The first year of operations for Bauer Xcel has been a “test and learn” experience, according to managing director Carl Hammerschmidt, who told B&T the company has had to deliver a lot in a short space of time.
“Twelve months in we’re in the process of really optimising the products that we’ve got out there, taking those learnings and then applying them to new categories,” Hammerschmidt said.
“We’ve had to get to market very quickly, and we’ve had to deliver a lot in a very short amount of time, and to do that we’ve had to have complete focus on that digital capability.
Hammerschmidt said it’s a “good time” for Bauer to come to market with its digital offerings, with a serious shake up in the landscape lowering the barriers to entry.
“The environment has shifted significantly in the past three years,” he said. “What with the death of the homepage, the tipping point to mobile, the social nature of content. And to be able to come to market with mobile first products which have no legacy and are built for that environment, it’s a really great opportunity for the business.”
“In the last two years in coming out of the Mi9 partnership we’ve made some really big decisions around what a long term sustainable digital strategy looks like for the business, we’ve invested appropriately and we’ve acted really decisively and we’ll continue to back ourselves with those kinds of big decisions in the future.”
And while Hammerschmidt said ad revenue has grown “exceptionally fast” since the birth of Bauer Xcel, he did admit the business needs to be constantly looking for new ways to make money, and putting digital as a priority is essential to safeguard against any struggles print may face.
And one of those revenue streams comes in the form of Bauer’s partnership with Gum Gum, which Hammerschmidt says allows the business to perfectly leverage one of its biggest assets, it’s “beautiful photography”.
“We’re always looking for innovative initiatives in the ad space beyond straight display, rich media, strong native offerings, we’re continually looking to expand our services and our offerings from our client,” he said.
“The image recognition technology in Gum Gum allows us to be able to serve contextually relevant ads, contextually relevant messaging for our clients, in the right environment and against one of our strongest assets, which is our business’s images and photography.
“Strategically, our business needs to look at a range of different revenue models across digital in the future, not just editorially driven, display and ad models, but how then do we parlay those audiences and that engagement into other revenue streams, whether it’s lead generation, ecommerce, transactional models – they’re the sort of adjacencies our business needs to look at,” he added.
“When you look at the audiences we have, it’s 90 per cent un-duplicated across print and digital so when you’re investing in digital products and you’re investing in digital initiatives, you’re investing in your audiences and you’re creating a much bigger reach for the business.
“In the last two and a half years since we’ve acquired our digital rights and built this new product set, we’ve gone from being a magazine business to being a truly multi-media, multi-platform business. Mobile first, customer centric and truly cross-platform and we’ve achieved that in a really short amount of time.”
Looking forward, Hammerschmidt added that it’s about extending Bauer’s digital reach and capability and making tracks on the projects already underway. The ‘To Love’ network that kicked off last year saw only half of its planned sites launch, which Hammerschmidt said comes down to a need to learn from the past year’s progress and fine tune future ventures.
“The first 12 months has been test and learn, optimise the platform, optimise the products we’ve got in market, and later this year and into next year we’re looking to go out into new segments and launch new products.
“We’re also looking to launch some of the international Bauer Xcel digital products into Australia. A good example of that is young women’s product, The Debrief, that’s digital only launch in the UK, it’s a great product, really strong digital only product with very strong native offering and there’s a great opportunity to scale that product internationally.
“We already have exceptionally strong offerings in celebrity, homes, food beauty, fashion and it’s not just about creating content verticals for us but also about how do we use our investments in data and audience segmentation to be able to segment our audiences horizontally across the offerings as well,” he added, hinting at the possibility of completition and further expansion of the To Love network over the next year or two.
“We’ve made significant investment in a data layer and a data strategy and how we use that then to identify beauty enthusiasts or busy mums or grocery buyers, or health and fitness enthusiasts across the whole network is something that we’re really looking at building out this year.”
Hammerschmidt also emphasised that this year will see the relaunch of Dolly and Cosmo, to a mobile first strategy.
“Beyond that we’re really looking to scale our international business as well; look to launch international products and bring those into the market, look how we can leverage technology, content, brands, across the big digital territories for Bauer, so the UK, US and Germany, so that’s going to be a focus for us later in the year as well, and how we can bring some real global brands and global scale into this market,” he added.
“All of our clients are looking to leverage the great editorial power that the business has got, the editorial horsepower, and the trusted brand environments we can provide. And as the world either moves towards a programmatic trading landscape or towards a highly bespoke, highly engaged native offering, I think we’re really, really well positioned to service that end of the spectrum and our clients are really looking to us for expertise and guidance in that area.”