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How New Skool Media in The Netherlands re-invents, stretches magazine media brands

Rob Koghee ()

When I sat down with New Skool Media co-founder and partner Rob Koghee, to discuss how he has found success in the magazine publishing industry in 2017, I didn’t expect to learn about the production of jam… but it’s all part of how Rob and his partner Cor Jan Willig extended their magazine media brands with an entrepreneurial outlook and an audience-first approach.

How did New Skool start?

Almost three years ago we purchased nineteen titles from Sanoma (in the Netherlands). We then started the actual company in September 2014. Six months ago we also purchased four titles from Relx, which included Elsevier magazine, our first weekly. Three years in, we have 27 magazine brands, have grown from zero to turnover of 16 million euros, and have 240 employees.

Did you expect this success three years ago?

We didn’t expect it. This question has been asked several times. We are just two guys that saw an opportunity. We never expected an act quite like this. 

*** The interview is published as part of Woodwing’s sponsored content on FIPP.com***

Why was Sanoma selling their titles? 

The misconception was that Sanoma was in a loss-making position and selling the brands because they were not successful. In reality they were changing their strategic positioning, as a company, to be more aligned with their TV audience. After purchasing the titles from Sanoma we took the brands, employees and subscribers with us.

What was your experience to run such a project?

I have been in the publishing industry my whole life. I spent 17 years working for Voetbal International with a circulation at the time of 200,000 copies weekly. From there I moved to IDG, the global B2B media company, where I spent seven years as a director. From there I started on my own with two small magazines and a few years later I met Cor Jan and we decided to go on this adventure...

What changes have you seen in the media industry during your time? Are there any game-changing moments that stand out in your mind?

The only reality in publishing is change. It’s continuously changing. During the 80’s and 90’s the industry was stable, then the internet came… The whole industry collapsed because the advertising revenue was taken by Google and Facebook etcetera, plus it was very easy for people to start their own publications (bloggers). Publishers had to reinvent themselves and think differently about the business than they used to do.

What are the biggest challenges for media agencies and publishers right now?

We have the name New Skool Media because there is also old school media. In many media companies there are still a lot of old school people, who are very good at what they do, but are solely specialised in print. To adapt to online, including mobile, is a real challenge for them professionally. Companies like ours need to work differently than in the early 1990’s. For example, if you have a salesperson they not only need to sell one print page, but now must be able to explain lead generation, CPM and CPC. It’s a 180-degree change. That’s the challenge for old school companies.

How does New Skool Media adapt to this change?

We challenge people every day to change mindsets and work differently than they have done in the past. They now need to know how to buy and analyse Google AdWords, how to present AdWords in a Google Analytics environment, how to adapt to changes in readers’ attitudes and expectations... It is a daily process for us.

You mentioned that the audience’s attitudes and expectations are changing. What specific changes do you see?

I told someone just this morning, ‘I am not a train traveller, but if you travelled by train 20 years ago you would see people reading a book or a magazine or a newspaper. And now, I know if I look into a train everyone will have an electronic device.’

The number of alternatives for media consumption have increased but the amount of free time has decreased. That’s a big problem for publishers today and the main problem for our industry.

How has New Skool adapted to the change in consumer consumption?

We have implemented numerous websites and are publishing to various channels online. We also have educational programmes to teach employees new skills. It is also important to talk about the strategy. We explain to our stakeholders what is on the horizon and how we are going to walk towards goals together. I wouldn’t say that we have become an online company, but in a way, that is the truth.

Can you provide an example of how you have implemented this strategy for one of your magazines?

We don’t talk about magazines, but about brands. Our best example of this is the Delicious brand. We have just announced that our Delicious food line, which includes coffee, tea, jam, and a variety of other food products will be available from August in the new Hudson Bay stores (in the Netherlands). From this month customers can also purchase Delicious tea, coffee and jam from any of the 650 Albert Heijn supermarkets and very soon also from Sligro (a wholesale food company). 

Delicious  ()

This is odd for a publishing company. We not only moved from print to online media, but now also from print to non-media. We have a food line! And even though it’s somewhat comparable to what many publishers are doing by extending their media offerings, with Delicious we have now also taken it one step further. We asked ourselves the question, ‘What is normal for a print magazine such as Delicious? If we tell people how to cook and where to eat, why don’t we offer them good-quality food?’

It’s a very logical step from a brand point-of-view. We have a strong cooking brand, customers trust our brand, we always judge food and recipes, so why don’t we offer the best food products to our customers? 

