Inside Bauer’s burgeoning digital storytelling machine

Earlier this week, Bauer and Mobile Embrace were confirmed as the latest additions to the IAB NZ board, which already includes NZME, Fairfax, Yahoo NZ, Yellow, Seek, Vodafone, Google NZ, Mi9, TVNZ, MediaWorks, Trade Me and Met Service.

Bauer’s addition to the board was particularly interesting given that the publisher has held out for much longer than the other multimedia players in the industry. 
“Now is definitely the right time,” says Bauer head of digital Michael Fuyala. “We have healthy growth across our sites and it’s already a really important part of our business.”

Fuyala says that this move comes off the back of record month for Bauer in March, which saw 800,000 people visit the various titles that make up the conglomerate’s digital network. 
Bauer’s move into the IAB is important for the industry as a whole as it allows for standardisation of digital measurement, and Fuyala says that this was an important consideration in the lead up to the decision. 

“Being part of the measurement processes across all of those platforms is really important to us, because they’re becoming an integral in terms of how we engage with our audiences. Also, we’re interested in the work they’re doing around transparency and standardisation, and training for digital sales in New Zealand. We’re very supportive of that work, because it makes it easier for our advertisers.”


Fuyala told StopPress that the decision to join the IAB board precedes some significant digital strategy shifts, which will be revealed to clients and agencies at a market brief in May.

“We’re building an eco-system that’s a very highly targeted environment, and our properties will kind of link off to each other. It’s certainly not a portal, but we’ll have big strong vertical plays where we’ll bring audiences in and have recommended content from other verticals.”
He says that this shift will involve the introduction of several new digital properties in the coming months. 

“We’re looking into rolling out about five products this year. We have a Fashion Quarterly site coming out next week, which is built around insights and research from both our audiences and people engaging with fashion online. Then, from July, we’ll be doing something in the food space. Bauer is creating more recipes every given week than anyone else in New Zealand, so we’ve got a really big digital-first food product coming.”

The emphasis on recipes is important given how important the female audience is to Bauer. Yesterday, Facebook revealed that ‘new food and recipes’ was the second biggest category (behind ‘entertainment) in terms of areas of interest for Facebook users, with 65 percent using the social media interface to discover this kind of content (and it was over 80 percent for women).

“Search is massive around the recipe space,” says Fuyala. “There are over a million searches a month in New Zealand for recipes, and a lot of the work we’re doing in our development is around ensuring that we’re targeting all the relevant local search terms and we’re going to be giving our audiences a really good selection of content that meets their needs.”

The food-related content that is published across all Bauer’s titles will be consolidated into a new digital-first property set to be introduced soon.
This consolidation is similar to the approach Fairfax has employed by bringing together all its content under the Stuff masthead. However, Fuyala says that consolidation of content will not be applied universally across the board for all titles at Bauer. 

“It depends on the category, so there’ll be instances where we retain the brand and there will be others where it doesn’t make as much sense to retain the brand. So if you talk about food for example, every single one of our 20 titles has recipes. Yet, if people are looking for a want to make a banana cake, then they’ll just search for a ‘banana cake recipe’ online. And so, it makes sense to have all our recipes in one place. To do that in a logical way, we had to create a new digital brand. But if you look at our other titles, like Woman’s Day for example, they will remain a separate digital mag. It’s a case-by-case basis.”

Paywalls and programmatic

Bauer’s New Zealand Listener was one of the first publications in the country to incorporate a paywall. And although this revenue device is still being used, Fuyala says that it is not core to Bauer’s digital strategy at this stage. 

“If you look at our titles, we’ve got 70 percent of the magazine market, so we’re largely about women’s focus titles, and this includes topics such as food, fashion, lifestyle, home and celebrity—and these are the areas where you’ll be seeing a lot of investment and focus in terms of our digital strategy,” he says. 

“With the Listener paywall strategy, we’re going to be looking at including a few more options on that. However, it’s probably not at the centre of our priorities around digital at the moment.” 

Another area of growing interest in the digital space is programmatic, but Fuyala similarly doesn’t see this as a priority right now. 

“Our focus is more around selling direct through agencies and clients. Programmatic is not part of our short-term strategy. We’re almost selling at capacity at the moment, so we really don’t have an inventory problem. And if you look at our products and the pipeline we’ll be unveiling in May, they’re all premium products, and they’ll be focusing on content integration, video rich media, galleries and story-telling, so programmatic display is probably not an area that we’re focused on.” 

Catching up

Bauer’s addition to the IAB board in a sense announces that it views digital as a priority, but it does seem to a little late on the uptake and its multimedia competitors for ad spend have a headstart. So does Fuyala believe that Bauer can catch up to the likes of NZME and Fairfax, both of which have introduced a slew of changes in the last year?

“We’re extremely optimistic about our digital business,” he says. “We’ve got a team of around 70 digital experts, developers, user-experience professionals, digital marketers and audience development guys.”

And in some ways, he sees starting later as something of an advantage. 

“The ways things are built today is very different from the way things were built ten or 15 years ago. And this actually gives us some advantages in terms of being the latest to market, in that we’ve got a lot of flexibility in the way we can build. We can be very agile. We can learn a lot about where others have failed, and avoid that in our building.”
How these changes all pan out will only be determined when Bauer introduces them to market later this year, but with audiences continuing to migrate online these moves can’t come fast enough for a publisher that has until now been reliant on its print publications. And should Bauer manage to drive up its online revenue through these changes, then this will be welcome news for the wider industry of journalists, writers, editors, photographers and sales people who rely on the publisher for their jobs.  

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