Success by association
Historically, revenue for magazine publishers has come from circulation and advertising, so there has been an understandably reluctance to give their content away for free online. And despite the excitement of the new digital toys, it’s clear Coughlan still backs the power of ink on high quality satin matt paper and she talks about the emotional response readers tell her they have when they get their favourite magazine. And that, she believes, is a feeling that gets transferred to the advertisers.
“It’s about ‘Go away world, get out of my hair, I’m having this time for myself.’ If I had a dollar for every time I received a letter from someone saying they take the magazine to their favourite chair with a glass of wine and they absorb it, and they sink into this world and take it in as part of the overall experience. And every brand that makes it into this magazine is part of that.”
She says readers' minds are open and that is not something you can easily replicate elsewhere. It’s almost like a microcosm of the summer holiday.
“All the great magazines that hit their audience do the same thing … I think people get very excited when they read this magazine. They see hope, opportunity, how other people have done things differently and maybe having a different life because of it. They might ask themselves ‘what if we sold up and moved to Gisborne and sold oranges?’ They become very optimistic and it makes them very open to advertising. And even if they can’t move to Gisborne, perhaps they decide to buy the bath instead.”
She says magazines are still an extremely effective way of getting a brand out to a select audience and because readers often see the ads as part of the experience, she says it’s like getting instant, subconscious brand acceptance.
“And a really great experience might even be learning about that website where you buy all your clothes.”
The internet, as comedian Aziz Ansari recently said, can feel like you’ve read a million pages of the world’s worst book. The mobile phone is a cube of pure distraction. And when you see all the stats about the use of mobile phones while watching TV or the rise of ad blocking software, the simplicity of print does seem to be quite appealing. Some see this as print media fetishism; an unrealistic, anachronistic attitude to changing media consumption habits. But Coughlan believes print is becoming a really strong part of a basket of opportunities.
“I think it’s just moving into what will be its strongest ever phase. We’re not being replaced by [the internet]. There is no way. In fact, I think it’s making us more valuable because of that factor of being the single focus. I’m not being yelled at, I’m not being pursued, I’m choosing all of it to be in my life.”
So could the rise of mindfulness, concern about too much time spent with screens and skepticism from some about the effectiveness of online advertising be working in magazines’ favour?
“I don’t think it’s because the other one isn’t effective. You can do things online that you can’t in print. But the flight from print to digital and thinking they could replicate the results hasn’t happened. That’s why I think we are sailing into really good waters now with really good print products. Our place in the sun is just coming. We’re going to provide a really strong experience for readers and for the right brands.”
And despite the general perception that magazines are struggling, she says NZ Life & Leisure has increased advertising revenue overall in the past year (although “not massively”) and it is now the third most profitable magazine in the Fairfax portfolio.
“[The current issue] is the biggest yielding magazine we’ve had in seven years. I believe we are really coming out of what’s been our hardest time for display advertising. The irony of having a digital-only company [Church Lane] launch in a magazine is not lost on me.”
Advertising inventory is also sold out on the newsletter for the year ahead.
For her, there is no doubt advertising in magazines works. And she can prove it. She has a property near St Bathans, which she advertises in only one place, NZ Life & Leisure. She didn’t set out to build a brand, but it has happened over time and it’s now a pretty good business (with an inbuilt filter for the type of guests who want to stay). And in case you’re wondering, she still has to pay.
“I might get a bit of a distressed rate, but I don’t get a deal. This is Fairfax honey!”
Auckland cosmetics company Nellie Tier is another advertiser she points to that has grown its brand through magazines. And NZ Life & Leisure is the only place it advertises.
“And you know what their clients tell them? ‘We see you in all the best magazines. And they’re laughing, because they say they’re only in one. But that’s the perception we’ve built. Anthea’s, the jewellers, they’ve also built their brand alongside us … We have a lot of very consistent advertisers, often high-end jewellery. It’s not uncommon for me to get a phonecall from Anthea’s to say they’ve sold a $75,000 ring, and they can completely track it down.”
She says an ad in the magazine was also responsible for selling one of Auckland’s most expensive sections. And she also points to a campaign for Sleepyhead that's running again where the activations were online and the motivations were in print.