There are 1.66 million people living in Auckland, across its nearly 200 suburbs, creating a thriving melting pot of cultures, flavours and styles. Capturing the essence of this ever-changing, ever-simmering experience is no easy task, but there’s one publication that does just this on a weekly basis.
For the last 12 months, Paperboy, the free magazine launched by Bauer, has given readers a weekly account of what’s happening in New Zealand’s biggest city. It’s designed to pull readers out of their geographically circumscribed bubbles and encourage them to embrace their inner urban adventurer.
“We’ve been able to convey a sense of the life in the broader city going on and that people can partake in that broader life by reading the pages of Paperboy,” says editor Jeremy Hansen.
And the numbers prove it.
An August survey featuring 217 participants found 82 percent agree with the statement: “Paperboy is great for connecting me more with what’s going on in and around Auckland.”
On a similar note, 74 percent agree with the statement: “Paperboy has smart, insightful, thoughtful thinking about the city.”
The survey also found there’s 45 percent overall awareness of Paperboy across Auckland and it has 8/10 likeability
“The magazine we’ve been creating every week has generated so much enthusiasm,” says Hansen. “The most common response I get when meeting new people is that they feel better about Auckland as a result of reading it, which is exactly the result we wanted to generate.”
That awareness is no doubt aided by its distribution model, which sees 100,000 copies put into letterboxes, cafes and bins in public transport hubs around the city.
It’s different to all other magazine distribution models in New Zealand and it’s a reflection of Paperboy’s unique target demographic called ‘urban adventurer’.
Created with Auckland Transport and data from Helix Persona, it describes those aged 25-45 who have a relatively high household income but most importantly are interested in going out and playing an active part in the life of their city.
Naming 25- to 45-year-olds as the target may have seen sceptics raise their eyebrows as it’s a notoriously challenging demographic for paid publications to reach because they’re the digital generation.
However, Paperboy is free and Hansen is quick to point out that just because they’re the digital generation, does not mean they are digital exclusive. They are platform agnostic, he says, because as long as the quality of the content is good and it’s easily accessible, they will read it.
A new publication for a new identity
It was three years ago that Bauer started considering the possibility of creating the magazine and it was an idea sparked by the success of London’s free commuter publications, which were very successful at generating advertising revenue.
One of those is Metro. The free newspaper is the UK’s most-read daily newspaper and is particularly popular with London commuters. According to the Financial Times, advertisers like it because it’s highly visible and has a good return on investment.
“Unlike paid-for newspapers, Metro gets left behind on the tube and each copy may get read by commuters 15 times,” explained director of print advertising at Group M Steve Goodman.
The idea of a free publication for commuters was then married with Bauer’s own research into the idea of there being a new Auckland, a sense of optimism in the city and an excitement about the direction it was heading in.
“Auckland wasn’t deemed as a city that was easy to be proud of, but that’s changed,” explains Hansen.
Using downtown as an example, he says it used to be a place that was avoided but now there’s a growing population living there. According to census data, in 2001, Auckland’s Harbourside population was 1,509 and by 2013 it was 4,503.
And as of July this year, the combined population of Auckland Central West, Auckland Central East and Auckland Harbourside was approximately 45,000. That number is expected to grow by a further 30,000 over the next 10 years.
Creating a new magazine with Auckland’s new identity at its core meant heading to the drawing board and developing a new model, but it wasn’t from complete scratch.
Hansen says it looked to New York Magazine and Time Out for inspiration and it took aspects from each to combine with Bauer’s own thinking. There were a few iterations during the development process and when the final magazine went to print, it was only eight weeks until the Christmas break, allowing for the design to be refined and for niggles to be removed before it hit the transport hubs.
One of the factors driving the model design was the aim to make it feel like a high-quality magazine, not a cheap one, despite it being a free publication. Bauer didn’t want it to feel cheap, so emphasis was put on having high-quality editorial content.
