UM London's week-long inquiry into future of the press. Here are their conclusions.

By Alice Moran | cOMMUNICATIONS mANAGER

UM London

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Empire article

April 27, 2012 | 8 min read

This week, UM London has welcomed some of the most prominent figures and brands in the industry to come in and talk to the agency about the future of press. It’s all part of the agency’s inaugural ‘Press Week’, which was designed to highlight the latest innovations in the world of press and open up the debate around the changing role of newspaper brands.

“The world of print has changed dramatically over the last few years, with developments in technology playing a major role in how consumers and advertisers are using and interacting with the medium,” said UM London head of press, Eve Samuel-Camps.

“Press week is all about inspiring the agency to take full advantage of the innovation and creativity that press allows, and what better way to do that than to invite some of the industry’s most respected spokespeople to come and inspire us,” she added.

A predominant theme spanning all of the talks throughout the week was the fact that we should no longer be talking about magazines and newspapers, but about magazine and newspaper brands. Whilst there is still, and always will be, a place for the printed word, it is now crucial that any newspaper or magazine brand takes a cross-platform approach and has a sophisticated digital strategy – as more and more readers are consuming news stories online and on the move.

Apps featured prominently, with varying thoughts on the most effective way to package and display tablet versions of magazines and papers. It is still clearly an area that is very much open for debate, as publishers and advertisers are navigate their way through the ever changing technologies and measurement systems available.

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Paywalls were also a regular subject for debate, with an over-arching opinion that the more subtle versions (ie ones that allow you a set amount of content free of charge, but offer fuller content only to subscribers) are proving to be the most successful models.

The following is a breakdown of what happened each day:

Monday

The week kicked off in style with a Heat and Closer-sponsored red carpet, where staff donned their glad rags, practiced their pouts and entertained the surrounding paparazzi.

We then heard from Tom Standage, digital editor at the Economist – who discussed how the magazine has taken its print heritage into the digital era. The way that the Economist filters, analyses and packages the week’s news is now completely lined up across print, digital and mobile – and the digital element is helping the title to reach a new audience (77% of subscribers to the Economist online have never had a print subscription).

Standage affirmed how the Economists subscribers are ‘subscribers to the content, not the platform’, but highlighted the growing prominence of digital platforms. Analytics have indicated that Economist readers spend much more time reading the iPad version than they do reading the printed magazine, which suggests that the former provides a more immersive experience. He also said that whilst 80% of current subscribers say they prefer to read in print, we will see a complete turnaround within two years, by which time he predicts 65% will prefer digital.

Tuesday

After tucking into some METRO-sponsored bacon butties and other breakfast delights, the agency welcomed Condé Nast; with another illustrious panel of digital director Jamie Jouning, publishing director Jamie Bill and GQ creative director Paul Solomons. They discussed the importance of brands being multi-platform, and highlighted the huge growth that both GQ and Vogue have seen over recent years as a result of the publisher’s continued investment in digital.

Bill said: “If a title has ambitions to reach its full potential it will need to be published on a variety of platforms. That said, I think there will always be a place for beautifully produced print magazines but they will, through necessity, be niche.”

Paul Solomons talked about the time and effort that had gone into creating the beautiful GQ app, and highlighted the importance of making these apps as user-friendly and easy to navigate as possible.

As proof that the UM Press Team had lined up figures really in the thick of it all, our talk from the Guardian on Tuesday afternoon had to be postponed, as our speaker was called to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry!

Wednesday

Bauer kicked off today’s sessions with a presentation of their recent study into the value of talk. The study provides some fascinating insights into how women’s talk is becoming much more diverse and influential and how there is a really valuable opportunity for magazine brands to become part of those conversations. The study talks around five key insights, packaged in a refreshing way. They are:

• The world of women’s talk is like theatre … they stick to the script while on stage, but backstage is where the real conversations happen

• Social Media is like the new school playground… you can eavesdrop and gossip, but you always watch your back

• Women’s conversations are like their handbags… often cherished with endless content, and they take them wherever they go

• Women’s talk is like an orchestra… whereas men’s talk is like tennis. Each woman plays a different part but achieving harmony is what really matters

• Gossip is like a GPS... it helps navigate their world and the people in it.

We also heard from Jane Bruton, editor of Grazia, on the role that magazines like Grazia can play in starting conversational trends. Grazia readers are thought to be key influencers when it comes to conversation, which could be very valuable for brands.

In the afternoon, it was over to the boys, where we heard from Nuts editor Nick Soldinger. He emphasised how much the men’s magazine market has been hit by the recession – given that their prime audience of 18-24 year old males are amongst the hardest hit with the economic downturn. Smith’s passion for Nuts was clear, as he spoke of how “as an editor, I owe it to my readers to produce content that is as dynamic, interesting and fascinating as possible”.

Soldinger was joined by Diane Kenwood, who spoke up for the future of printed magazines, saying that “nothing will replace the intimacy” that they offer.

Thursday

Amidst the surrounding controversy of the Leveson Inquiry, News International joined us on day four of Press Week, with a stimulating panel discussion from three key players at The Times: Hamish White, Dylan Wyn Pugh and Hector Arthur.

Initial talk was around the Paywall, which Arthur admitted was a hugely controversial move at the start of the process – one that created a huge amount of scepticism around whether it could actually work. It clearly has worked, as proved by its 130,000+ subscribers, and the one thing that has always been there with the Times is a clear and firm belief in the value of their journalism.

Having such a digital focus has clearly opened up a lot of doors for the Times. There has been an increase in the exposure of journalists to more robust analytics about what consumers are reading and commenting on across different digital platforms, which in turn allows journalists to react quickly and develop new content in accordance to what is trending.

There was a lot of talk about the Times tablet app, and the interactive & entertaining advertising opportunities it opens up to brands. As with other publishers we had heard from, the panel stressed the importance of working collaboratively and very closely with brands and agencies to develop campaigns that would be interesting and compelling for consumers and that would integrate well with the surrounding editorial.

Later on we heard from Anthony Noguera, founder of special projects media agency Ai, who spoke of his latest venture: tablet magazine Industria. Noguera hailed all things Apple, and of the ability of the iPad to provide the most compelling, interactive, creative and visually-inspiring creative – both editorial and commercial.

The day ended with an Empire Film Quiz, which quickly spilled over into the local pub.

Friday

The week ended with an early morning (well, 9.30am) talk from Rufus Olins, recently appointed CEO of the Newspaper Marketing Agency (NMA). He showed us this nice little video about the ‘specialness’ of newspapers – and went on to re-emphasise the importance of technology. He also talked of the NMA’s revised focus on working with media agencies as opposed to working directly with brands.

TABLET -TASTIC!

Given the prominence of Tablets across all of the talks, UM will be hosting an additional Tablet workshop on Monday, to ensure that the agency is fully up to speed with the latest developments and advertising opportunities.

@umlondon

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