Transforming one of the UK’s best-loved magazine media brands

Some will argue heritage can be a drag in the new media world, but for Immediate Media’s Radio Times in the UK, it is not. 

FIPP’s Cobus Heyl asked Kathy Day, the managing director of Radio Times, to tell FIPP’s global audience more about the brand and its road map to success.

Radio Times collage ()

Day talks about amongst other things

  • How there is minimal crossover in audience between the print and website brand
  • How they are growing print and digital revenues, and how programmatic ads revenue has soared in the past 12 months
  • How they have built a growing transactions and data business, generating revenue from travel, financial services and ecommerce
  • How they’re taking advantage of the opportunities things time-shifted viewing and streaming (e.g. Netflix) bring
  • And…how she would respond to the question, “What is a magazine?”, today

For those users around the world uninitiated to Radio Times, tell us more about the brand?

Radio Times is the world’s longest running TV and radio listings magazine, celebrating its 92nd anniversary in 2015. It is the UK’s bestselling quality magazine, as it has been since its launch.

Every week Radio Times delivers the best quality TV and radio interviews, news, photography, recommendations and listings in the business. And Radio Times is evolving, the award winning has had a record breaking year in terms of traffic and revenue, with 7.1 million visitors coming to the site in January 2015, our daily recommendations app DiscoverTV won two industry awards last year and is now available on all platforms. 

Radio Times is available in print (newsstand sales and subscriptions), online and via mobile apps. What is the reader/user-ship across these channels?

Total print sales 783,042 (ABCs Jul-Dec 2014), Radio Times has more weekly subscribers than any other title in the UK with over 255,000 in February 2015. had, a record-breaking, 7.1 million unique users in January, with more than 30 million page impressions.

Is there a big overlap between audiences across the different channels? 

Encouragingly, the growth of our digital footprint is bringing a new audience to the brand – the crossover between the magazine and website is minimal at just five per cent, with an average age of 41 compared to 55 for the magazine.

Rather than imitate the print product, has forged its own unique tone aimed at people who want to know the latest TV news, what is on tonight, or what they can catch up on from yesterday – but the Radio Times brand values of trust, authority and journalistic integrity remain at its heart.  

92 years after it first launched, Radio Times is said to still be one of the UK’s most profitable titles. What are your main revenue streams, and how do they contribute to overall profitability? How did this picture evolve over the last three years?

Revenues are in growth across both print and digital.

Our revenue mix is traditional in some respects; in print we generate significant copy sales revenues across both newsstand and subscription and significant print advertising, both from endemic and non-endemic clients. Our digital business model is advertising led, and we’ve seen a high level of growth in programmatic volume over the past 12 months. Additionally we’ve built a strong and growing transactions and data business, generating revenue from travel, financial services and ecommerce.

With print volumes as high as they are, our revenue mix is still very much dominated by print, however our digital revenues are growing fast in line with our audience and, most excitingly, allowing us to monetise a new and younger audience without cannibalising existing print revenue.

You mention ecommerce. I read much of the success is driven by the so-called “generation wealth” (older, affluent users). There is often a lot of talk about the millennial generation and their proficiency online, so I found this interesting. Tell us more?

We’ve grown what used to be a reasonably small off-the-page-reader-offers business into a significant ecommerce and transactional business offering travel, financial services and books/music/films to our audiences.

We work in partnership with third parties, sharing the risk and rewards, and our success depends to a large extent on our use of data, both first and third party, to drive insights into our users’ behaviour so that we can do a better job of delivering marketing messages and the right products for their needs.

We have big plans to grow this area of our business – broadening our offer into new areas, optimising our acquisition and conversion metrics, and taking advantage of the enormous growth we’re seeing in digital audiences to reach new consumers.

Radio Times website ()

I understand Radio Time’s web audience (at has grown 70 per cent in the past year. What are top drivers behind this success?

  1. Our content strategy. We have a very strong team who understand how to reach new audiences with our news and entertainments coverage, and are delivering just what audiences want, just when they want it, day after day.
  2. Our audience acquisition strategy. We’re seeing particularly strong growth across search, but in particular social. Our teams have done a very good job indeed of engaging with communities of interest across Facebook and Twitter to ensure that our content gets huge amplification, which in turn drives inbound traffic.
  3. Mobilisation, a process we’ve invested heavily in over the past 12 months, has helped us to take advantage of the huge amounts of time spent on mobile by our audiences. We’ll shortly be fully responsive, but our news content went responsive last year, and we’re seeing huge uplifts in traffic as a result.
  4. A focus on engagement. We’re spending a lot of time focussing on retention and engagement, and it’s paying dividends. Why invest in acquiring audiences if you’re not prepared to spend time encouraging them to stick around?

