While the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will see a huge boom in magazine sales, the industry will also feel another major effect from the event.
Louisa Hatfield, General Manager, Entertainment & Family at Pacific, says: “The Royal wedding is going to be a turning point for magazines like New Idea and Who and not just because of the expected 50% uplift in circulation.”
The turning point she is referring to is a shift back towards a more prestige celebrity gracing the covers of these magazines. “The health of our brands depends on the type of celebrity we’re putting on the cover,” she says. “The era of Kim Kardashian was extremely testing for a premium brand like Who, for example, because the audience is so clever and discerning.”
Hatfield sees Meghan Markle as a shining example of the right cover star for such a premium brand. “Megan is perfect because she has real depth to her. She is a woman who cares, who was doing charity work way before she met Prince Harry,” she says.
Socially and politically engaged personalities such as Markle, Kate Middleton and the Margot Robbie’s of the world are helping brands such as Who and New Idea reclaim their place in the lives of switched-on Australian women.
And the impact of these names is also felt online where the digital offerings of brands such as WHO and New Idea already performing exceptionally well according to the most recent Nielsen DRM figures which saw Pacific reach its highest ever unique audience increasing 26% month-on-month and 50% year-on-year to 2.2 million.
“Brands like New Idea are stronger than ever and the cliché that a 24/7 celebrity news cycle will kill off magazines has proven to be rubbish. In fact, it has actually worked in our favour and increased our audiences enormously,” says Hatfield. “The readers trust brands like New Idea and Who, rather than overseas brands, to deliver the latest celebrity news to them, which means a greater footprint than ever before.”
Multiple revenue streams
And strength in digital is important given the current climate magazines are operating in.
When the Standard Media Index (SMI) figures were released for January, they painted a less-than-positive picture for print media with a decline in bookings from media agencies.
Magazines looked to be the hardest hit, however, Hatfield, whose remit covers Pacific’s flagship title New Idea, WHO, Girlfriend, That’s Life, Practical Parenting and a thriving puzzles division, says the numbers aren’t a complete representation of how her titles are performing.
“SMI is important, but it isn’t the whole picture,” she says.
There are also myriad other revenue streams within her portfolio to take into consideration, including an FMCG subscription box; Girls Night Out, a joint venture between WHO magazine and Hoyts cinemas; a diet program produced for the That’s Life audience as well as the Girlfriend Model Search.
These efforts are in addition to more traditional advertising offerings as well as a burgeoning suite of podcasts and a focus on video, something Hatfield is particularly passionate about. With a background in television – before joining Pacific, she was the executive producer of Nine’s Mornings – video is second nature to Hatfield.
“There are just so many ways to bring commercial and editorial ideas to life with video and now you can create those videos on very low production costs,” she says.
Hatfield sees video as a great way to jump on the latest trends. It also provides a fast and effective vehicle for brands.
“Clients are getting tired of being pitched video ideas and then hearing, ‘The production’s going to be $50,000, thanks.’ We can now create really good quality video without having to charge clients thousands of dollars,” she says.
A more cost-effective publishing model
While finding new sources of revenue is important for the business, Hatfield says her other key focus is streamlining operations.
“In the past, this business was modelled on poor cost-effective ways of doing things. In the last 12 months, our executive team has looked at the model and said, ‘It’s not sustainable’,” she says.
Some of the changes include outsourcing sub-editing and repurposing food content across titles. Shared resources and content creation hubs have also driven more cost-effective solutions. Hatfield says: “Girlfriend, for example, now works with a pop-up freelance team and content hubs. All my brands now share resources, and when I say resources, I’m talking about people as well. For example, a very good senior writer will now be shared across New Idea and Who.”
While this work behind the scenes is vital to the long-term viability of publishers such as Pacific, it’s the content that gets the attention of consumers and come May 18, Hatfield believes Pacific will have readers eating out the palm of its hand thanks to Meghan Markle.
She says: “I may sound like I’m getting over excited and giddy about this wedding, but the truth is she is the perfect cover girl.”