In a world of declining print subscriptions and dwindling markets, Future continues to launch print titles. Since the recent launch of their colouring magazines for adults, Colour Calm, six more licensed editions have been launched after only two issues. This October also sees the launch of Professional Photography, a magazine aimed at the high end photography market creating a solid platform for advertisers.
Regina Erak, international director for Future Plc, says the success achieved with these launches lies in not treating these titles as print-only magazines. They are managed as complete portfolios covering print, digital, special offers, events and workshops. It’s an approach that works well with special interest publications – Future’s core focus.
“We no longer license a magazine. We licence a complete business solution, she says. This approach has yielded good results. Future now operates in 70 countries and has more than 220 licensed editions worldwide. “In addition, we have a number of licensed websites, portals and also fast increasing number of syndication contracts and even our own special editions that we launched in Italy and Germany.”
Content at the heart
Special interest publications demand unique content – there is no place for compromises when building these types of brands. “Our content is at the heart of our growth. People stick with their hobbies and when you produce good magazines, it saves a good deal of time browsing for specialist content, which is not always easily accessible online. The key is innovation, in-depth and high quality premium content delivered with the right timing.”
It is also well suited for syndication and needs very little, or almost no adaptation. As Erak explains: “An iPhone is an iPhone; it does not care about the regional economy, political or cultural changes. Our content is written by experts for experts – and those who want to be experts. This formula works everywhere, especially where cost-effective solutions are required.”
How do they find partners the world over? “When planning licensed publications we source and match our products with clients who already have access to the local audience . We then build our businesses together. Effectively, we become their consultant. To do this successfully, you need to be a media expert; not a sales manager. You must understand your client’s requirements and implement solutions to their needs – this goes a bit beyond the simple sale of a license.”
Erak has very specific opinions about why print is in decline. “The print industry is guilty of accelerating their own decline by compromising editorial quality in the pursuit of cost savings and ignoring the needs of their audiences. The industry forgot that consumers are much more savvy and informed – and they have a choice. The power is theirs today! iTunes trained consumers to buy just what they want, and this did not stop with magazines. However, it gives bookazines a real advantage as they are targeted and do not disappoint in providing pre-selected content. There is no ‘noise’ in them, no fillers.”
Geographically, Erak sees the need to build a stronger business platform in Asia through digital and print partnerships and by strengthening their existing partnerships in China. “This is where I see the biggest opportunity over the next few years. It is an emerging market and in many of these countries special interest publications are only just beginning to become of interest.”
The company is also making successful inroads in India, where they have already – in partnership with Indian digital network Times Internet – launched TechRadar, bringing international news coverage and authoritative product reviews to Indian consumers. More recently they have launched gadget review magazine, T3 in collaboration with local publishing giant Infomedia 18, pushing monthly sales in 22 countries to well over 850,000.
But growth is not only about geographical expansion, says Erak. She believes future revenue growth will come from new sources. “Publishers will find other ways of licensing, syndicating not just content, but also business models – like e-commerce and affiliate models. Big data will provide more diverse revenue drivers. In essence, your readers and audience become your product. Revenues will also be generated through licensing platforms; not just content. Other industries, like retail, will not be be competitors but rather offer income opportunities.“
She also sees endless possibilities for mobile applications. “Apps will not only appeal to users, but also businesses and will be used for training. We are operating in a very interesting sector that will transform and reinvent itself. The product mix will look very different to what we knew three years ago.”
Innovation and digital platforms
With ‘information acquisition’ migrating to digital platforms in many parts of the world, Erak continues to see opportunities in areas where digital is not that well entrenched. “We have a massive playground and can target markets where digital is not yet that developed – and offer print. It goes back to my philosophy of matching products with markets.”
Digital platforms have added acres to the ‘playground’. “We gained new licensing models; for example we can now offer online content or entire websites or portals; and to a much larger client base. We are no longer restricted to only publishers, which opens up a myriad of opportunities.”
But opportunity and choice, do come with added complexity. “If you add the geographic view to this, it becomes more complex: licenses in Asia, bookazines in most of Europe, digital content in Europe’s Big Five, Australia and the US, digital versions in big language markets (English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, German), apps everywhere and for everybody – from consumer to business. The opportunities are almost too overwhelming…”
Erak believes this calls for streamlining deals and monetisation models – especially when taking into account the disruptive influence of social media generally and more specifically aggregated content applications. “We have to become more sophisticated in distributing content to existing platforms first and make that easy for clients. Even though Future is probably one of the most advanced in this, there is still incompatibility and quite a bit of adjustments are required. This is OK for larger clients, but solutions are needed for smaller scale partners with smaller budgets to get onto the digital ladder. We’re on it – watch this space!”
Erak’s immediate focus is on a management strategy to deal with content aggregator applications. “Doing business with content aggregators forces you to have a solid content strategy in place as they tend to operate mostly on revenue share deals and this could easily devalue your content. You need to select aggregators according to your needs and you need to ensure that you follow your strategy and don’t just become a free content supplier.”
The next big challenge is the need to translate content cost effectively into foreign language markets. Erak says she might have the answer. And if she cracks this Rosetta Stone, the future for Future will indeed be bright.
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