As Sky TV continues to embrace digital marketing, it has brought the curtain down on Sky Sport - The Magazine.
The magazine, which was launched in 2007, custom published by Fairfax, edited by Sky Sports commentator and Herald columnist Scotty Stevenson and run out of Sky's marketing department, claimed a readership of 252,000 in the latest Nielsen survey. It doesn't have audited circulation figures.
When asked if there would be any job losses as a result of the decision, Fairfax spokesperson Emma Carter said "we're custom-publishers for Sky Sport the Magazine so any comment regarding the decision to close the magazine needs to come from Sky". Marketing director Mike Watson was unable to be contacted and director of communication Kirsty Way said although plenty of staff contributed to it, it didn't directly employ anyone and it used a network of freelancers to put it together.
She said the decision to stop publishing the magazine was because it no longer fits with Sky's increasingly digitally-focused marketing approach. And looking at the continuing fragmentation of media and the rise of niche channels, a magazine aimed at general sports fans seems increasingly anachronistic. People tend to prefer a few specific sports, something Sky and a variety of other players like Coliseum are now tapping into through sport-specific subscriptions, and it's hard to compete with the depth of knowledge that websites like Cricinfo offer.
She says the magazine wasn't huge and it was a bit of a distraction at times, so it's "good to have fewer products to focus on".
Still, magazines are often about demand generation and, for Sky, it was partially about ensuring customers were inspired to use the service they were paying for so they would continue to pay for it. But Sky Sport has 270,000 fans on Facebook (and almost 100,000 for Sky's parent brand), and it is one of the few New Zealand brands to have fully embraced the autoplay feature of Facebook video. It's also a company that trades on video content, so it makes sense to focus on its strengths.
While the magazine's editorial content was often linked to upcoming content on Sky Sports, which, as of September last year, 71 percent of its subscribers were signed up to, Sky is gradually moving towards online-delivered content and that will offer plenty more data on individual customers, allowing it to offer better content recommendations, as many of its streaming competitors already do. Way didn't want to put a date on the updates as it's missed a few of them in the past, but said the personal recommendations will come after the MySky upgrade is rolled out.
She says there won't be anything to replace the magazine, aside from the regular digital content, but there still seems to be some value in the idea of getting the inside story on different sports and athletes, as some of its ads have played up in the past.
So does this decision mean its programme guide SkyWatch is also in the firing line? Digital gurus may see it as counter-intuitive, but TV guides are still popular (TV Guide has a circulation of over 100,000) and Skywatch has the biggest paid-for circulation in the country (total circulation is 433,083, down from a peak of around 530,000 in 2009, but average net paid circulation is just 196,652, and this is possibly due to the fact that a lot of customers get the magazine for free, so, given rules that to be counted a subscriber must pay 50 percent of the cover price, they don't count towards the total). Way says it's still such a big audience that its likely to be around for a fair few years yet, but with the EPG function on TVs, a big proportion of customers using MySky technology and on-demand content soon to arrive, a paper guide is certainly becoming less essential.