Why your title should adopt 360-degree feature packages

Recently I presented a paper to delegates at the AJE Magazine Conference at Edinburgh Napier on why 360-degree features are core skills for tomorrow’s journalists.

When writing my book, Business Strategies for Magazine Publishing, I found that surprisingly, some editors still publish their print articles online verbatim.

But I believe in order to thrive, magazine publishers must upgrade their editorial strategy and embrace 360-degree feature packages instead of regurgitating their content online.

Change is needed across magazine publishing and fast. . .

Moving away from regurgitation

My opinion is that it is madness to expect readers to buy a magazine when they can read the content for free online. Why would they?

Instead, the answer to widening participation and keeping readers engaged lies in adding value by enriching the audience’s experience, so I have developed the 360-degree feature package model, which is illustrated below.

Instead of coming up with angles, writers must think of articles in terms of themes. From the theme, the writer can then develop different angles – one for the print edition and a related piece for the online post. The package must include multimedia content such as short audio or video clips, as well as perhaps an infographic or slideshow to add more depth and value.

Cross-promotion of each element is crucial to widen audience participation and increase engagement. For example, the print element should include a short signpost at the end of the article highlighting the related online content and vice versa at the end of the online post.  Social media channels can be used to further promote the content.

The illustration below is an example of how to develop a 360-degree feature package.

This model is an updated version of my original illustration published in Business Strategies for Magazine Publishing (Hogarth, 2018, p61). It uses the theme of dementia to demonstrate how different angles can be developed to give comprehensive coverage – adding more depth, while also enriching the audience’s experience with a multi-media approach.

From my perspective

As a consultant, one of the first questions I’m usually asked is: how can we increase audience engagement?

The answer is simple. Those publishers who adopt the 360-degree feature model across their titles will not only enrich their content, they will also widen participation, thus increasing the publication’s overall value proposition.

Of course, adopting this editorial strategy will increases costs but it won’t blow the editorial budget in terms of training provisions or equipment.

Many graduates starting their careers are skilled multimedia journalists, plus there are numerous courses and online resources for freelance writers who want or need to broaden their range of skills. Moreover, little equipment is required to produce a feature package as video and audio clips can be recorded on the latest smartphones.

By expanding editorial boundaries, publishers can finally achieve multimedia coverage across their platforms – connecting the print editions with the website, ensuring that both are equally relevant.

If you would like to hear more about my 360-degree feature package model, please get in touch.

Take a strategic approach to advertising

My experience on the changes in advertising sales over the last decade has resulted in this latest article, How magazines can take a strategic approach to advertising, published in WNIP.

Researching this feature took me back to earlier in my career when the core magazine revenue came from copy sales and advertising.

So much has changed over the past couple of decades, yet I believe the fundamentals remain the same. Whether digital or print, advertisements must reflect the interests and values of the readership.

Therefore, to build a sustainable title with multiple revenue opportunities, a publisher must first develop a robust set of brand values – including trustworthiness – that puts the reader at the heart of everything. These values should then be strictly adhered to and applied across all aspects of the business.

Grow your ad revenue

To achieve growth in advertising sales publishers must adopt a reader-centric approach because to fully engage a readership, all copy must be relevant, valuable and trustworthy – whether it is advertising, editorial or sponsored content.

Bland and irrelevant content will result in a loss of engagement, which in turn will impact on advertising sales as well as advertiser retention figures. Moreover, irrelevant adverts are likely to be responsible for low response rates, causing the advertiser to move on to another source.

While there are certainly challenges surrounding advertising revenue, opportunities for growth are still aplenty. It just takes common sense and some insight.

“How would I counteract today’s decreasing advertising revenues? A few things would change, but the basic model of attracting the right advertiser to relevant products or services remains vital. Advertisers need high response rates, but these can only be achieved if adverts are targeted correctly.” Mary Hogarth

To find out more about my approach, read How magazines can take a strategic approach to advertising.

Guest lecture at Napier

Below is a video of my lecture to Masters students on the International Journalism for Media Professionals and also those taking MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University.

The theme was how to develop a successful magazine concept. Here are my five essential takeaways from the session:

  1. Spend time developing an in-depth business plan
  2. Don’t skimp on market research
  3. Critically evaluate your potential rivals
  4. 360-degree content is a must in this digital age
  5. Implement a ‘360 package’ advertising sales strategy

Never take a short-term approach when developing any media concept. Your business plan should be a route map – documenting not only where you want the magazine to be in five years but also identifying those critical strategies necessary for success.

To view the video, click Mary Hogarth at Edinburgh Napier.

PREREQUISITES FOR MAGAZINE START-UPS

When developing a new magazine concept having a deep connection with your subject is as important as securing funding. This was a key point of my talk to Masters students on the International Journalism for Media Professionals and also those taking MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier, where I had been invited for a guest lecture.

I can understand that this may seem odd to some. But think about it, any content-related creation developed by someone with a good idea, who only has a vague interest is unlikely to evolve into an articulate, well thought through product – be it a digital or print magazine.

On the other hand, those who come up with a concept because they are passionate about a subject want to share their knowledge. Such an approach usually leads to developing community – thus giving the publisher a much stronger chance of success.

What about the financial implications?

While finances are a significant factor, they are not the be-all and end-all of start-ups. Even today, new magazines can be established on a shoestring budget. Passion, on the other hand, is either there or it’s not.

Experience is a great teacher

During my time at Writer’s Forum (many years ago now), I worked with a small team. In those early days, money was tight, but we loved our magazine and so went to great lengths to make it successful.

At the time the publisher bought Writer’s Forum in 1999, it was a subscription-only, quarterly title, it then evolved into a monthly newsstand title with a readership of nearly 80,000.

How did we achieve this? By putting the audience at the heart of everything we did, starting from the premise of what do our readers want and need to be successful writers.

Resilience, problem-solving and a forward-thinking approach were key traits I developed during this time. For example, when the budget was insufficient to facilitate prizes, I found a way around it by seeking sponsorship and developing strategic partnerships.

I believe that it was our commitment to the magazine as a team that gave it a soul. Editorial pillars were carefully crafted, with only the best pitches gaining a commission.

Eight successful years followed until the title was sold back in 2007. The knowledge I gained during that time was invaluable. It was one of my first and hardest lessons to date on how to make a magazine work.

From a consultancy perspective

Experience has taught me that while finances are a crucial aspect, new start-ups are often able to overcome financial challenges if the concept is a strong one. However, enthusiasm and a need to share knowledge is there, or it’s not.

A key example of such commitment and a desire to build a community is The Mint. A couple of years ago, I helped Henry Leveson-Gower launch this title on a shoestring. To find out more about Henry’s incredible publishing journey, read the case study.

A lack of enthusiasm for the subject is why, in my opinion, that many lifestyle titles fail. Passion wains or boredom sets in, then content marketing starts to creep into the editorial – often resulting in a shell of a product that has little to say that is original or useful to its audience.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLATFORMS

Do you opt for digital with content spread across online and social media platforms? Or should you take a 360-degree approach putting content in print, online and social media platforms plus as a digital product?

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Do you opt for digital with content spread across online and social media platforms? Or should you take a 360-degree approach putting content in print, online and social media platforms plus as a digital product?

The answer should depend on your product – and how your audience is likely to consume the content. Each new editorial concept will have its unique requirements depending on those two factors.Continue reading “CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLATFORMS”

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