How branded content is taking over magazine publishing

18 Feb 2014  |  Clare Hill 
How branded content is taking over magazine publishing

Branded content is at the forefront of the competitive magazine market, says the CMA's Clare Hill - but how did this happen, and where does it go next?

Last week's ABC results was another great moment for owned media, with content marketing titles dominating the results league table. The top three magazines in the UK all came from the discipline, with The National Trust, Asda and Tesco taking the coveted gold, silver and bronze positions.

In total, six of the top ten magazines in the UK belonged to own brands. Further demonstrating how placing magazines in store, in the right place, at the right time can be so effective, branded titles also delivered 70% of the circulation of the top ten magazines in the UK, reaching over nine million consumers, and 84% of the top five.

We know that owned media is the fastest growing media channel and that print continues to be an integral part of the mix for many major brands. Amongst this is retail, which continues to lead all sectors. In particular, grocery titles celebrated huge success; Asda recorded an impressive circulation of just under two million, closely followed by Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose, brands which all featured in the top ten.

The success of these magazines is in part due to the continuing trend of brands becoming publishers"

Waitrose Kitchen has seen a particularly meteoric rise with its circulation nearly doubling year-on-year and achieving the highest growth out of the top 200 magazines in the UK - especially remarkable given that this title has a cover price.

The growth of the channel is even more notable thanks to new entrants to the market; these included Pet People, which reaches over 500,000 consumers and sits just above Shortlist in the top 20 at number 12.

The high profile launch of Net-A-Porter's Porter magazine, which is priced at £5, is another example of how branded content and the content marketing discipline is at the forefront of the competitive magazine market. It crosses into the branded content category, and it will be fascinating to see how it fares against more established titles such as Vogue.

With more and more brands taking ownership of their own media channels, it's clear that consumers are continuing to invest their time in high quality editorial products.

Critics have argued that much of the success of content marketing magazines is down to the fact that many of them are free, but with Waitrose, a paid-for title, winning the prize for the highest growing magazine this year, doubters may be forced to rethink. High-end fashion glossy Porter may also add to this debate.

The success of these magazines is, in part, due to the growing trend of brands becoming publishers. There is evidence for this; recent industry research from content marketing agency Seven revealed that consumers think content from brands is the best way to help them select and buy products and services - more than outdoor, TV & radio ads.

It's all part of the step change we're seeing in content marketing, where increasingly consumers are interested in content from brands they trust."

57% said they felt more positive towards brands that generated content for them, which explains the 25% net increase in spend in 'owned media' in each of the two years and the fact that £4 billion is now spent annually on owned media in the UK.

This proof of the success of content marketing is driving a high awareness of the discipline from marketers; the latest research from Yahoo Advertising Solutions stated that 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.

The CMA's own research with TNS Global also found that those using content marketing spend approximately 20% of their budgets on it and it's their single most important channel.

Looking forward, although the longevity of customer magazines from brands such as Tesco and Waitrose is undoubtedly impressive, the growth of content publishing is not limited to print magazines and brands are aware of where their products need to go to next to continue their success in the competitive, but declining, consumer magazine market.

Tesco recently relaunched its magazine across multiple channels, allowing digital innovations to drive customer engagement beyond print. The new content includes an augmented reality cover and click-to-buys, so enabling customers to instantly buy products featured in the magazine via the online store using the Tesco Discover app. Customers can also use AR to access interactive recipe videos on YouTube.

And with a tablet edition, e-zines and food and lifestyle content across six social media platforms, it all means that digital and print integrate to deliver a new, exciting customer experience.

It's all part of the step change we're seeing in content marketing, where increasingly consumers are interested in content from brands they trust. This works in the favour of not just customer magazines, but the content brands are creating across multiple channels, making them a threat to be reckoned with.

Clare Hill is managing director of The Content Marketing Association.

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