We look at our strong media brands and work out what we can do with them next.

How did you get started with food products?

That’s a very simple story. We don’t like to reinvent the wheel. We do know how to make one pot of jam. We have culinary experts who can make jam, but 70,000 jars of jam? Well that’s a different story. 

We have a joint venture partner. We take care of the taste, branding, packaging design, marketing and press. Our partner takes care of the manufacturing, production and selling to retailers. The balance is good because our partner is doing the things that he/she is good at (manufacturing and selling products), and we know good food. 

Is extending brands, like you are doing, the best approach for magazines to remain successful in the future?

Yes of course. Look into what your readers want. It’s what we did with Delicious. If you like to cook, you like good food as well. It sounds simple, but provide your target group with what they want. I would lie if I said it was extensive marketing research. It’s a group of 5-10 people that oversee the brand and they said, ‘Hey, it’s 2017. What is happening in the world?’

We like to dream. If we get to the stage that we have 30 product groups, what’s stopping us from having our own Delicious store? Look at what’s happening in the world and then give it a try!

Do you believe other publishers are thinking in this way?

No, they are not. We think it has something to do with entrepreneurship. We are the founders of this company and we are the owners. When you are an entrepreneur you say, ‘Why don’t we try this or why not try that?’

It also has to do with how a company is structured. Other publishers just have employees but we are the owners. They don’t feel ownership and if you have an odd idea, in most companies, you will be told to stick with what you know. It is another mind-set.

We have done things in the past that are not a success, of course, but we try it. If it is a success we continue, and if not, we try something else.

Did anyone tell you that you were out of your mind when you said that you were going to make jam?

No, but there were a lot of people in the industry who said, ‘Wow, I never thought of that!’ We always reply with, ‘Why not?’

New Skool food line ()

What is your view on general interest magazines?

I believe that because there is so much diversity on the internet, content of general interest magazines is not unique anymore. If you can find content everywhere for free, then why would you pay for it? 

But, for example, if you are into sailing, and your hobby and passion is sailing, you will not find the same breadth and depth of information for free on the internet. That is why we purchased the special interest magazines from Sanoma. We are focused on special interest. We believe in people’s hobbies and passions. If you like to make your own clothing, you don’t find very specific information online. It’s not there. So, you need a special interest magazine to fulfil your hobby.

Do you think that magazines will still exist in 20 years’ time?

Yes. There is a demand for special interest magazines, and in those areas magazines will continue to exist. Don’t underestimate professional content. Making content is a sport and professional content provides details not otherwise available. We are not afraid that others are taking our jobs. Bloggers (for example) are more like role models rather than content writers. 

Do you reuse your content?

We reuse our content in books, publishing on demand, on the internet, and on mobile.

If we know (for example) that a subscriber is interested in cooking fish, in particular cod, then we can provide that subscriber with 15 other cod recipes for free on their mobile device. But you have to organise your content that way in the first place, in your Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, just to be able to make the content available for reuse. 

And that’s the problem. Almost no one here, in the Netherlands, has taxonomy or metadata applied to their content. Editorial teams and publishers do not understand the value of taxonomy and metadata. You can put your content in InDesign, but to get the words or images out of a publication, you must manually tear your content apart. You should think about that first.

If publishers and editors use WoodWing’s Enterprise and Elvis in the way it should be used, it is very easy to reuse all of your content. Elsevier for example reuses their content effectively, but they are one of the exceptions.

And lastly, what advice would you give to other media agencies, publishers or brands?

To think differently. The publishing world has changed, so adapt. Adapt fast.

*About New Skool Media and this interview

New Skool Media is one of the largest multimedia publishers in The Netherlands today. Founded in 2014 by Cor Jan Willig and Rob Koghee, the portfolio Delicious, Fiets, Knipmode, Truckstar, Columbus Travel and Kijk en Vorsten. New Skool Media serve their customers and partners through their platforms and media offerings including print, online, mobile, events and e-commerce products. In addition, New Skool Media also develops new innovative formats around its brands. New Skool Media is a client of Graphit, a leading WoodWing partner based in the Netherlands. If you would like to learn more about solutions to help you efficiently organise and reuse your content, contact WoodWing Software.

The interview with Rob was conducted by Leonie May, Product Marketing Manager at WoodWing Software. Leonie develops and implements go-to-market strategies for WoodWing’s Enterprise product. Combining product and industry knowledge, she works between customers and the development team to ensure customer needs are met. 

The interview is published here as part of Woodwing’s sponsored content on FIPP.com.

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