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Sue Todd 

Intention, attention and context: the new reality for magazines

Intention, attention and context: the new reality for magazines

Media LeadersMagnetic's Spark conference encompassed everything from the danger of quantification bias to the changing opportunities for publishers and advertisers with the cookie's demise.

As 2021 draws to a close and we all look forward to a more normal segue into next year, I’m struck by what Tom Standage the Editor of The Economist said in his recent editorial ‘2022 - the world ahead’.

“If 2021 was the year the world turned the tide against the pandemic, 2022 will be dominated by the need to adjust to new realities, both in areas reshaped by the pandemic and as deeper trends reassert themselves.”

From the new space race to crypto currencies growing up, the future of work and the new techlash, Standage outlines several trends that will no doubt affect and shape all of our business and personal lives to some extent or another in the next 12 months.

We of course have our own adjusted and new realities in the world of media and specifically magazine publishing.

At our recent Spark event, the extent of these changes and their impact on the magazine and publishing sector, was put under the microscope.

The discussion encompassed everything from the danger of quantification bias, to the changing opportunities for publishers and advertisers with the demise of the cookie, to consumer’s pursuit of mindful media moments.

Increase of intentional attention

As MediaCom highlighted in a new report, the lockdown sparked a massive growth in ‘intentional activities’ - or in other words, people more actively pursuing their passions. This trend shows no signs of abating, with an ongoing surge in interest for baking, gardening, fitness, walking, home improvement, cycling to name a few.

Gardening was listed as the second most popular activity during lockdown after watching TV, according to GlobalData research in May 2020 and the increases in circulation for BBC Gardeners World Magazine (36% year on year increase), Garden Answers (38%) and Garden News (17%) reflects this.

Our love of the outdoors saw a 5% year-on-year increase in circulation of National Geographic, and Country Walking had a 13.7% rise in subscriptions year-on-year (ABC Feb 2021).

Figures show that two-thirds (64%) of people surveyed say that exercising is a priority for improving their physical and mental health in the wake of coronavirus (British Heart Foundation, 2021) And with an increasing focus on fitness, Hearst UK’s health and wellness brands (Women’s Health, Men’s Health and Runner’s World) were up 110%, 99% & 100% for e-commerce revenues in the first half of 2021.

These passion points provide advertisers with a golden opportunity to leverage immersive, slower content environments, which actively attract audience attention and drive purchase.

Underpinning these behavioural shifts are significant attitude changes which suggest they are here to stay. Data from Group M’s global live panel reveals the extent to which consumers' values and priorities have changed, with 59% of people saying ‘what they thought was important has changed since the pandemic’

This can only be good news for those businesses directly in the passion space but also advertisers who understand and are looking to leverage the highly-trusted environments within and around such sought after and valued content.

Meaningful content influences attention

How we understand attention as an industry is evolving. Attention is a finite resource, and in a world where there is seemingly endless information, attention is a scarcity.

Research has shown that the more attention paid to the content, the more attention is paid to the advertising. This is a superpower of magazine media as audiences will spend focussed time with the content

Publishers grow ever more competent and able to weave tailored and highly-targeted messages around relevant content that really matters to the audience. Their insight fuels the right content which partners such as Peugeot benefit from.

Bauer knew that readers of Car and Grazia were particularly open-minded to electric cars, being 2x and 1.7x the national average in considering an EV for their next car. This led to a highly effective partnership with Peugeot, raising brand awareness amongst this target audience.

Visit Scotland looked to magazine media to demonstrate the country’s appeal for a holiday by different audiences and make it highly relevant within different specialised content environments, and this is where publisher’s sweet spot for brands resides.

Immediate’s diverse mix of print and digital editorial titles were leveraged within BBC History, BikeRadar, BBC Good Food and BBC Top Gear to develop content that had some great engagement rates and results for the client.

New wave of commercial opportunities

The commercial offering from publishers continues to grow.

Magazine brands now have a better understanding of how their audiences engage with their content (and its advertising) – and can offer more granular insights of the effectiveness of campaigns in their titles.

Hearst talks passionately about the intersection between purpose and performance, or put another way, doing good by their audiences as well as their customers. A campaign between Cosmopolitan and NatWest was a great example of such an approach.

Finance is an unemotive category amongst the under 35s – with very few of them willing to engage in a financial conversation. Hearst chose to try something completely different for NatWest – creating the Home Made House in Manchester – offering five young women the opportunity to live in the city centre, rent-free for a year. They demystified some of the more confusing parts of finance, showing that change is possible. The results were strong with 80% of those surveyed agreeing that NatWest was the number-one most favourable bank for them.

These strong content solutions are enhanced by increasingly sophisticated ecommerce tools, new first party data platforms and shoppable features on digital and print properties.

Context in the post-cookie landscape

Shazia Ginai of Neuro-Insight reaffirmed the value of context in a post-cookie world. The opportunity to match your message to editorial topics to deliver higher levels of memory encoding, which translates to future action – a positive for all advertisers.

Context allows advertisers to leverage long-term memory encoding – the part of the brain which influences future decision making and behavioural change, key for effective advertising. These topics speak to other parts of our brain as they reflect our idea of self and what we are interested in.

Messages that naturally fit alongside these bits of content that our brain is looking for, stand a higher chance of achieving long-term memory encoding – which can translate to future action.

5. Efficiency does not equal effectiveness

Rory Sutherland closed with a typically fresh look at some aspects of the media industry that might not make as much sense as first appears.

“The Doorman Fallacy happens where a business swaps their “doorman” for an automatic door. They can then claim that the expense of buying an automatic door has saved them in the long term by cutting out the doorman’s salary.”

“The problem here is that a doorman isn’t simply there to open a door. Brilliant humans are often much more valuable than brilliant technology.”

“And so advertising is more than just transmitting information - just as a doorman isn’t just there to open a door. The persuasive power of advertising doesn’t come from the content alone, it comes from the context”.

Rory also underlined the role of public advertising versus individual messaging in his talk. We saw how signalling theory works to imbue a message with greater significance and increase the likelihood of achieving attention.

Magazine brands mean much more to today’s advertisers now – offering a chance for brands to get the best of both worlds; building digital connections with consumers that achieve added accountability and opportunities for active purchasing, while also realising the contextual power of a one-to-many authentic and highly trusted discovery opportunity in print.

Sue Todd is CEO of Magnetic. For more insights from Spark 2021, rewatch the full programme here.

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