Hearst UK recently announced that women’s lifestyle magazine Prima would increase its print edition from 12 to 13 issues a year, following a 68% surge in subscriptions this year.

This week, we talk to Prima’s Editor Jo Checkley about what factors led to the decision to increase the frequency of the magazine, how their content has encouraged a community feel among their readers, and what lessons they’ll be taking from producing magazines in lockdown. Jo also outlines what she’s done to keep her magazines thriving during her career despite tough market conditions for women’s titles.

In the news roundup the team discusses Future Plc’s resurgent fortunes and purchase of GoCompare, the UK government’s attempts to create a competition regime to tackle the ‘fundamental imbalance of power’ between platforms and publishers, and Spotify launching a Stories copy. Esther is a meerkat.

The full transcript will be live here on Wednesday, but for now, here are some highlights:

What’s behind Prima’s subscription success

It’s been the combination of a lot of factors that’s led to the big subscriptions increase we’ve seen. During lockdown, people have had more time to read magazines, and they really appreciate the entertainment they bring. So they’re seeing now as the perfect time to sign up as a subscriber.

On top of that, with Prima specifically, alongside obviously, all our great interviews and features, we have a lot of content that’s focused on arts and crafts. And that’s something that a lot of people have taken up this year. It links to mindfulness, and it links to wellbeing so people have seen having more time as a time they can do more crafts, for example, sewing and knitting. And in fact, our sewing patterns has proved so popular over the past 12 months, which has been great. And I think that’s all helped with see a need to get the magazine into their hands.

We’ve also had a great marketing campaign geared towards getting new subscribers, and it’s had the message, ‘Prima is like sitting down for a chat with your best friend,’ which really resonates because that’s really what Prima is all about. It’s about us being here for you.

Planning an extra print issue

What we’ll be doing for sure is focusing on all the most popular bits of Prima. So there’ll be extra craft, and there’ll be the gorgeous sewing and knitting patterns, and the pretty makes that you can do for your home. And of course delicious things to bake.

How we’ll do it is that we’ll run the issues for four weeks exactly. So normally, the magazines follow calendar months. So yes, it fits in that way. It’s a great news story in a very difficult year.

But the decision behind that extra issue was actually quite an easy one. We have such a loyal reader base, and they’re looking for more content. And with our subscriptions up by 68%, we thought it made perfect sense to add this extra issue a year.

Retaining new subscribers next year

I think it’s about making sure that the content in the magazine matches and exceeds what our subscribers are expecting. And that’s something I have huge confidence in. We have the best team of writers who really get a wonderful mix of content, and make sure it’s something on every page that our readers really connect with.

It’s really key that we keep coming up with fresh ideas. And that’s obviously my job to keep thinking up the different ways of entertaining our readers. Always on my mind, so there’s lots to look forward to over the next year. lots of exciting things coming up.

How to keep magazines thriving in difficult conditions

The key for me is always, I’m listening to my audience. The Prima reader is really responsive, as we’ve said, and it’s clear when they’re connecting with something…and for me, that drives me on to think of new ways to create different features and articles that really will resonate with them.

Because I’ve got such a strong connection with my readership, it’s very easy to understand what they’re feeling at a certain time, what they’re reacting to. And for me, that really keeps the magazine fresh. So I’m always looking for the latest topics that are concerning my readers, and then I’ll feed that into the magazine in the most relevant way I can.

Key stories:

News in brief:

  • The UK government has said it’s going to create a competition regime called the Digital Markets Unit to tackle the ‘fundamental imbalance of power’ between platforms and publishers. Primarily, it will govern their commercial relationships, ensuring the platforms are not imposing terms that limit publisher’s abilities to monetise their content.
  • In Australia the public broadcasters ABC and SBS are no longer barred from receiving payments from Google and Facebook for using their content. This is described by a Google spokesperson as akin to forcing users back to the Yellow Pages, and a return to valuation being on political clout rather than journalistic worth.
  • The House of Lords report also recommended setting up a new cross-industry scheme to teach media literacy, to be farmed out to an existing body. This is a fantastic idea – provided you stop with that single sentence and don’t look at the details even slightly
  • Spotify is the latest to jump on the Stories bandwagon, testing them as a way for artists and companies to connect with their audience. This is a very unusual move given Spotify is a long way off being any sort of social network.
  • Reach PLC has managed to grow its digital revenues 16% over the last five months, but it hasn’t been enough to make up for a 20% collapse in print revenue, bringing group revenues down 14% overall.
  • Millennials have become the generation that trust journalists the most, with 28% saying they trust them to tell the truth. But 77% of Gen Z (under 25’s) and 73% of boomers don’t trust journalists, making them the fourth-least trusted profession in the annual Ipsos Mori trust survey.
  • Just after announcing App Store fee commission reduction rates for small app publishers, Apple has also enabled targeted discounting. This enables publishers to offer more flexible, targeted pricing to entice new subscribers via the App Store.
  • A dangerous precedent is being set in France as filming police is banned. Journalists have joined the protests since this is a huge press freedom issue.

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