At the tail end of the 80s, as a fledgling ‘new media’ emerged, media commentators foretold the demise of news weeklies.
Over 30 years later, the sector is thriving and current affairs titles now report some of the highest circulations in their history. Last year saw a 12.3 per cent rise in circulations in the last clutch of ABC figures and that's just the start.
It’s not just print that’s thriving, news brands are now leading the way with the successful development of paid-for digital editions.
We spoke to three of the sector’s biggest names to discover why it’s the news and current affairs titles that are making the headlines.
Laurie Benson is the EMEA Director for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets
“Financial and business news is such a global topic at the moment, yet the plethora of news sources creates almost too much choice for people. So trust and relevancy become increasingly important, with established media brands rising against the cacophony of online noise.
People are still reading, and so brand becomes more important than platform. Bloomberg Businessweek is available in print and tablet format as a bundle, so consumers have choice and can experience our brand either way.
Interestingly, our readership is growing in emerging markets, such as Turkey, the Middle East and Russia, where there is a need for a global news perspective, yet it’s the major markets where digital applications have most take-up.
We’ve had 529,000 downloads of our Bloomberg Businessweek app and more than 35 per cent of that is from outside the US, which demonstrates that the brand resonates globally and easily accessible digital platforms are attractive to regions outside the US.
People are still reading, and so brand becomes more important than platform
Commercially, budgets have migrated towards digital too and when times are tight there is this idea that there’s safety in digital advertising, where ROI can be easily demonstrated.
But that’s not necessarily the right medium for all categories of advertising and print has more glory days ahead, for sure.
Media owners do need to ensure they have extended access points across all platforms.
Bloomberg is better situated than many brands with our excellent news channel at the heart of all that we do – we continue to lead in this regard, our content wins awards and we extend our brand in compelling ways.”
Nigel Ludlow is the UK Managing Director of The Economist Group
“The success of news and current affairs magazines is not that sudden and if you look over a number of years, some of the best performing ABC titles have been in this sector.
We put this down to a shift in society, with more people interested in understanding the world better and also, more recently, the advent of tablets which are a great way to consume current affairs titles.
We describe it as a ‘lean back’ reading environment. If you remember when Apple launched the iPad, it used images of consumers leaning back, immersed in the iPad and that’s how we define The Economist’s reading experience – it’s that Sunday afternoon moment when you relax with a cup of coffee, pick up The Economist and catch up on news.
The news agenda is quite lively at the moment, from the Euro crisis, to Scottish independence, there’s plenty for our journalists to be exploring
Tablets are a great way to continue this tradition, offering even greater convenience with immediate delivery to your device.
We’re just beginning to get a sense of how audiences differ and while, broadly speaking, tablet readers are slightly younger, in terms of demography The Economist consistently attracts high professional achievers across media.
The news agenda is quite lively at the moment, from the Euro crisis, the wider malaise of the global economy, the US presidential elections to Scottish independence, there’s plenty for our journalists to be exploring.
The latter generated a huge spike in readership recently, both north and south of the border. In times of uncertainty, people look to established sources of information as a way to feel in control. The Economist is well regarded as a good place to look for answers.
In BRIC and emerging nations too, where postal distribution can be challenging, we’re seeing greater take-up of digital editions.
We used to spend thousands of pounds each year sending The Economist out on a Thursday night to our VIP list – now, with digital delivery, it’s instant and tablets are a great democratisation vehicle, creating access for everyone.
Advertisers are developing new techniques and unleashing their creativity to generate interactivity as they transition into digital.
We’re taking steps to be a leader in this trend and to deepen our readers’ engagement – we’ve developed an audio edition of The Economist, so people can listen when they go jogging or swimming. Readers are also able to share articles through social media and it’s the immediacy of content that creates even greater commercial opportunities.”
Kerin O’Connor is Chief Executive of Dennis Publishing’s The Week
“The news and current affairs sector has been booming for several years, we’ve enjoyed 27 consecutive ABC increases so our success has definitely been over the long-term.
I think one of the reasons for this is that news weeklies have a different role to daily newspapers – we offer an insightful round-up of global news which fits neatly into our readers’ weekends, when they have time to read more print.
Tablets are brilliant, intuitive devices. They provide a very handy reinterpretation of our print media products.
It’s completely different to a web desktop experience where people are typically searching, browsing or looking at email.
Our internal research showed that our tablet readers are virtually identical to our print subscribers in lifestyle, although they tend to be slightly more male.
Tablets are brilliant, intuitive devices. They provide a very handy reinterpretation of our print media products
To launch the app, we offered free downloads to all customers. The app went global immediately, and we currently stand at 106,00 downloads, of which, a ten per cent rise is in Asia for example.
Our overseas print subscriptions are at about six per cent, a figure which doubles for tablet to 12 per cent, so the app is definitely attracting new readers in new markets.
Tablet digital also offers great commercial opportunities. We’ve seen a lot of early movers in the motors and finance categories to use this new technology.
Also some of our luxury advertisers, those perhaps more traditionally associated with the high production values of print, are using cross-platform opportunities – we’ve run a highly successful partnership with Rolex called the Daily Briefing.
Publishers have to explore all opportunities across media to deliver the right solutions for both readers and advertisers.”