How I Believe Mobile Could Have Saved FHM

Posted: April 11, 2014

How I Believe Mobile Could Have Saved FHM

By Nicolle Harding In the wake of household name magazine FHM closing down this week, it’s gotten me thinking…how is it that such a strong print publication has seen it’s demise over a short 6 year period.

I am one of those lucky few to have shared in the FHM experience through my role at another stable publication. Working with at cutting edge company, UpperCase Media, run by two forward thinking industry publishing leaders, Kim Brown and Louis Eksteen and even meeting an extra special person in my life, my husband. I look back on those days with fondness and profound respect. What I can’t understand is how did a brand like FHM, a mere 6 years later…in the greater scheme of things…publish their last issue. I recall the days when my colleagues at FHM would rake in the orders and me working on a different brand would beg and plead for revenue from clients. Integrated print and digital campaigns were a priority and big budgets were signed. The champagne flowed and the cigars burned.

Yes, I appreciate the cost of paper has increased since early 2008 and the market has changed, but surely such a strong brand could not have fallen so far beyond being profitable. Perhaps a bigger more strategic move is at play here, but guess that will leave us wondering.

One thing it does highlight for me is the importance of traditional media, especially print embracing cross platform content strategies, ensuring that the consumer (for the purpose of simplifying things I’m calling them the consumer but technically it’s the user / reader) values each touch point of the brand. Closing a magazine because it is no longer profitable highlights the importance of using data to know your base across multiple platforms and marketing your brand to these users effectively.

Why do magazines advertise on traditional media channels pushing their brand message, urging South African’s to go in-store and buy and magazine with their precious earned ZA Rand with no real call to action? Surely using mobile technology has a lot to offer these brands…a simple sms with a short code to the mobile site and reminding the user that their favourite magazine is on shelf tomorrow, with a short snapshot of content. Simply, measurable and effective.

This brings me to my next thought…data collection. It’s one thing to know the demographic of your consumer and measure them, but’s it’s quite another to know what that consumers purchase patterns are. Having user data to enable your sales team to improve their efforts is one thing, but having nothing to sell or no demand, means even if you have Jordan Belford selling for you, it won’t make a difference. You need to understand who is actually purchasing your product. Advertising on DSTV is not going to make a difference if your users can’t afford to watch the advert.

FHM’s rate card said they most of their readers were LSM 8 to 10 males in South Africa, with a shelf price of R41.00. Considering their decline in circulation over the past few years, in my opinion the fault lies not with that the content didn’t have a relevant audience that would pay, but that it was being packaged and marketed to the incorrect consumer. There is more choice and variety out there these days. The savvy consumer of the past is most likely reading blogs and other magazine publications both local and abroad.

Specifically how do you get lower LSM users to engage with content that is marketed to a very small percentage of the population? In South Africa we have a population of roughly 52 million people. According to the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa) there is roughly a 50/50 split in users that have handsets with access to the internet or entry level phones that don’t have access to the internet. How is that we forget about the other 50%…when these individuals are the ones that are generally the less exposed to the onslaught of always on media.

Make your content available to a user that will actually engage with it. There is absolutely no point in marketing your brand on premium channels…even if it’s a trade exchange…or other group media if it’s going to kill off a profitable brand. Using platforms like mobile display and SMS, all of which offer affordable and engaging marketing opportunities in tangible ROI deliverables, can deliver extreme value to publishing brands.

Look at the mobile subscription model…click on a banner or short code, subscribe to a service and pay for it with airtime. This is a multi billion dollar industry globally, yet publishers struggle to embrace different revenue streams to meet increasing overheads. African social chat services spend millions to get users to use their platforms and are able to build successful businesses off pieces of technology that are marketed correctly to the relevant user, with a focus on performance and ROI for every Rand that they spend.

There is so much more out there than just a website, mobisite and print. Using data collected from measured media can give a brand like FHM the competitive edge over their competitors in the trade marketing environment through an integrated approach. In my opinion publishing brands are so fixated on retaining the brand equity, that they have lost site on what is actually available to them to drive loyalty.

The sad part is that advertising with a performance metric need no longer be a cloak and dagger media buy, giving you little to no knowledge of where or what your campaign is targeting. With programmatic media buying and data collection, both smart and feature phone, matching some of the best across the globe available in our local market, there is no excuse.

We are a mobile society, embrace it and make it the core of your brand strategy to ensure ultimate success. Even if you are a media brand and supposedly know what you are doing.

Article Written By: Nicolle Harding
CEO of MaxAxion and Vice Chair of MMA SA
@nicolleharding / @MobileinSA
072 755 0425