Isobel McKenzie Price is Editorial Director of IPC Media's Homes Network, which includes print titles such as Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and their online counterparts, as well as decorating portal housetohome.co.uk.
I've been talking to Isobel about the cross-over between working on print and online titles, how magazines can use the internet, and the challenge of monetising content online.
Can you give me some background on the Homes Network in terms of print circulation and online readership?
Currently IPC’s Homes Network reaches 700,000 unique users and has over 8m page impressions each month, according to Omniture statistics. The websites in the group include standalone portal site housetohome.co.uk; magazine brand spin-off sites idealhomemagazine.co.uk, livingetc.co.uk and homesandgardens.com, plus the housetohome.co.uk Retailer Directory.
IPC’s print titles sell 531,454 copies each month and have a readership of 2,757,000.
How does your online offering fit in with the magazines? Do you put all the magazine content online?
We plan our content to be web search relevant, rather than simply putting magazine content up ad hoc. We do put some content from our print brands online, but we always repurposed it for online usage; readers/users want to access information differently online from offline.
Increasingly, we’re producing online-only content, for example we create videos, interactive quizzes, picture galleries that are searchable, etc.
What does your team look like? Do you separate the online and offline teams? What works best for you?
We have a core web-only team that manages all sites in the homes network, but we also have individual print-team journalists from each of our magazines who contribute to individual sites and the network as a whole.
We have a wealth of expertise in our print teams, and the trick is to enable them to bring their skills and creativity online by making our systems as easy as possible for non-digital journalists to use.
We’ve eased a lot of teams online by encouraging them to set up blogs where they can hone their web-editing skills before venturing onto the network itself. We have a great culture within our homes brands of working as a single group, which has made the print/digital transition pretty seamless.
What are the major challenges involved in working on both print and digital titles?
Getting the teams to understand each other’s requirements. That goes across everything from working to totally different lead times (from three months on a magazine to three hours online); writing styles, SEO, photo-editing and more.
There’s much more of a hierarchy approval structure in print, for example – online, you just put content up much faster and with less control from a single editor. It’s scary but if you have trust, it’s achievable.
How do you monetise your online content? Is this something that is easier to do as a niche publisher?
Currently we don't charge directly for content. It is difficult to do this if it is content that is freely available elsewhere on the web.
We prefer to engage our customers with our compelling online offering and then allow advertisers in turn to communicate with this engaged and premium customer when he/she is in the right frame of mind. We lead the market in homes, and we know our users are a valuable group for specific advertisers who can target their campaigns at the right people at the right time.
Which monetisation strategies have worked best for you?
Advertising remains key source of income although advertisers want to have integrated concepts that engage readers with their brands.
In particular, cross-media (magazine and online) is attractive for advertisers in the homes market and is something that we can offer across a variety of brands.
In terms of other (non-advertising) revenues, we're always looking to expand these and we have some affiliate deals and run our own homes-related shops
What is your view on the Times paywall?
We haven't charged for online content, but we do believe consumers would be prepared to pay for an application that does something for them, rather than just content.
How should magazines be approaching the internet when it comes to their overall strategies?
They should see it as a platform for their content, although this platform has its own rules and content needs to be the right information in the right format delivered at the right time etc.
Don't see it as a competitor to the magazine; there is a lot of valuable cross-fertilisation going on, such as people getting to know the magazines through the web, subscribing online to print or digital editions etc.
Given the much reported decline of print media, is going all-digital something you would look at in future?
I’m not sure Time inc – IPC’s parent company - would agree with the idea that print is in an 'unstoppable decline’! Magazine readership has actually grown over the past five years.
I do think traditional media has been set a challenge and given a wake-up call that it can’t be complacent about owning audiences in the way it used to through a single touchpoint.
Consumers now want their content delivered how and when they want it - online, on paper, on mobile, though IPTV… Each medium has to be excellent, innovative and fresh; I don’t think homes online spells the death of homes print. That said, we might consider launching a stand-alone digital offering for some very specific niche, if it was the most cost-effective way to market.
Housetohome.co.uk is a web-only brand, and is as big as the aggregation of all our other homes websites.
Have you done anything around mobile? The iPad and the e-reader, have been touted as potential saviours for publishers - how do you see this? Will you be planning apps / websites for the iPad and similar devices?
We haven’t done anything with mobile yet – we’re still in a relatively early-adopter market in the UK. But I have spent a lot of time playing with the iPad, and watching people in the US who are similar to our core consumers engaging with their smartphones and iPads.
Currently, all of our homes titles are available as digital editions on the iPad via the Zinio newstand app, so we’ll see how that plays with our consumers. There’s clearly an interesting opportunity there, at some point.