return Home

Why great editorial will always attract readers

Ed Needham, editor-in-chief of Coach Magazine on how to succeed in the free magazine arena.

Eight years ago decade ago I was present at a symposium about the future of magazines. Excited by the blog-powered publishing explosion that had already delivered Gawker, Boing Boing and many others, several panelists, myself included, predicted that soon printed based magazines would be history and would need to find a new home online.

Yet one panelist had a very different view. Mike Soutar had recently debuted the first of its free to read titles in Shortlist, and outlined a vision of the future that at the time was unique. Soutar predicted that there would be a rise in the number of free magazines distributed in urban areas to commuters and that this was business model that could deliver for publishers.

Freebie saturation?

As the years have gone by Soutar’s hunch has been proved right. In London 2015, it is now virtually impossible to spend any time near a tube station in rush hour without being offered a free magazine.

Where the indies had blazed a trail, the last three years has seen the mainstream publishers follow. Time Out became a freebie in 2012 and when Time Inc., announced that its flagship music title, NME, was to join the range of free papers, not too many industry insiders were that surprised.

Is there space then for other magazines to take the free distribution route? Dennis Publishing certainly thinks so. In autumn, it launched Coach, a magazine aimed at male consumers aged 25-45 (though it almost certainly has a strong following among middle-aged men) who care about health and fitness issues. The launch has been a significant success, with the publisher claiming that the title has impressed both readers and brands.

coach ()

Piloting Coach is one of the most experienced names in British men’s publishing. Ed Needham is probably best known to UK media as editor of FHM, however, he has also held senior editorial positions on Maxim and Rolling Stone in the US. 

Like many others in publishing Needham acknowledges that we may be nearing saturation point for free magazines. “Yes, in that it's limited by the number of days in the week and the amount of space available outside tube and rail stations, but they are distribution issues.”

However, he believes the key is that good editorial content will always find readers. “In terms of editorial opportunities, they are as plentiful as always, and especially with the demise of the paid-for men's market, advertisers are eager to explore new ways to connect with large numbers of men, as they are not exactly spoilt for choice. Coach stands out for a number of reasons – outstanding design, an engaging tone, genuine usefulness for people who want to do something active to change their lives, and being utterly of the moment, as people are growing weary of surrounding themselves with stuff and want experiences. "Buy something" is getting stale – "Do something" is what people are looking for.

Shifting demographics

One of the most interesting things about Coach is that it is among the first magazines to reflect the fact that age seems to have little to do with tastes and attitudes of British men. Many of its features are likely to appeal as much to twentysomethings working on the perfect body, as they are to MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) seeking new challenges on their expensive cycles.

It is that ‘can do positivity’ which Needham believes has been an important factor in shaping the editorial content of the magazine. “Age is less important than motivation, he argues. “Coach looks to appeal to a wide swathe of men commuting into and within London and makes no assumptions about people's tastes and wishes where health and fitness are concerned. One key insight is that you just can't generalise about these things anymore – knowledge of a person's age tells you nothing about their relationship to health and fitness.”

Needham also notes that the magazine has attracted a surprising number of women readers and that “very few copies get left on the tube - you're lucky to find a second hand one. People take it home with them.”

In addition to the print magazine Coach also boasts a website, though Dennis has been careful to optimise the editorial for the various platforms. “The content on those platforms (website, social media) is in the main specifically produced for those platforms and doesn't just recycle the print version.”

“Coach was conceptualised as a magazine first, to be read by people on their way to and from work, facing all the pressures and vexations of commuting in London, and the various worries about what work and returning home might hold – so it has to be an enjoyable, war, friendly, positive read.”

Ultimately 2016 could be a watershed year for the freebies. There are likely to be other launches, and it will be interesting to see how these affect both the established brands like Shortlist as well as the newbies like Coach and the NME.

