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FIPP 09: Downturn is the conference buzzword – but is the mag industry facing up to it?

May 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines

Yesterday at the FIPP World Magazine Conference, William Kerr, board chairman at Meredith Group suggested that ‘being 12 per cent down is the new up’.

The wider economic downturn and the gap between online and traditional offline advertising revenues in the magazine industry have been referred to in every panel I’ve attended so far (though more often than not it’s referred to as ‘challenging times’). But has the mag industry faced facts?

Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, doesn’t seem to think so:

“When we come out of this recession many industries will be the same, but the mass market motor industry and the newspaper industry will be changed forever,” Jones told delegates.

“There are many people in the magazine industry who think it won’t effect them, but we could equally be having these conversations in two or three years time about the magazine industry.”

There will be more cost-cutting, in particular staff reductions, as the industry realises the impact, he added. (GQ’s publisher Conde Nast reportedly axed five per cent of its US magazine staff last October)

For other’s the downturn is a huge opportunity for innovation and restructuring. Google’s UK MD, Matt Brittin, predicted that the current climate would accelerate certain types of user behaviour online. For example, the use of search and free technologies to create their own content.

The challenge for publishers is to monitor these changes and respond to the consumers’ changing needs online – often by embracing new, free technologies themselves, but also by finding new ways to serve up their content that will be found through specific search queries, for instance, or relating to niche topics.

According to Brittin, opportunities exist – with Google’s help of course – within the ‘first downturn in a truly digital age’.

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FIPP 09: How magazines learned to love the web – Grazia and GQ discuss

May 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines

Journalists at Grazia are experimenting with a host of real-time reporting tools and techniques, the magazine’s editor-in-chief explained at today’s FIPP World Magazine Congress.

Jane Bruton told delegates of her excitement that reporters were twittering live updates from fashion shows and filing web copy from events.

“We can talk to our readers on a minute-by-minute basis. We get instant feedback if we want to test out a story for our magazine – we can go online, we can go on Twitter,” said Bruton.

“Our fashion teams now – rather than sitting and taking notes – they’re Twittering from the front row, they’re running to the car, typing up instant web reports.

“The readers love it because they’re seeing everything through our eyes.”

Certain elements of the magazine are now web-first, for example, the pictures from the Style Hunter section, which attract hundreds of comments a week from readers.

“They [readers] feel involved, feel closer to the brand and feel closer to us as personalities. We’ve never been afraid of exposing the inner workings of the magazine,” said Bruton, who said the same exposure had been created offline when the magazine spent a week operating in a shopping centre.

“In the current climate the fact that people relate to our personalities and trust our brand is really crucial.”

For fellow panelist and GQ editor Dylan Jones, the key to online success is capturing the same luxury of the print magazine online, he said.

Being online has not changed the editorial stance of the magazine, which has remained central to the design of the website: “I think we’ve cracked it,” he added.

Read: BBC Good Food editorial director Gillian Carter on why the web hasn’t affected print sales.

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FIPP 09: Fears ahead for magazines – what concerns those at the top?

May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Magazines

As reported over on the Journalism.co.uk main site, leading industry figures shared their hopes for the magazine market at the FIPP World Magazine Congress 2009 this morning.

But they were hopes in the context of an economic downturn. William Kerr, chairman of board for the Meredith Group joked that ‘being 12 per cent down is the new up’. 

Each of the panel looking at ‘riding the storm’ shared their fears for the magazine industry:

  • Carolyn McCall, chief executive, Guardian Media Group: is worried that the industry would ‘not make structural change quickly enough’.
  • William Kerr said that his main fear was that the ‘best and brightest [candidates] had migrated to other areas’ for employment. 
  • Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief and chairman of the India Today Group said he was worried about the ‘magazinification’ of newspapers in terms of content and design: it is a ‘threat to magazines, as newspapers go in that direction,’ he said. 
  • John Smith, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said his main concern was the dominance of Google as an online sign-post. it was a ‘dangerous’ situation he said, to have all the power in one company. Google’s 63.7 per cent grasp on search traffic made it necessary for other companies to enter the territory, he said.  
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