How much of it is driven by mobile, and do you have a particular strategy focused on mobile given the target audience?

Mobile has seen significant growth, with mobile representing 35 per cent of all traffic and mobile and tablet combined over 55 per cent. That trend can only continue, so we’re anticipating that and preparing for it. 

We see the opportunity to engage with users across multiple platforms at different times of the day to satisfy differing information needs as being a crucial part of building an engaged relationships with our consumers. We believe that there are significant opportunities to create value from doing so.

Which social media channels do you use, what’s the main thrust/focus in social and how do they work for you?

Facebook is our biggest social acquisition channel, although we also use Twitter. Our strategy is fairly simple – we’ve built significant followers across both platforms and these drive big traffic volumes. However we also actively engage with communities of interest, particularly on Facebook, to ensure that our content is broadcast to audiences who don’t necessarily follow us. The impact of that can be significant – a recent post on the Mr Bean Facebook page, for example, generated over 300,000 likes and over 30,000 views of an exclusive piece of content we’d published. Almost all of that audience was new.

Data is gold. Can you tell us about how you use data to drive performance?

We’re building a single customer view with our first party data, using CACI, and we’re using that data to power insights, hone marketing messages and grow subscriptions volume, with considerable success.

We’re using a DMP (data management platform), Krux, to use behavioural data to grow valuable segments of audience across our online properties, allowing us to move away from a content sell, and towards an audience sell. For example if you want to target parents with toddlers at home, you can now do so across BBC Good Food, Radio Times and Gardeners World, in addition to our parenting site, MadeForMums. 

What are the differences between your content strategy in print and online? And similarities?

For Radio Times the main difference is that [online] we have the ability to go beyond our traditional remit in print – guidance and high quality features, to explore entertainment content in different ways. Given that the audience is younger, we can also deep dive into programmes or genres that might not get the same level of attention in print, but for which we know there’s large online demand.

However despite this our core proposition remains the same – we’re here to solve the problem of what to watch on television this evening, and we deliver high quality listings data and best in the business guidance equally across print and digital. We’re taking full advantage of the opportunity digital gives us to reflect changing viewing habits – use of PVR, time shifted viewing and the growth of on demand providers, such as Netflix.

What “types” of content drives the most engagement?

There are certain subjects that always work well – particularly for us Dr Who. However the content types which are working well at present include quizzes, polls and contests. It isn’t unusual for a poll or championship (where readers vote, for example for their favourite TV stars) to generate upwards of 15 million votes.

How do you leverage different channel experiences/requirements to drive the overall Radio Times brand experience and value proposition?

By understanding our audiences and delivering high quality content in whichever way they wish to consume it.

Internally, how have you organised your content, commercial and tech teams to achieve objectives?

Whilst the digital content team will take some content from the magazine, for some time we’ve operated a completely independent editorial team with remit to cover content online as they see fit, cogniscent of the different requirements of a digital audience. The digital team work outside of the rhythm of a weekly magazine team. We’ve recently started to extend our coverage to early mornings, evenings and weekends and that’s paying dividends too.

From a tech perspective, whilst there’s some horizontal areas of specialism coming from central teams, for the most part we believe in brand led structures with a self contained team encompassing the spectrum of development disciplines. We’ve found that the most effective way to keep up momentum as we grow our audiences and content proposition.

If someone has to ask you what a “magazine” is today, how would you respond?

We don’t think of ourselves as a magazine. We think of ourselves as a powerful brand delivering customers with a high quality content proposition in a variety of formats. Radio Times is a trusted brand that translates across print, digital, books and experiences.

Are there any new plans afoot for Radio Times in the next 12 months you can share with us?

Plenty! We have big plans, particularly for digital development. You’ll have to watch this space for the detail, I’m afraid.

Don’t miss

  • Stuart Forrest, digital publisher of Radio Times, at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin on 23-24 March 2015 (or if you can’t make it there, we will report on his session on
  • Tom Bureau, CEO of Immediate Media, at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Canada from 13-15 October 2015

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Get in touch

Cobus Heyl is FIPP’s chief content officer and marketing manager. Get in touch with him via or on Twitter.

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