Magazines reinvented

Geoff Tan cropped ()

Tell us what led you to embark on your transformational journey – what market trends had you identified and how early did you seize that opportunity compared with others in the market?

We’ve always had our eye on the future from the earliest of days. Although we may not have had the breadth and depth of the ideas we have today, our forward thrust as a regional magazine publisher of choice was to constantly look at new ways to continually augment the business in line with the changing needs of our readers, subscribers and advertisers. 

Digital has definitely played a major role in how we have moved the business from a uni-dimensional perspective to an omni-directional one. Our SPH Magazines 360 focuses not only on deliveries across print, online, and tablet but also include experiential events, content marketing and targeted sponsorships. We have since innovated further from a vertically-driven approach, where we market one title across multiple touch points, to a horizontally-oriented one where we help brand owners amplify their product propositions across our audience network.

The comprehensive suite of over a hundred leading magazine titles, cutting across a multiplicity of genres, accords us an edge in reaching out to specific consumer clusters, which advertisers desire to connect and engage with. SPH Magazines’ three audience clusters, luxury central, network of women, & men’s zone, deliver an aggregated reach of more than nine million consumers. 

Can you share a flavour of your strategy – how you create and monetise your content now and how that is delivering more value for audiences and partners?

Our strategies are multi-pronged and not necessarily based on content alone. We’ve built upon the traditional print infrastructure to bring new, novel, and creative ways for advertisers to present their messages. These could range from special ad buys to image recognition technology, from scented fragrance strips to tactile executions, from story-telling through to augmented reality.

Horizontal monetisation, however, looks very much at how our content can be effectively amplified across a host of connective touch-points such as tablet, smartphone, web, and being able to harness revenues from sponsorships, videos placements, dynamic interstitials, e-commerce, and more. With increasingly in-depth profiling of our readers, we are also able to stage targeted events and encounters for our advertisers, which in turn deliver value to all parties concerned. 

Trying to grow our business organically is but only one part of the entire monetisation equation for us. Collaborations with the right partners to bring the market timely and relevant solutions closes the loop on the revenue front.

You moved from a focus on circulation to engaging audiences, you embraced new platforms as you moved away from singular print and you adopted a ‘start-up’ mentality. How difficult was it to change the culture and the talent in the business to achieve that and what were the other challenges?

As we are all too well aware, changing the culture across a legacy organisation comes with its own fair share of challenges. The success we enjoyed in the past, and still do today but perhaps a little more muted, forms a significant part of the ‘baggage’ we have had to deal with when it comes to augmenting mind sets that will guarantee us a place in the future. Inculcating a ‘start-up mentality’ across our business is but one of many levers we have employed that will augur us well for the digital age of the now.

Our sales teams have moved away from selling inventory to selling solutions, from transactional order taking and processing to consultative, strategy-led interactions, from telling customers about our features to bringing to light the benefits they will derive from our mutual collaboration and partnership.

Can you elaborate a little more on inside out vs outside in?

In the days when media was a whole lot simpler, where above-the-line elements were clearly differentiated from those that were below-the-line, where readers had only a few choices when it came to the publications available for their consumption, publishers adopted more an inside-out approach. Journalists and reporters across their areas of specialty wrote about what was trending and published these stories from a singular perspective.

In our connected and wired world where our immediate reference point is a search engine, consumers now hold the power of thorough and empirical research and information in their hands and keypads. Such knowledge is also fuelled by voluntary and sometimes loud inputs from like-minded communities via social media networks and citizen journalism.

So for media houses and publishers, it’s no longer about delivering a uni-directional message or story to the consumers and then having that embraced unequivocally. It’s about always keeping the consumer at the heart of what we do, learning what drives them and what’s keeping them awake at night and delivering something that resonates with them. And crafting that within the voice and ethos unique to a magazine brand, and through that, hold fast to the special relationship of trust between a magazine and its readers.

Geoff Tan will speak at FIPP Asia-Pacific on 27-28 September in Singapore.

Singapore Press Holdings is a member of FIPP.

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