City AM has launched an exclusive membership programme for readers offering them access to deals, discounts, and added value from more than 50 London brand partners across lifestyle, food, drink and luxury sectors.
City AM Club purports to be the ‘the key’ to London. It claimed its daily engagements with its London audience (across free daily newspaper and website in excess of 318,000 daily) made it the perfect brand to curate London experiences with "brands they already know, use and love," Harry Owen, chief operating officer of City AM told The Drum.
For access to benefits like members-only events and networking in top London restaurants, and more, City AM asks for an annual membership fee of £240. For the title's professional audience, it is not a particularly steep fee.
Owen said: "The audience is getting a totally unique experience, highly targeted to their everyday lives... none of these [experiences] are found anywhere else in London, or within any other loyalty program. Partnerships with Mont Blanc, the Ned, the Four Seasons and Gaucho were particularly exciting."
The membership scheme, which has been in the works for more than a year, has been designed to "take members through every moment of their day". City AM describes it: "From a morning gym session at Virgin Active, to a complimentary coffee at Pres, to two-for-one drinks at Jason Atherton’s City Social, the City AM Club has got members covered from morning till midnight."
This revenue diversification play from City AM, founded in 2015, is largely influenced by Owen, who was previously commercial director of the Boisdale restaurant. He is now applying hospitality principles to publishing.
"I learned a lot about loyalty and hospitality, so on my return to City AM it was easier to approach this sector from a position of understanding, enabling us to establish strong relationships between these brands."
This paired with a realisation that the audience is hungry for lifestyle and culture just as much as business and finance content, inspired the launch. Owen noted that the programme will reflect the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle of its audience.
City AM Club is not a paywall product, Owen stressed: "This is not an editorial play, instead this move has allowed us to diversify our revenue model away from editorial-focused products."
He listed "several challenges" facing traditional media and acknowledged the need for publishers to bring to market, unique and innovative revenue streams. It's an increasingly common strategy, just earlier this week The Drum covered digital media brand Jungle Creations launching London restaurants, for example.
"The City AM Club is a brand in its own right and we have built a team around it, drawing talent from outside the traditional publishing industry, with a strong skillset in marketing, PR, events and membership," he said.
As for additional income from the partnership, Owen wouldn't go into the specifics of how it works with brand partners. Only that they have been promised greater footfall from a targeted and relatively affluent audience. Further to that, a 'partner spotlight' feature will explore partners twice a week with "in-depth" interviews, promoting their premises and the Club. Outside of food and drink partners, City AM boasts exclusive ‘lifestyle’ brand relationships broken down by sector, which will have its own commercial impact.
He concluded: "This is a long-term strategy for City AM, diversification into providing a consumer product aimed at our audience and based on a more holistic understanding of their lives."
The City AM Club has been promoted today with a double page cover wrap. Check out the launch video below.