At Previously Unavailable’s breakfast event this week, Air New Zealand’s head of innovation Scott Bishop spoke about the difference between companies with an offensive mindset (like, unsurprisingly, Air New Zealand, or Tesla, which took its patents open-source and backed itself to stay ahead of the competition) and companies with a defensive mindset. The defensive companies generally fail because they’re trying to protect a legacy and tend to force customers to adapt to their business model, rather than looking at what their customers actually want and solving their problems. While we’re not deluded enough to place ourselves in the same category as Air New Zealand or Tesla, the same binary choice applies to us: try to create the new, or try to maintain the old. So, after much chin-stroking, spreadsheet-staring, brow-furrowing and distance-gazing over the past few months, we’ve decided to take the offensive.
As a trade publication, we write regularly about the rapid shifts in media consumption and how those changes are impacting brands, agencies and media owners. And we think we’ve done a pretty good job of adapting to those changes ourselves and creating a vibrant community of interest across our various channels, whether NZ Marketing in print, StopPress online and on social, or the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards and StopPress Presents events in real life. For around 35 years, the physical product has been at the heart of the marcomms community and around seven years ago we adapted our model by launching StopPress and reducing the frequency of the magazine from monthly to bi-monthly. But a lot has changed in that time and website has become the dominant channel, so we are adapting our model once again to fit with what the audience and the advertisers want, rather than trying to retrofit those demands into an increasingly antiquated, self-imposed print publishing cycle.
So here’s what we’re changing with NZ Marketing (and we’re taking a very similar approach with Idealog).
Themed, more targeted print products
Rather than desperately trying to fill a bi-monthly magazine with stories and advertising, we’re now going to publish three themed editions of NZ Marketing throughout the year that are of most editorial and advertiser interest. And the three themes were staring us in the face, right under the logo on stoppress.co.nz: “Marketing, advertising and media intelligence”. Technology is a theme that will run across all three publications.
These three issues will be published in June, September and November respectively, and they will be distributed to all existing subscribers. We will also extend our targeted circulation approach and expand the audience to specific sections of the business community who we think will find these themed editions relevant.
There’s very little change for subscribers. Whatever they have paid for, they will get (and they might also get some of the other special publications we create throughout the year). But because of the reduction in frequency, it will take a bit longer to get it. We will still be selling subscriptions to NZ Marketing in print and offering retail sales, but because we’re taking a more targeted approach, the distribution will now be limited to around 40 locations, down from over 200 previously.
There’s not much change for advertisers, either. They will still be able to distribute their material in these printed products, whether in the form of brand advertising, advertorial or more sophisticated branded content campaigns. And with advertisers demanding more accountability and aiming to limit wastage, zeroing in on these three verticals in print is a way to ensure their messages are more relevant to the target audience.
Print simply isn’t the most effective way to disseminate information anymore. But it is still one of the most powerful and engaging, and these days the best print products are also beautiful objects. So we are increasing our budgets for print production.
Each themed issue will also be linked to an event through the StopPress Presents sub-brand. And we see a need to create print products for attendees to take away with them.
We are certainly not giving up on print. It will remain a very important part of our business. But we are adapting our model to make print more tactical, more beautiful, more thematic and more aligned to certain high-points around the year.
Put simply, we’re aligning our content proposition with our distribution strategy.
As well as the significant financial cost of creating a magazine, there is also a major opportunity cost. We have a small (but perfectly formed) team and the demands of the regular print schedule have hindered us from fully embracing online publishing and trying to deliver stories in different, more appealing, more innovative ways. We have managed the mix of mediums very well, but with fewer print products to create, this gives us an opportunity to up our digital game and create the things we haven't enough time to create, like podcasts, online video, data visualisations, new digital products and other things we probably haven’t thought of yet (VR? Pffffff. We’re betting big on injectable, edible or snortable media).
The marketing, advertising and media audience is very tech-savvy, so it’s not entirely surprising that stoppress.co.nz has a much bigger audience online than NZ Marketing does in print. In the past month, StopPress has had around 50,000 unique browsers, and while this is relatively small in comparison to other websites, you either have scale or you have a niche these days. We’re clearly in the latter camp and this fits with Tangible Media’s strategy of focusing on specific communities of interest (across our Tangible Business Network websites idealog.co.nz, stoppress.co.nz and theregister.co.nz, we have had around 120,000 unique browsers in the past month).
