Magazines that fall into the ‘Home’ category of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) are embracing the possibilities offered by online platforms and finding that their content lends itself to digital media. But monetising online content is still new terrain. In an ever-changing landscape, how are these local magazines making money off their unique capabilities?
Publishers and editors say it’s about so much more than just uploading print content to the web, or putting it behind paywalls. The buzzword is ‘aggregation’, says SARIE digital editor Lou-Ann Stone. Editors and publishers agree that the key is to add value for readers by leveraging their access to expertise and curated quality content.
“When you want information, you Google it. Google knows everything. But to get the information you need in a way that’s been curated and localised is much harder,” EasyDIY magazine’s digital content manager Julia Boltt says. This is what the title’s new website aims to do, she adds.
EasyDIY this month launched their new website and content strategy, which Boltt says is intended to build a community of do-it-yourself enthusiasts, who can use the website as their go-to source for support and inspiration.
SARIE, the Afrikaans women’s magazine known for pioneering e-commerce in this country, has several brand spin-offs, two of which – WOON and KOS – are included in the ‘Home’ category. “SARIE’S digital presence is pivotal to the SARIE world… Two of the brand’s core pillars – décor/DIY and food – have proven to be very successful online,” says Alida Vos, SARIE deputy editor.
Food title KOS was “from the start, one of the top content hubs for SARIE.com in terms of online traffic”, she adds. “SARIE has more than 3 000 recipes online and KOS makes up about half of the most shareable content on social media – especially Facebook, where recipes are shared daily among users.”
KOS also uses an iPad app to monetise content, with recipe packs available for sale via this platform. The packs cost US$.099 for 10 recipes and are curated from SARIE and KOS content for specific needs, like beginner bakers or vegetarians.
WOON uses a “behind-the-scenes/extra footage model”, complementing the printed product with additional décor and DIY content, with photo galleries that readers can use for inspiration or practical guidance with projects, says Stone.
“We recently added a décor/DIY competition online, capitalising on user-generated content. Users are asked to upload an image of a room in much need of refurbishment to determine the winner and drive traffic,” explains Stone.
Sponsorship is another way of making money. Boltt says that with a DIY magazine, “the synergies are obvious – there are great opportunities to create brand awareness. For example, we could get in a Bosch expert on drilling and it’s a win-win situation.”
All the magazines contacted for this article used social media. Although it is not usually directly profitable, it has the potential to build brand awareness, drive traffic to a title’s other digital platforms and profoundly change a magazine’s conversation with its readers. “Publishing has become a whole new ball game where social media is the direct link between us and our readers. We share content and they show us what they do. A creative environment is a lot about showing your projects and sharing suppliers, tips and so on” says Terena le Roux, editor of Ideas/Idees (targeted at house-proud women who enjoy hobbies like baking and crafts).
“Our Facebook pages are forums for conversation about what they want and what they like – we currently stand on 41 684 friends. Our digital properties make it easier for subscribers worldwide to read our content and then share their projects and ideas,” says Le Roux. Ideas is active on Pinterest, with over 17 600 followers. Content on such platforms is not charged for, but it drives traffic back to the website.”
The English content of Ideas migrated last year to a new website, Dailyfix.co.za, where it is integrated with two other Media24 titles, FAIRLADY and Home. “In this way we give followers a much deeper and wider content while potentially talking to advertisers about a much bigger audience,” says Le Roux. The Afrikaans content is migrating to a mobi site.
Ideas/Idees is also available through PDF subscriptions and the iStore, as well as through Media24 bundling deals, where subscribers get several magazines together, and through MyEdit, Media24’s subscription-based reading app.
But for Le Roux, the most exciting of her titles’ digital properties is ideasmarket.co.za. “This is our e-commerce site. It’s built on the [craft marketplace website] etsy.com model, where shopkeepers deal directly with the public and we handle the distribution and the marketing. The commission earned on the market will eventually create a new revenue stream for the magazine.
“Even though it is not content as such, we have tapped into the database of creative entrepreneurs we use in our magazine every month… Our ideas are often the start of [our readers’] businesses. Once on our marketplace, they get marketing, exposure and constant information from us,” she says.
For example, after Woolworths allegedly used without permission a local artist’s design in their homeware, ideasmarket.co.za published an article informing its readers of their rights in such a situation.
“The print project remains the mothership of the Ideas offering, but can no longer survive on its own. Digital platforms are beneficial to print as they enjoy a symbiotic relationship where they continue to enrich eachother’s content and readers. Our digital properties enhance the reach of the printed content, giving us a broader audience,” Le Roux adds.
As magazines adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape, what does the future hold? “Content aggregation, video and mobile must rank as the three top digital trends for the future,” say the SARIE team.
Le Roux agrees that mobile is crucial, which is why Idees is moving to a mobi site. “Media24 magazines digital has seen a massive shift in mobile traffic growth and in South Africa with its very high mobile penetration rate. This is the route we want to take.
“This shift to mobile has had a major impact on advertising and consumer strategy because traditional impression-based display advertising doesn’t always translate successfully on to mobile platforms. Advertising will leapfrog web display in SA due to the growth of the mobile Internet.”
Abroad, the Martha Stewart brand has been very innovative with its magazine, she says. “Martha Stewart has produced numerous apps, enriched magazines and video content. With data still being expensive in South Africa, apps have not really taken off here and our current platforms are not ready to produce enriched covers and content.
“We are, however, working on it. In the meanwhile, we are focusing on the platforms that are easy, quick and affordable to access.”
Craft magazine Mollie Makes in Britain uses social media to drive content, while its website has a blog format. “This is something we are looking at, especially for our mobi site,” says Le Roux. “It’s more visual and simple to follow.”
Stone conlcudes: “In terms of monetisation, the buzzword is content. Agencies, clients and media alike should collaborate around one core goal: relevant content.”
This story was first published in the February 2014 issue of The Media magazine.