With a strong emphasis on Africa, and the desire to celebrate excellence in travel journalism and photography, British Airways in-flight magazine has landed in South Africa, in a Comair plane or lounge near you.
Published by UK outfit, Cedar Communications, the South African edition of High Life is the first localised edition of the magazine.
The magazine’s South African editor is Sonya Schoeman, the highly respected former editor of Horizons magazine, and seasoned travel journalist Adelle Horler is the South African content director.
The MediaOnline caught up with Hannah Saunders, the International and UK Business Development Director of Cedar Communications, to find out more.
“Comair operate as a franchise of British Airways in South Africa, so it made perfect strategic sense for us to propose a regional, South African edition of the magazine that Cedar has been publishing since 1973. Our pitch-winning proposal – High Life South Africa – replaced the old in-flight magazine, Horizons,” Saunders explains.
“Cedar’s presence in South Africa is also part of a bigger strategy to leverage our many year’s UK customer publishing expertise to build Cedar hubs in territories where our existing clients require customer content. For example, in 2011 we opened Cedar China, based out of an office in Shanghai, to launch Tesco Lifestyle magazine for Tesco China. We have ambitions to replicate both the regional High Life and Tesco business models, where relevant, in other international territories. We also hope to grow our client base in both South Africa and China this year.”
Saunders says South Africa – and Africa present “an amazing opportunity for a customer content agency like Cedar South Africa”.
“As a business, we have strong credentials in the retail, airline, finance, telecoms so it makes sense to match our skills to the SA market. As a region, although print content is pretty advanced, due to bandwidth limitations, digital customer content is not yet developed to the same level as in the UK. One area we are therefore keen to explore is ipad apps, allowing customers to download content (either free or paid-for) via iTunes,” she says.
At this stage, High Life is printing over 16 000 copies, with the print run being based on number of planes, flights and passengers on a monthly basis.
The publishing venture doesn’t come without challenges. “Combining regional South African content with the global edition of High Life to create as seamless a read as possible for Comair passengers was our main challenge,” says Saunders. “But we hope our readers in South Africa will agree that our talented editorial and creative teams in both Cedar South Africa and Cedar London have pulled this off with aplomb!”
Of course, launching a magazine in the global economic downturn, with tourism being hit by the slump, could be tricky. But Saunders is unfazed.
“The opportunity arose to partner with Comair at this stage and the current passenger numbers and activity in South Africa certainly warrants investment. The audience for advertisers on British Airways flights in South Africa is not only large enough to be commercially viable, but also a very attractive one,” Saunders says.
What about advertising, then? “There’s no doubt these are difficult times commercially and it is critical that we are able to attract sufficient advertising revenues. We are thrilled that the first issue was extremely well received and we exceeded our advertising targets. The strength of the British Airways offering combined with the extremely high quality and unique nature of the publication do offer a really powerful medium for advertisers so, while we are mindful of the tough times, we remain positive that we will generate sufficient advertising revenues going forward,” she says.
Saunders says their online strategy is still under discussion. “The local content is of such a high standard that an online presence is a must, but we want to make sure we do it in the right way. Watch this space!
“We already create content at Cedar for the www.bahighlife.com site it makes sense to leverage our best practice learnings here and apply them either to a regional microsite, or to absorb content into the global High Life website.”
She says they are “in the process” of putting an app in place but “ It’s too soon to confirm whether or not there will be an SA specific one, but it’s certainly a good aspiration for us to have”.
Saunders says part of their offering is multimedia sales solutions. “In other markets, we’re able to offer an end-to-end solution for advertisers. From messaging on the website, to boarding-card advertising, in-lounge campaigns and on board ambient media. In South Africa we’re still discussing these opportunities with Comair but for now we are able to look at creative and bespoke solutions for advertisers to partner with us on campaigns to be run in the hugely popular Slow Lounges. While there are strict requirements for this type of campaign, it represents a unique opportunity for the right advertisers,” she explains.
What kind of growth have you seen in this market? Is it mainly upmarket or backpacking or economy trips or all? “From High Life‘s perspective, based on our reader feedback and trends we’ve observed in South Africa, travellers across the board (i.e. in terms of income brackets) are looking for and moving towards an authentic travel experience,” she says.
“Travellers in any income bracket are cost conscious and like a good deal. In terms of editorial, British Airways customers don’t tend to fall within the backpacker segment, however, we’re more and more conscious of providing a range of price options for destinations and experiences. For example, in our May issue we feature top mobile safari camps on the continent, six eco-friendly experiences available at various price ranges.”
Saunders is not willing to reveal the investment Cedar is making in the project. But she’s certainly confident that it won’t be wasted.