in tandem, provided the demarcations are clear.

Kreisky stated that the roles of media management have changed drastically to support the change in the business model. The editor of a magazine is now a content strategist, while the publisher is the new brand director.

He concluded by saying that the hardwired traditional models will find it difficult to sustain, while the new digital ecosystem will only give the magazines a new space.

Kalli Purie, India Today Group Digital

Purie spoke about the content and business strategies adapted by the India Today Group. She said that while in the 70's news weeklies dominated, later, it was time for the news magazines in video formats, and subsequently, TV news. The group is in the business of storytelling and the ways and means of telling that story can change with time.

She said that India Today has always been a platform aggregator and it goes with the group's second guiding principle, which is to 'follow the money'. "As a media company, we have to get into different platforms and focus on more exclusives like the India Today Best College Survey, as exclusives can help differentiate a leader from the crowd," said Purie.

She believes that celeb power can help sell media. Citing the example of a recently-concluded cover shoot with actor Shah Rukh Khan for Harpers Bazar, she said that the group, with a few tweaks, used the material for two of its other magazines, web, TV show and downloads. "It was a time well spent by the actor and money well spent by us. It is not about the medium but the message," she added.

The key to success is in curating rather than creating, she said, and if a platform is not self-sufficient - keep it lean - like the group's news website.

Another important thing that every magazine publisher should have is a robust mobile strategy. Citing an example, she said that the group's revenues derived from voice-based services are double that of pure internet revenue.

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