That was nothing new for Hansen, having been the editor of Home magazine for a decade before taking the helm of Paperboy, but there was a change in having to do it every week.
Home was bi-monthly, and Hansen admits he was terrified when he started Paperboy.
“For the first six months, I would wake up and think: ‘This week we are going to run out of content, there will be nothing left to say’.”
That panic saw him make the mistake of commissioning too many features and creating a backlog. It’s since worked through those and is theming issues and pairing content better to ensure there’s a continuous but manageable flow of stories.
In fact, he says the biggest challenge now is that it would like to fit more into its pages to tell more stories because there are so many of them around.
He credits that to its group of contributing writers and photographers who are enthusiastic and always pitching ideas. They are also from different communities within the city so they ensure the magazine reflects Auckland’s diversity.
As well as a concern to include all aspects of Auckland, Hansen also wants to ensure the title is never predictable.
“I guess the guiding philosophy we’ve had in some ways is to keep things loose so that the magazine isn’t predictable week to week and people won’t pick it up and go ‘oh that’s just a regular issue of Paperboy’.”
An example is an issue from earlier this month, which saw the magazine renamed Pizzaboy to match the featured pizza taste test.
While quality editorial content will keep readers picking it up, for Bauer to keep producing the freely distributed magazine, it needs advertising and that comes in the form of content partnerships.
When Hansen began his career in magazines, advertising and editorial were very much church and state. But fast forward to now and Paperboy’s content campaigns have been its most successful forms of advertising and Hansen names H&M and Arnott’s as two of the partners it’s worked with.
For the former, it launched a special street style issue in Auckland and has since featured custom content in the Christchurch and Wellington issues. For the latter, it featured Steve Hansen on the cover and interviewed him about the recent ‘Apocalypse Steve Hansen’ campaign.
Content partners include Coca-Cola, NZ Transport Agency, Netflix, Heart of the City, Solo Apartments, TVNZ, Semi-Permanent and SkyCity, and it also regularly integrates Resene’s colours and Westpac’s CashNav marketing into the magazine.
Despite the success of its content partnerships, Hansen explains it’s had some terrific weeks and months with its advertising revenue while others have been challenging.
He says the aim over the next year is to smooth that revenue out across the year to eliminate the spikes and ensure each issue is reaching its revenue target.
A magazine for the city
But that’s not the only plan on the cards for Paperboy as it enters its second year. It’s branching out of Auckland, and Christchurch and Wellington are the first to see its presence.
In September, it launched a one-off magazine in Christchurch and this week, a one-off Wellington issue has gone to the printers.
Bauer has yet to establish a regular production schedule for the cities but it will be looking to see if it’s a weekly, monthly or quarterly magazine that works.
“We’ve certainly found there’s an appetite editorially for it and an appetite in an advertising sense,” Hansen says. “Now we have to decide if that appetite can be sustained in the long term.”
It’s also poised to release one-off summer editions in Tauranga and the Coromandel and Hansen says it likes the idea of Paperboy being in Auckland’s favourite beach towns over the summer period to tell people about the activities going on there.
Offshore, the magazine has also been licensed for distribution in Sydney and Melbourne.
But with Paperboy’s model built to celebrate Auckland’s identity, how will it hold up in other cities?
Hansen isn’t concerned. As someone who has lived in a number of towns and cities in New Zealand, he is conscious that Auckland presumptuousness can be toxic outside of Auckland but says it’s taking care to not build the new magazines by remote control.
Bauer’s staff have spent time in the new locations and employing local contributors so it’s shaped by people on the ground.
“Yes we are an Auckland magazine, but we are also a city magazine and Paperboy’s values are about positive engagement with the city that the magazine is a part of and those values resonate in Christchurch and Wellington and many other cities as well,” he says.
“It’s about giving people the information they need to make the most of their lives in the places they live in.”
- This story is part of a content partnership with Bauer Media.