Magazines move to smart content marketing

Magazine brands are ideally suited to create quality bespoke content for advertisers – and today’s publishers are grabbing the chance to expand their revenue base, writes Magazine Publishers Association Executive Director Sally Duggan.

New Zealand’s reshaped magazine industry is embracing content marketing with new enthusiasm and sophistication, creating opportunities for marketers. 

Responses from a Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) survey of 25 publishers in September show the traditional church-and-state reluctance to create editorial-style content for an advertiser is all but gone, with almost 60 percent of publishers agreeing that they love working with clients in this way and see it as the way of the future. 

The new can-do attitude from the industry is sparking innovative marketing solutions across all platforms of magazine brands.

A recent Are Media initiative, for example, saw the Your Home and Garden editorial team working closely with the Warehouse Group to promote its winter range of homewares.

The team used their audience knowledge to create a weekly room-by-room style guide. Click-to-buy content with inspirational ideas for living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens was hosted on the magazine’s online hub, in the print publication, and with drivers to the content across social channels. The same content was used across all Warehouse channels and in-store collateral – delivering double-whammy value for the client, and a reportedly hefty ROI.   

Are Media’s New Zealand General Manager Stuart Dick believes using a magazine’s editorial team, rather than a separate content studio, is key to good commercial content. “It ensures the result is the same high standard as the rest of the magazine and website,” he says.

Some magazine publishers are creating content for advertisers that may never appear in any of their own brand platforms, effectively setting themselves up as creative agencies.  Homestyle magazine, for example, offers styling services, content and imagery creation for architects, developers and other players in the home category, citing its talented team with a combined experience of 35+ years in homes, furniture, decorating and renovating. 

“We view our niche expertise as a go-to for brands looking for integrated [or bespoke] content,” says publisher Nicholas Burrowes. “We have a specialist understanding of the market.” The title was an early player in the content marketing space, and has worked with Fisher & Paykel, Citta, Dulux, BoConcept, Samsung, Escea, Resene, APL, Japan Travel Bureau and many other brands. 

Sally Duggan.

Generally speaking, magazine teams are ideally suited for delivering smart content solutions. They are highly tuned to their specialist audiences, and editors have long worked closely with their commercial teams.  Angst about the impact of paid-for editorial-style content on reader trust has diminished, with many editors reporting that if content is clearly marked and high quality, it is well accepted – and expected – by readers.  

Usefulness is key to creating paid-for content with high reader appeal, says ICG Media’s CEO Marcus Hawkins-Adams. The company has identified “content pillars” for each of its titles, which include dish, Good and NZ Marketing magazine, and editorial staff work with marketers to ensure paid-for content fits into one of these pillars. “Useful content is like the gift that keeps on giving on digital platforms,” Marcus says, citing the example of a Baileys Chocolate Ganache recipe developed for custom title Toast. The recipe ran in the magazine, was posted online in August 2016, and still delivers more than 300 page views monthly, with a page dwell average of over five minutes.   

 Financial imperatives are, of course, the major driver for magazines’ new enthusiasm for working with advertisers in this way, with content marketing paying a big chunk of magazines’ bills in a tight advertising environment. Half of the publishers in the MPA survey reported that between 30 and 70 percent of advertising revenue came from content marketing, and more than three quarters expected content marketing revenue to increase over the next two years.  

Globally, content marketing by media channels is nothing new.  In the US, where big brands want to control their own cross-platform channels, media companies long ago grabbed the chance to fatten their revenue streams by selling bespoke content. Meredith – a major US magazine company – provides content for brands like Mercedes, Home Depot and Mattel. 

James Hewes, President and CEO of global media network FIPP says content marketing is a key feature of media businesses worldwide. “Increasingly, we are seeing them report growth in this area as one of the few areas of their advertising business where growth in both volume and margin has been possible.”

 New Zealand, though, has been slow in its uptake of content marketing. Nick Smith, Group Content Director of Medium Rare Content Agency – which publishes Our Auckland magazine for Auckland City Council and Bunnings magazine in New Zealand – describes content marketing here as “in its infancy but with great potential”. He says that the opportunity is to look to brands and industries in other regions who have realised the power of creating their own content, on their own channels, and have therefore grown their own highly engaged audiences to direct marketing strategies to. Lauren Quaintance – founder of content creation company Storyation and a former editor of Metro magazine – describes content marketing here as “in its infancy”. She says we are three to five years behind Australia, probably because smaller budgets here mean marketers have been reluctant to commit tight budgets to new and unproven marketing strategies. 

The pandemic has been partly responsible for New Zealand’s recent boom in magazine content marketing. Last year was a tumultuous one for magazines, with 20 new or relaunched titles coming onto the market in the wake of the pandemic publishing ban and the Bauer Media closure. The new titles are among the biggest fans of content marketing. 

“I think editors [in the past] tended to see it as a necessary evil, but I see it as crucial to our competitive edge,” says Simon Farrell-Green, a former editor of HOME magazine, who launched the new title Here 18 months ago. 

Like many magazine publishers his approach to content marketing is much more sophisticated than in the past. “We approach new campaigns from the point of view of how we can really integrate brands in a genuine way and deliver significant value, rather than making something and sticking a sponsor on the side. It’s definitely more ‘native’ than any content I’ve made before,” he says. 

Taking greater editorial ownership of content marketing also means better stories, Simon says. “We’ve been really open with our clients about how high the bar needs to be with this content. It’s in our voice, and we want readers to engage with it in a genuine way.” Here’s partner content is almost indistinguishable in design, photography and writing from its editorial stories.  

For more on how magazines can help with your content marketing, visit

This article was originally published in the Dec/Jan 2021 issue of NZ Marketing magazine.

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