The State of Media and Publishing in Digital

Last night we attended a superb event on the State of Media and Publishing in Digital organised by 93digital and hosted at the very cool WeWork in Shoreditch. 93digital is London’s leading WordPress agency and in the last few years has developed a reputation for delivering award-winning website platforms that sit at the heart of marketing and growth strategies for publishing companies. The event featured case studies from Publishers with very different business models and platforms followed by a panel discussion on the future of media and publishing, and how different strategies work for different publishers.


To kick off the case studies we warmly welcomed Dens Milne to the floor - Dens is the Senior Product Manager for PhysicsWorld, a physics news platform and part of the renowned Institute of Physics. With a strong heritage in science journalism they are about to celebrate their 30th anniversary and have a loyal, informed and engaged readership. PhysicsWorld launched online 20 years ago and has been through a huge digital transformation and successfully relaunched in February this year. Working with 93digital they had to be radical and found new ways to classify, segment and group content to ensure they didn’t lose the value of 20 years’ worth of content, readers and advertisers - as well as to ensure they weren’t just creating an online replica of the print magazine. Dens wanted to deliver growth, make more money and perform better than they’re closest competitor and so far, they are achieving that!

Next up we heard from Linda Blank, Commercial Director of Suitcase Group on how to develop an audience for a new travel / lifestyle brand in a busy market. Six years ago Suitcase launched as a small independent magazine, aimed at consumers with a millennial mindset - an opportunity to show travel in an experiential way, without losing the luxury aspect. In order to continue their growth, they expanded the business to become Suitcase Group which was split into two parts, the magazine and the media group. In the latter, they evolved and successfully launched a content marketing agency.


With evolvement of a brand comes insight, and Linda shared with us that, despite rumours, the consumer publishing industry is growing! UK consumers spend £1.2bn a year on magazine media, which is 4 x more than they do on Netflix and how many of us have a subscription to that?! Digital revenue is expected to grow by 12% and, whilst print sales are declining, the independent magazine subscriptions have grown by 78% in revenue based on figures from 2016.


Linda showcased an interesting example that as publishers, if we adapt, we can have huge success. For example, the New York Times has focussed massively on their subscriptions and now create more revenue from their subscriptions than they do advertising. Know your niche, be a thought leader in your field and also be creative and open to new opportunities.


Alex Price, Founder of 93digital moved on to lead our panel discussion with Dens Milne, Product Manager, PhysicsWorld; Carl Hazeley, VP Content, Finimize; and Alice Revel, Founder of Reading in Heels. In a world where everything is digital, Alex asked the panel if there is one specific metric that as a brand you measure? Finimize felt for them NPS (Net Promoter Score) was most effective, Sales & Engagement was most important for Reading in Heels and PhysicsWorld felt that the return visitor rate was a key focus. There are so many metrics that can be measured that as a brand it is really important to have deep goals around performance and stick to them!


A key message coming through from each panellist was the importance of continuing engagement offline. For Alice, as an offline book subscription business – they have huge success in developing unique experiences with their users and it is clear that people still value offline interaction! Linda Blank stated earlier in the evening that 87% of C-Suite Executives believe in the power of live events and plan to be investing in them more in future.


For Finimize, they are aimed at high achieving millennials who want to learn more about financial news and investments. For them it is most important that they partner with the right people and advertisers to align with their independence and integrity.


The final question for the panel was on how do you ensure integrity when publishing content? For Dens at PhysicsWorld is all about trust. The great thing about science is that it is all based on facts and they have to get the science right. They have also engaged a cohort of early years scientists who write for them and so people can see that some of the writers are from their own community. Reading in Heels found that by using the press and in particular a spread on Red Magazine hugely increased trust and engagement in their brand. Finimize will always link to the source to show that anything they publish is not fake news.


This event demonstrated a clear insight into how digital is supporting and developing the evolution of these fantastic brands – whether you are a global publisher, an independent magazine, a subscription service or an online news platform we have to recognise that we are in a diverse and changeable industry. We must continue to engage with our audiences, whoever they may be, stay relevant and provide meaningful experiences for our users who will keep coming back for more.