This week we talk to Sarah Vizard, Editor of Raconteur. She explains what Raconteur’s unique angle on business stories is in a crowded field, how it uses its print publication to drive digital expansion, and what their recently launched New Voices programme hopes to do with giving writers from under-represented backgrounds a start in business journalism.

In the news roundup the team asks if Dotdash Meredith’s approach to cutting back on print is more honest than Condé Nast’s – or whether it is just an attempt at massaging the truth around print decline. In the news in brief we talk about payment models for newspapers that allow people on lower incomes access to news; the impact of going online-only on broadcast channels; and the good news that podcast revenue is growing significantly! Become a Media Voices supporter over at voices.media/support.

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

How Raconteur differentiates its coverage

Lots of business journalism is very focused on the news. So if you read The Times, or if you read The FT, it’s very focused on and driven by the news agenda, what’s going on that day, and lots of analysis around what’s going on there, alongside a lot of the other stuff they do. For us, we see the B2B space as our competitor set, and I think what they’re focused on is their specific area of expertise.

I come from the B2B space, I used to work at Marketing Week. So I know what that’s about; you dig really deep into marketing for CMOs, for marketers. What Raconteur is trying to do is offer that broad perspective on the news, but with that B2B background. So what we’re doing is covering say, marketing, but for everyone in the C suite, or cybersecurity, but for everyone in the C suite.

So rather than digging really deep into the minutiae of programmatic advertising, because that’s what you’d need to know as a marketer, we’ll say, ‘Okay, so if you’re a CEO, or CIO, or a CFO, what do you need to know?’ And therefore, that’s how we decide what makes something a Raconter story? Is it broad enough? And can we offer a big perspective, and is it something that everyone in the C suite will want to know about?

Print as a key revenue driver

In lots of other publishers, you’ll see print as a by-product of what they do, or a bit of a marketing tool. But for us, it’s still the core of our business. And because that’s where we get the majority of our revenues from, we’ve actually be able to use that money to drive our digital expansion rather than the other way around.

There were lots of other publishers who would have said, “Oh, no prints declining, we must invest in digital before everything disappears.” In some ways, we’ve been lucky, we’ve been able to do it the other way around. I guess we’ve had to do the shift to digital a bit later than some, which you could see as an advantage or disadvantage, depending on on how you look at it. But because we’ve managed to make so much money from print – and we still do – rather than just reinvesting that into print without reinvesting it into digital.

As to as to why it works for us, we’ve got quite a different use case than lots of other places. I think that broad remit that we’re taking on., and obviously the distribution that we have in a national newspaper makes it quite an appealing proposition for advertisers. It’s that mass reach that they want, but also around a nich-er topic that they can talk about.

The place of data at Raconteur

It’s really important, but it’s something that we’ve really only focused on over the past couple of years, as we’ve refocused our efforts on digital. We’ve got actually quite a big (I think!) data team now of three people and we’re hiring a data analyst.

We’ve done an awful lot of work – especially now that we’ve got the registration wall – to understand not only what people are reading, but who is reading what. So we kind of have data now on people, seniority, what industry they work, in, what discipline they work in the size of business.

So we can use all of that data to understand, ‘Okay, so we think that people are really interested in the future of the workplace; is it actually the case that that’s only HR leaders, and no one else is reading it? Or is it the case that it’s the managers that are interested in that and not entry level people?’ So we can dig down quite well now into what our different audiences are interested in.

The importance of infographics and visualisations

It’s a really big part of the business. And I have to say, it’s been amazing to work somewhere where design is so important. Because I think for a lot of publishers, you end up just using thousands of stock images on your website and things can look a little bit rubbishy.

I mean, it’s expensive to have a good design team, but our design team are amazing and super talented, and I am forever just going ‘Wow.’ The illustrations they come up with around some like slightly more esoteric content, they have to design things around cybersecurity and AI, which, to come up with new ideas for these sorts of topics can get quite difficult.

But it’s a really key part of the brand. And it always has been in print. We’re quite well known for infographics and illustrations; we try to make them stand out in print because people get a newspaper, we are an insert in the newspaper, we don’t want people to just chuck us in the bin. To do that you need to grab their attention. And we see that design element; really eye catching front covers, is a really key way to do that.

We’re now very focused on doing that online as well, so trying to make our website, our social media, or the newsletter sort of much more feel and look much more like Raconteur.

Main story:

Dotdash Meredith plans to possibly add more print titles to some of its flagship brands.

  • Moving forward, print brands will be “smaller in circulation and much more luxury,” CEO Neil Vogel told Axios’ Sara Fischer.
  • Meredith’s print businesses were definitely in ‘managed decline’. “I think they were reluctant to make some of the tougher calls around print,” Vogel said. “We are no longer willing to print magazines that people are no longer willing to pay for.”
  • Now, the company will invest in print products that cater to hyper-enthusiasts, including looking at re-investing in Brides magazine, which ended its print edition in 2019.
  • Dotdash axed print titles from Meredith’s portfolio in February after the acquisition, including Parents, Entertainment Weekly and InStyle.
  • “We’re on the other side of our major print changes,” Vogel said. “We took a ton of revenue out of the print business because revenue isn’t what’s driving us now, it’s brand and profitability.”
  • The remaining core print titles are profitable – Vogel described them as having a ‘viable need for print’ and although not financially the most important thing, it is important for branding purposes.
  • There has also been a switch in types of circulation – they let those on low-price subscriptions expire, while focusing on full-price subscribers. Better Homes & Gardens’ circulation now hovers above 4 million, down from roughly 7 million when it bought the magazine

News in brief:

  • Matt Deegan had a piece on the challenges faced by broadcasters as they go digital sparked by BBC plans to take the children’s channel CBBC and online only. The interesting point was the marketing aspect of it, that losing the linear TV channel would remove a powerful marketing channel for the stations. He said the reality is that the job the linear channels are doing – free marketing and more – is what needs to be replaced with a new concept/product, rather than just hoping the audience will find and use a walled-garden app.
  • Publishers reported a 500% increase in digital audio revenue in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index. There were 12 publishers included in the sample which definitely isn’t enough to extrapolate that across the whole industry, but it’s still a really encouraging picture. Audio revenue for these 12 publishers hit £4.2 million in Q1 2022, six times what they made in the same time last year.
  • An update from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism finds that – as almost half of news leaders (47%) surveyed last December said they were worried that subscription models may “super-serve” richer and more educated audiences – there are many reader revenue models out there that seek to cater to those lower-paying audiences.

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