Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boys and Business – this year's magazine trends

The Mag-Dragons have decided. This year’s two course magazines for the Cardiff MA will be for –

• boys in the 12-13 age range, focusing particularly on those who rush to their games console as soon as they get home from school
• young entrepreneurs starting up their own businesses

Both are really interesting ideas for a number of reasons.

A couple of days before students pitched to the Mag-Dragons I had a conversation with Nick Brett, Managing Director of the BBC Magazine Unit and Cardiff’s Honorary Professor of Magazine Journalism, about the current Holy Grails of magazine publishing – a title that captured the attention of teenage boys was one such for many years. Professor Brett’s response demonstrated how times have changed – he hadn’t heard a “holy grail” conversation for a long time; it’s all about capturing the digital space at the moment.

Without any prompting, the teen boy development group did something that combined former holy grail and current concerns – they proposed their title should be screen-first; that is, not primarily a print magazine. It sounds odd to admit it, considering how fervently we preach the digital message to our students, but this is a first for the Magazine MA. Naturally it will require some tweaking of the assessment schedule and criteria – and thought about how to incorporate some print elements that test their editorial and craft skills – but nothing that we cannot and should not do. In fact it is an inevitable and necessary development.

The business magazine is another first by virtue of being strictly business. Another odd admission, since we stress the B2B career pathway from the very first day of the course. This idea feels very zeitgeisty though and the winning pitch came on the same day that David Cameron launched Start Up Britain – something our on-the-ball students included in their presentation.

There’s still a massive amount of development and refinement to do on both titles but they are very exciting ideas. Each of the six groups pitching had individual development sessions with Professor Brett the Friday before the Mag-Dragon panel and at the end of next week the two amalgamated groups will present their research and development findings to Mel Nichols, former Editorial Director of Haymarket and, like Nick Brett, the over-seer of countless launches, relaunches and projects that didn’t quite make the grade.

I hope the students appreciate the level of access they are getting with these and the many other people who will help them during the Magazine MA – I don’t think I even saw anyone that high up until I’d been working at Emap for a couple of years!
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Magazine Brand Definitions, cont'd

"Does the magazine brand transcend the delivery platform?" asks James Papworth on the PPA website.

The answer is surely self-evident – of course it does, always provided that the magazine's Brand Definition includes a strategy for every platform it will appear on. And that means working out what those platform users want.

Interestingly, Papworth notes that a recent study of magazine readers shows they spend 65 minutes with the print edition and 200 minutes with the app version (the source of this data is not revealed but the illustration shows the iPad version of GQ, which may or may not mean anything).

And as he sensibly comments:

This does not undermine the appeal of the printed version. Readers read it for 65 minutes because it takes 65 minutes to read. They spend 200 minutes with the tablet version because there is 200 minutes of entertainment and information to be gleaned.
His conclusion, by the way, is the same as mine. Great minds ...

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Magazines as Brands (again)

On the very day I tell MA Magazine Journalism students about Brand Definition, Bauer make this anouncement:

Bauer Media, the media group behind Grazia, FHM and Closer magazines, and radio stations Magic 105.4 and Kiss, is restructuring its commercial operations into platform-agnostic sales teams focused around individual brands. (via Media Week)
The move is not designed to reduce headcount, but instead aims to create commercial specialists who are able to knowledgably sell across a particular brand's integrated portfolio of digital, print and broadcast operations.
There were a couple of other interesting snippets in the release too:

• Clare Chamberlain has left Immediate Media, the lovechild of BBC Magazines and Magicalia, to take up a role at Bauer as Sales Director.
• Mark Frith, the guiding hand behind Heat for so long, has re-joined Bauer as an editorial director.

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