StopPress has been one of Tangible Media’s best performing digital assets, both in terms of audience growth and commercial return. But there’s a lot more potential. As most businesses can attest, the squeaky wheel tends to get the oil. We still expend a huge amount of energy creating and selling NZ Marketing in print. And the reality is that if it was a standalone product, it would only just break even. So we want to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of that schedule and see what happens.
For a big chunk of our audience, their interactions with us are through the website and our social channels. This shift in media consumption is only set to continue, so there’s little room for nostalgia. In the past, the big event for advertisers was the on-sale date. We’re still allowing for that with our themed print publications. But there is a need for advertisers to be always-on and focusing on what we can create online for our advertisers — whether it’s themed weeks where we focus on a particular topic or a series of explainer videos — allows us to work with clients in a way that fits their schedule and our business model.
Increasingly, brands and their agencies are looking for more than just a display campaign. Content marketing is proven to be a great way to create new demand and it works very well alongside ‘traditional’ advertising, which is often a good way to fulfill existing demand. There is a role for both, but at Tangible Media, we are increasingly being asked to use our editorial skills to create content for brands that runs in our own media channels and, in many cases, create completely new owned media channels for clients. StopPress and NZ Marketing have created engaging content for Bauer, KPEX, the MPA and many others; we have a successful joint publishing venture with Retail NZ in the form of NZ Retail/The Register; Idealog has told the stories of AUT, NZTE, AJ Park, Vodafone, the NZ Innovation Council, Orion and many other clients for over ten years and has used its editorial skills to create significant content campaigns for Alcatel Lucent, Fonterra and Barkers.
More broadly, Tangible Media has been increasingly moving in the direction of making what we can sell, rather than selling what we make. We create owned media for Resene, Green Cross Health, Asaleo Care and Liquorland; we have created successful content campaigns for the likes of Kapiti, Silver Fern Farms, Fisher & Paykel, DeLonghi and Tourism Australia; and we are currently working with Chorus, Pumpkin Patch and many others to help make their owned media channels better. This is what the market is asking for and we have a history of creating media that offers the win-win-win: good for the reader, good for the brand and good for the publisher. So rather than just sell a print ad, we want brands and their agencies to brief us on their problems and let us come up with media solutions that suit.
If you build it, they don’t always come, however, so distribution is still crucial and that’s why having our own vibrant media channels is so important. There are still options to distribute content in the three themed print issues, but we see more opportunity to embrace quality branded content in the digital arena, following a similar approach to digital-first media brands like Quartz.
In a way, NZ Marketing is a trend briefing in a different format. We pick the best, most interesting stories and package them up into one tangible item so that readers will be inspired, educated and maybe even entertained. But rather than create something that tries to appeal to everyone and hope the audience takes the time to read it, we want to bring the mountain to Mohammed, take our knowledge directly to clients and tailor information to them and their industry.
Most businesses are head-down focusing on the day to day so they don’t always have time to look at the bigger picture; at the forces and consumer trends reshaping the world and their industry. We are constantly looking at the bigger picture and, like marketing magpies, picking out all the shiny things. So we think our educated views—combined with the educated views of some of our partners—can instruct businesses on what they need to be thinking/worrying about if they want to succeed in this fast-changing business environment. As the recently departed Andy Grove said: 'Only the paranoid survive'.
Journalists often take their main skill — gathering information and whittling it into an engaging, coherent story — for granted. Many businesses find it difficult to articulate their vision, whether externally or internally. So we want to help clients do that by coming at it from an audience-centric position.
While this may seem like a subtle change, it’s a big strategic shift for us in terms of how we define media and how we go about creating it.
The mission statement of NZ Marketing and StopPress – to provide marketing, advertising and media intelligence that can help New Zealand companies, the people working for them and the country as a whole, grow – won’t change. But the way that mission statement comes to life will. We think it’s a logical shift that will set us up for the future. We hope you agree.
Any questions, compliments, criticisms or briefs, get in touch.
Ben Fahy, publisher/editorial director.