More like this

Secrets of the top editors

Editorial or native advertising: The key to success is to be reader-centric

Shifting the editorial mindset to unlock revenues through video

  • Nordic warrior: transforming revenue models at Schibsted

    Norwegian-headquartered media giant Schibsted is often held up as a business that has transformed itself in recent years to remain relevant and thriving. Tor Jacobsen, SVP and chief consumer officer at Schibsted Media explains how the company has retained a focus on revenue generation during that transformation, and the role data is playing in driving growth.

    19th Jun 2019 Features
  • Finding a home at Penske Media, Rolling Stone 'poised to continue to tell world's most important stories... for decades to come'

    For over 50 years, Rolling Stone has been iconic in its coverage of music and popular culture, political journalism and commentary. From the Beatles' Magical Mystery tour to Shawn Mendes, Rolling Stone has covered the greatest rockstars, the hottest celebrities, the biggest political stories. Called a 'counterculture bible' by The New York Times, the magazine has launched careers, defined what was cool, inspired a rock song, been embroiled in controversy, and over the last two years, found a new home with Penske Media Corporation. 

    17th Jun 2019 Features
  • How to fix broken digital ad models

    Despite popular belief, subscriptions and paywalls will not be the silver bullet most digital publishers have been waiting for. Instead, publishers should be exploring innovation in digital advertising formats, said Jessica Rovello, co-founder and CEO, Arkadium, USA, at this year's Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin. She proposed four new formats as a good place to start.

    17th Jun 2019 Features
  • American and European publishers learn from each other as advertising models converge

    In March, I attended the FIPP Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin and left with the realisation that advertising-related problems in Europe are the same ones we’re facing in America: media fragmentation, a failing business model, fraud, and the emergence of social platforms that distribute our content for free and control the ad spend.

    12th Jun 2019 Features
  • How The New York Times' AI-driven data insight tool is informing ad campaigns

    For publishers, AI-driven tools have largely been used for editorial purposes, to write articles on themes like sports scores, weather forecasts and real estate sales. For example, Reuters uses an AI-based tool called NewsTracer to sift through millions of tweets in real time, to flag potential news stories, for its journalists. UK-based Reach does something similar, using an AI-based tool called Krzana to monitor 60,000 online sources to alert journalists to breaking news, and Forbes has tested an AI-based tool to draft stories for contributors. Publishers have also leveraged artificial intelligence to power content recommendations, to edit homepages, and for translation.

    10th Jun 2019 Features
  • Finding a home at Penske Media, Rolling Stone 'poised to continue to tell world's most important stories... for decades to come'

    For over 50 years, Rolling Stone has been iconic in its coverage of music and popular culture, political journalism and commentary. From the Beatles' Magical Mystery tour to Shawn Mendes, Rolling Stone has covered the greatest rockstars, the hottest celebrities, the biggest political stories. Called a 'counterculture bible' by The New York Times, the magazine has launched careers, defined what was cool, inspired a rock song, been embroiled in controversy, and over the last two years, found a new home with Penske Media Corporation. 

    17th Jun 2019 Features
  • How to fix broken digital ad models

    Despite popular belief, subscriptions and paywalls will not be the silver bullet most digital publishers have been waiting for. Instead, publishers should be exploring innovation in digital advertising formats, said Jessica Rovello, co-founder and CEO, Arkadium, USA, at this year's Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin. She proposed four new formats as a good place to start.

    17th Jun 2019 Features
  • A blueprint for successful change

    Martha Stone Williams, CEO of World Newsmedia Network, discusses how the media industry must adapt to embrace innovation, how data and measurement must be the cornerstone of strategy and direction, and successful media firms implement a culture of experimentation.

    10th Jun 2019 Features
  • Condé Nast International launches Vogue Business Talent

    Condé Nast International today announced the launch of Vogue Business Talent, a curated recruitment platform for professionals seeking opportunities with the world’s leading fashion brands. The new platform, launching with selected opportunities in London, New York, Paris, Milan and Hong Kong forms part of Vogue Business, the online B2B publication launched in January 2019.

    12th Jun 2019 Industry News
Go to Full Site