This morning, I bought a copy of Grazia’s first ever community issue - created in collaboration with its readers. 

Despite being more of a Glamour fan than a Grazia girl, I was naturally intrigued to see how this particular edition turned out.

Before we go any further, here’s the story so far.

Grazia heads to Facebook HQ

Last week, the Grazia team took up a five-day residence at Facebook's London headquarters.

In order to offer readers insight into how their favourite magazine is created, the publication decided to create a special issue, promising that content would be shaped, influenced and even 'created' by its audience. 

Using the Grazia Facebook page, fans were able to interact with the editorial team as they documented the entire process on Facebook Live

As well as offering insight, the motivation behind the project was to encourage its readership to become more of an online community.

Speaking about the magazine's core audience, Editor Natasha Pearlman explained an intent to start “building a more personal relationship with them, in the place they spend most of their time.”

This focus on social is not unusual for a lifestyle publication, but Grazia is certainly one of the first to allow its readers such a unique opportunity.

What happened?

During its week at Facebook, Grazia held a variety of talks, events and interviews, using the hashtag #GraziaxFB to promote it all online. 

Fans could ask questions, vote on polls and watch exclusive live debates, enabling them to directly shape and impact the content as it was created.

Another motivation for the issue seems to be to highlight Grazia's expanding editorial remit.

Well-known for its fashion and beauty content, it is now keen to acknowledge the differing interests of its audience, as well their desire to access content via a multitude of platforms.

Consequently, the community issue focuses on broader topics like work, music and politics - even holding a live debate on Brexit. 

What it means for brand advertising

Monetisation through Facebook Live remains a confusing subject, with many publishers and advertisers still unsure how to make money from the platform. 

However, Grazia appears to have relied on the traditional method of sponsorship, choosing jewellery brand Pandora as the exclusive sponsor of the event. 

To promote the Pandora Rose Collection, the campaign was integrated into Grazia’s week of online content, with brand mentions included in a number of Facebook Live videos. 

There is also a double-page advert in the magazine itself, with a feature on bloggers reviewing the new range.

Did it work?

I admit to buying a few copies of Grazia back in the day (usually alongside an emergency issue of Heat for some in-flight entertainment).

Today's issue seems fairly hefty in comparison to the flimsy copies I remember. Usually jam-packed full of ads and filler competitions, this issue definitely signals a focus on better quality content.

Flicking through, there's nothing much I haven't already seen on the Grazia Facebook page.

And despite alluding to the fact that readers were able to shape and inform the magazine by voting on features like the cover image and 'chart of lust', this feels like more of a gimmick than something of real value.

But while the 'community issue' aspect feels a little arbitrary, there's no doubt that the issue has been a successful vehicle for Facebook Live, and it certainly acts as a good example of how magazines can utilise this technology in future.

With videos being a bit hit and miss for Grazia in the past, the Facebook Live push certainly resulted in more views, with the Craig David performance spiking at over 243,000.

Similarly, by using the new 'Shazam' feature (which allows readers to scan the front cover to access videos), it is a good example of how to bring mobile into the mix.

Another of my favourite parts of the issue is the surprise 'Grazia Collective' - a line up of ambassadors who are set to host talks, events and interactive discussions for Grazia readers over the next 12 months.

So, if Grazia keeps its word, its community can certainly look forward to a lot more tailored content in future.

With personalisation now being a driving force for customer loyalty, it could have a big impact on strengthening Grazia's relationship with its readers.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 21 June, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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