Idealog: ‘Pirouetting’ our way to greatness

Big changes are afoot here at Idealog. Here's what's happening. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but...

Idealog has been focusing on creative business, innovation and entrepreneurialism in New Zealand for over ten years and a big community of interest has grown around the brand in that time, from the tinkerers hoping to create the Next Big Thing to major corporations looking for some secret innovation sauce that might help them deal with impending disruption. At the heart of that community has been a physical product, the magazine, and there is a very strong emotional attachment to it. We love making magazines and, as evidenced by the constant stream of awards we’ve won over the years, we make them pretty bloody well. The latest edition featuring Stolen Rum on the cover is no different. But times have changed and the market doesn’t love them quite as much as we do. So, in the spirit of all good innovators, we’re pivoting (or, as we prefer to say, pirouetting). 

Here’s what we’re doing. 

Themed, more targeted print products:

When you’re trying to protect a legacy, it’s hard to build a new one. So rather than continuing to publish a regular magazine and then desperately trying to fill it with advertising, we’re now going to publish three special editions of Idealog throughout the year. These editions will be focused on specific themes, namely technology, innovation and design, the three major areas of editorial focus and reader/advertiser interest. Export is a theme that will run across all three issues.

We plan to publish these special issues in June, November and March respectively and they will be distributed to the entire Idealog subscriber base, who will still find value in the content. We will also extend our targeted circulation approach and expand the audience to specific sections of the business community who we think will find the themed editions relevant.

There’s very little change for subscribers. Whatever they have paid for, they will get, but because the frequency has changed, it might just take a bit longer to get it. We will still be selling subscriptions to Idealog in print and offering retail sales, although, because we’re taking a more targeted approach, the distribution will now be limited to around 40 locations, down from over 200 previously.

And there’s not much change for advertisers, either. They will still be able to distribute their material in these printed products, whether in the form of brand advertising, advertorial or more sophisticated branded content campaigns. And with advertisers demanding accountability and aiming to limit wastage, zeroing in on these three verticals in print is a way to ensure their messages are more relevant to the target audience.

Print simply isn’t the most effective way to disseminate information anymore. But it is still one of the most powerful, and these days the best print products are also beautiful objects. So we are increasing our budgets for print production.

Each themed issue will also be linked to an event. And we see a need to create print products so that attendees can take something home with them.

We are certainly not giving up on print. It will remain a very important part of our business. But we are adapting our model to make print more tactical, more beautiful, more thematic and more aligned to certain high-points around the year.

Put simply, we’re aligning our content proposition with our distribution strategy.

Digital focus

As well as the financial cost of creating a magazine, there is also a major opportunity cost. We have a small (but perfectly formed) team and the demands of the regular print schedule have hindered us from fully embracing online publishing and trying to deliver more stories in different, more appealing, more innovative ways. With fewer print products to create, this gives us an opportunity to ramp up our focus online and create more podcasts, more online video, more data visualisations, more animated logs, new digital products, and other things we probably haven’t thought of yet.

Our audience is interested in creativity, technology and innovation and over-indexes in trying new things, so it’s not entirely surprising that Idealog.co.nz has a much bigger audience online than the magazine does in print (in February, Idealog had a monthly audience of 47,000 unique browsers and hit its high water mark in February this year with an audience of 105,000 UBs. Across our Tangible Business Network websites idealog.co.nz, stoppress.co.nz and theregister.co.nz, we reach an audience of around 110,000 business decision makers). Our social footprint is also very large and we have built a vibrant community on those platforms. But because we have been focused on making and selling a print magazine, we have undercooked the commercial opportunities online and there is much more potential to grow the audience and expand our repertoire.

The brand is now much bigger than a magazine. For a big chunk of our audience, their interactions with Idealog are through the website, our social channels or our events. This shift in media consumption habits is only set to continue, so there’s little room for nostalgia. And, because clients now have so many options at their disposal to reach audiences, marketing activity doesn’t need to be dictated by the schedule of media suppliers. There is, however, a need to be always-on and focusing on what we can create for our online community allows us to work with clients in a way that fits their schedule, rather than our increasingly antiquated, self-imposed publishing cycle.

Client-centric

Increasingly, brands and their agencies are looking for more than just a display campaign. Content marketing is proven to be a great way to create new demand and it works very well alongside ‘traditional’ advertising, which is often a way to fulfill existing demand. At Tangible Media, we are increasingly being asked to use our editorial skills to create content for brands that runs in our own media channels and, in many cases, create completely new owned media channels for clients. StopPress and NZ Marketing have created engaging content for Bauer, KPEX, the MPA and many others and NZ Retail/The Register has a successful joint publishing venture with Retail NZ. We see an opportunity for more of this in the broader business space, so rather than retrofitting a client problem into our print-focused business model, we want brands and their agencies to brief us on their problems and let us come up with solutions that suit.

Idealog has told the stories of AUT, NZTE, AJ Park, Vodafone, the NZ Innovation Council, Orion and many other clients for over ten years. And we have used our editorial skills to create significant content campaigns for Alcatel Lucent, Fonterra and Barkers.

More broadly, Tangible Media has been increasingly moving in the direction of making what we can sell, rather than selling what we make. We create owned media for Resene, Green Cross Health, Asaleo and Liquorland; we have created successful content campaigns for the likes of Kapiti, DeLonghi and Tourism Australia; and we are currently working with Chorus, Pumpkin Patch and many others to help make their owned media channels better. This is what the market is asking for and we have a history of creating media that offers the win-win-win: good for the reader, good for the brand and good for the publisher.

If you build it, they don’t always come, however, so distribution is still crucial and that’s why having our own vibrant media channels is still important. There are still options to distribute content in the three themed print issues of Idealog, but we see more opportunity to embrace quality branded content in the digital arena, following a similar approach to digital-first media brands like Quartz.

Consultancy

Idealog has a history of celebrating innovation. And we have learned a lot about it in over ten years of publishing. So we are in the early stages of creating a consultancy product and are looking to partner with friends of the Idealog family to conduct bespoke trend and innovation briefings for clients.

In a way, Idealog magazine is a trend briefing in a different format. We pick the best, most interesting, most innovative stories and package them up into one tangible item so that readers will be inspired or learn something. As such, it needed to be fairly broad to appeal to everyone. But we want to take our knowledge directly to clients and tailor information to them, rather than hope they take the time to read a magazine.

So many clients are head-down in their own business and often don’t have time to look at the bigger picture. We are constantly looking at the bigger picture and, like innovation magpies, picking out the shiny things. So we think our educated views on the changing world can instruct businesses on what they need to be thinking about if they want to succeed in this fast-changing business environment.

Idealog’s mission statement – to support and bolster New Zealand’s knowledge economy – won’t change. But the way that mission statement comes to life will. We think it’s a logical shift that will set us up for the future. We hope you agree.

Ben Fahy, publisher/editorial director.

Any questions, get in touch