Transforming a 90 year-old print brand the Good Housekeeping way

Lindsay Nicholson, editorial director and Judith Secombe, group publishing director told attendees at The PPA Festival in London today that meeting audience needs has required “fundamentally changing the shape of our business”.

The digital journey

Nicholson and Secombe described Good Housekeeping’s transformation, which has included introducing a new digital subscription model and the launch of an Institute in London.

When building a digital proposition, Nicholson and Secombe said brands need to continually revisit audience needs. “Information gathering, listening and tweaking is the single most useful thing we did throughout our digital build,” they agreed.

Via research, the brand discovered its users wanted to get information (in Good Housekeeping’s case, this amounts to product reviews and recipes) as well as requiring “end-to-end” journeys – e.g. the facility to click-and-buy in the same environment.

The shop window

The construction of Good Housekeeping’s Institute in London means the brand now has access to a cookery school and demonstration kitchen, a bespoke testing area and a dedicated cookery and beauty testing space. “It’s a fabulous shop window,” said Nicholson.

The brand “switched to 360 working” 18 months ago, and launched a new website in November last year. This involved training the print team to “work 360”, where there were lots of new skills to be learned, according to Nicholson. She said: “There were culture differences between the print and digital teams and a big challenge was that print people were used to fixed deadlines. Digital is a more of an iterative process.” In order to facilitate this change, the brand appointed a workflow director to help the team understand what content to provide, when. “The digital pig is quite hungry,” said Nicholson. I can’t stress how much content you have to produce.

The brand has also spent time uploading old content from its archives to enhance the offering – much of which has been completed by a team of students. “This is still a work in progress,” said Nicholson.

And although Good Housekeeping’s “core audience” is still vital, they’ve realised there is potential outside of it. “Throughout the transformation we had our core customer in mind, but realised there was a whole new market out there. We stopped worrying about our core audience so much, while still wanting to protect and nurture the print product.” Keeping the “core audience” (some of which don’t use the internet) has involved launching a new quarterly print product – Tried and Tested. It’s added “tangible value to our package,” according to Nicholson.

Digital transformation lessons

  • Timing and budget – takes longer than you think and costs more money. Be prepared for this
  • Research behaviour – it’s all about this rather than audience
  • Be prepared to change – you don’t have to stick to it
  • Encourage proximity between print and digital teams

Story by Amy Duffin

Hearst UK is a FIPP member company.

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