Almost 18 months on from retrieving its digital assets from Yahoo!7, Pacific Magazines’ digital evolution is well under way. Magazine Networks spoke to commercial director Prue Cox about the impact to the commercial operations and where she sees the magazine business going from here.
It’s been a busy 12 months for Prue Cox. The commercial director joined Pacific Magazines, moving across from NewsLifeMedia, shortly after the company’s sales division regained control of its digital assets which had previously been part of a joint venture with Yahoo!7.
“It was a real turning point for the business,” says Cox. “It meant that we could move from being a print-centric business to an audience business and through that, we’ve had the opportunity to look at our overall structure, the changing landscape of the market and refocus how we actually work with our clients.”
Cox says the journey is almost complete adding: “We now have the ability to connect with consumers wherever and wherever they are so we’ve evolved with the market needs.” This has helped the business to build on its relationships with core clients and capitalise on its mastheads.
“The equity that brands like Better Homes and Gardens or New Idea have with consumers is so strong. Consumer habits have changed but these brands still mean so much,” says Cox.
The changing pace of the industry is not unfamiliar to Cox who has been working in digital media for more than 17 years. She believes publishers need to be agile to continue to evolve, especially when it comes to helping advertisers with their challenges, the greatest of which is disruption and the onslaught of Amazon.
“Everyone’s being disrupted and if you haven’t been disrupted yet, you’re about to be. We just continue to see that right across every different industry. Retail is a core category for us and Amazon coming into the market is making people nervous. It’s making people move faster, particularly our clients with their strategies,” she says.
For advertisers grappling with these issues, Cox says magazine brands can be their secret weapon. “The thing that magazine brands are good at is moving products off the shelf and we know that. That hasn’t changed. It’s about shifting an audience and driving consumers to action to actually purchase,” she says.
More than a buzzword
With this changing landscape comes a whole language and Cox admits she has been guilty of calling on a buzzword or two. “Engagement is the big one now, isn’t it? We no longer talk about reach and frequency, we talk about ‘engagement’,” she says.
And while she confesses she’s the perfect candidate for a game of buzzword bingo, this new approach to audiences is important.
“How we understand consumers has changed and with that comes a whole new way talking about them. We’re not going to be talking about demographics for much longer. We’re going to be talking audiences and what that means. Whether you’re a Millennial or a Boomer, you can still be a fashionista or a competent cook. It’s more about those sorts of behaviours,” she says. she says.
The future of magazine brands
Cox says predicting the future for the magazine business is virtually impossible given the current state of flux. “Looking ahead five years is really hard,” she says. “We used to be able to predict five to 10 years and now, we’re looking forward to two years time.”
Still, she does have a couple of predictions. Firstly, that there will continue to be movement across the landscape. She says: “I think we’ll continue to see strong and relevant brands be meaningful to consumers but we will see different and new players come and go.”
And she believes the business is largely in the hands of consumers. “There’s this overload of content happening at the moment and for consumers, there’s so much that’s being thrown at them all the time. I think there will be a return to brands that people trust. There will be a real return to brands with authenticity,” she says.
From an advertising perspective, Cox says targeted messaging is only going to become more important. “It will be about addressable audiences and understanding how I talk to audiences across multiple platforms and the right type of messaging,” she says.
Career in the magazine business
Like many people in the media sales business, Cox “sort of fell into” working in the industry. She started out studying marketing at university before taking on a role agency-side in account services.
During her time at McCann Erickson, she was the account manager for Holden. Cox worked on a partnership for the Holden Barina which involved Cleo Magazine. It gave her a taste for being publisher side and a role at Yahoo followed before six years at NineMSN working in digital media sales.
“It’s a great industry. It’s exciting and really creative but I don’t think we do a great job of promoting the opportunities around what a career could look like. A lot of people sort of fall into some of these roles and then come to understand the massive scope,” says Cox.
Cox’s time in digital has shaped her own media habits and while she is a fan of picking up print fashion titles such as InStyle and Marie Claire, her phone is never far away. “Unfortunately I’m one of those people who wake up in the middle of the night and check what’s going on in the world,” says Cox.
But she can’t go past a magazine when looking to switch off. “I have a frantic work life and a frantic family life so magazines are my opportunity to relax and enjoy,” says Cox.