Off to the social: nzgirl and the journey towards ‘social magazines’

Launched pre-Google and pre-Facebook, nzgirl was one of the first kids on the online block with its first release all the way back in December 1999. Since then it’s had a few incarnations and we’ve ventured into clothing and merchandise, retail stores and an advertising network. But the one constant amongst 13 years of change has been that it keeps on keeping on. And through all the twists and turns I’ve taken it on in pursuit of the holy digital grail, the site itself, which was relaunched today, has continued to perform. 

I thank our #1 Fan Strategy for that. Subsequently I’ve made that a robust digital strategy and taken it into other brands and companies like Old Mout Cider and now Flossie.com successfully. There’s no doubting that if at the base of everything you do is a group of loyal followers, and you seek to evolve with their involvement, instruction and pseudo permission, you’ll likely take them with you on your journey.

That is why over 50 percent of our 100,000-membership audience have been with us for more than five years, despite having a brand title that would suggest that they should have outgrown us some time back.

Back in the day, the gap we filled was for free, New Zealand-focused content, and subsequently that has been well and truly filled. So we set out on a mission a few years back to understand what role we had to play in the digital and content future. A lot of naval gazing ensued and we got right down to the basics of female interaction, which led us down a path of the site we have relaunched today.

Welcome to the new world of publishing, where the publisher is the curator and the reader is the writer. We’ve always subscribed to the engagement pyramid theory, that in every online society there are watchers, commenters, sharers, creators and curators. As the digital world advances and the friends around us shape what we see, like and buy, we recognised our role needed to embrace and make way for this: to be a shaper of this future by providing a place where items can be created and then shared across their desired social media platforms.

80 percent of all pins are just re-pins, and most creative platforms are just blog sites who have not overly evolved their offering. This is the role we can play. The new site has around a dozen ‘templates’ that the audience can use to create content. Depending on your level in the community, you can get access to these templates. It’s sort of game-ifying publishing, really, but keeping it uber simple. And while the vast majority of people are just watchers, the content published by the creators is peer ranked and organised, ensuring that what you see is most likely to your taste. I won’t even get started on what our CRM can do – we need a whole other article for that. But it’s fair to say, it’s pretty cool.

Without a shadow of a doubt, and with around eight versions of nzgirl under my belt, this is my proudest one yet. I do believe it’s really leading the way for publishing and a team of very clever people have collaborated and bent their brains to bring it to life. Jo Twyford, Dan Hay and Tim Field, take a bow. It’s by no means perfect and as I say to people, this is not a project that’s just checked off the to-do list, it will evolve with four more releases (including an app) in the next few weeks and months.

It is also my swan-song. I came back ‘full time’ into nzgirl a couple of years back, determined to breathe new life into the old girl and get her back on solid ground after a pretty abysmal period through the GFC.

I’ve done that job now. Over the past year the business grew by 43 percent and we’re in a good place. It’s time to hand over the reigns. Our new managing director will have full operational and fiscal responsibility and accountability. I will keep a director position on our newly formed board (we will announce this in the next few weeks), but I will be entirely stepping away from the business operations. Interviewing for this role has been going well and we hope to appoint someone imminently.

What will I be doing? I’ve got a little bit going on with the new flossie.com and announcements in regards to second round funding. Phase two launch and new directors will be coming over the next month.

As I like to say to clients, the future is about evolvement and adaptability, two things that I think I quite like.

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