'Room for magazines until 2030' - Bauer interim CEO

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 14 March 2016
Bauer Media's interim CEO for ANZ Andreas Schoo.

Bauer Media's leading magazines could run in print for another 15 years even though the company is looking to ramp up investment in digital media.

Interim chief executive Andreas Schoo tells AdNews Australia's largest magazine publisher is “platform agnostic” despite only taking control of its digital arm a year ago.

Schoo also confirmed the hunt for a new CEO was getting warmer and he hoped a permanent leader would be installed by the middle of the year.

It's been a tumultuous year for Bauer. Sales director Tony Kendall and CEO David Goodchild have left the company and iconic title Cleo closed.

Dolly has moved to an online-first model while online content is being structured into 'To Love' verticals, such as cooking site Food To Love and homes website Homes to Love.

Despite the rapid growth of the company's digital arm Bauer Xcel Media - which has gone from zero to 100 people in a year - Schoo says there are no plans to leave print altogether.

“I think there is room for magazines not only to 2020 but also for a decade later,” he says. “For example, 400,000 people are buying Women's Weekly every month. Well produced magazines have a good opportunity for the future.”

Bauer's transition to online-first models are largely based on consumer behaviour. For example, younger audiences prefer content on their mobiles, which led Bauer to publishing Dolly as online-first and reducing the magazine run to six times per year.

“At the end we are platform agnostic and the platform is not relevant for us,” he says. “We follow our consumers and for young people it's important to have a strong digital brand and mobile first. But for those 50-plus, it's more magazines, and more women prefer magazines to men.”

Another Bauer title that could follow to an online-first model is Cosmopolitan, which has had success in digital overseas.

Better late than never

Bauer only began investing in ACP's digital transformation a year ago. Previously, digital was managed by Ninemsn, a relationship in which Bauer was “the junior partner”.

Schoo admits Bauer's push into digital was too late, but explains contractual reasons are partly to blame.

“In an ideal world, of course, there were a lot of opportunities during the last 10 years [in digital] ... unfortunately it's too late. We had a really complicated contract and it took us some time to get rid of this contract,” he says.

To commercialise the transition to digital, Bauer is adopting a multi-platform approach, which includes hybrid packages of display advertising, sponsorships, events and other branding opportunities.

“Twenty years ago there was only two sources of revenue – from news stands and advertising. That has changed dramatically; you must be open to new sources, whether it is programmatic buying or lead generation,” Schoo says, adding that currently 80% of revenue is derived from advertising, 10% sponsorships and partnerships, and 10% from other sources including events.

“The main questions (advertisers ask) is what can be the best integration of their brands into our products and alternatives to just a page,” Schoo adds. “It's why we've built up our solutions team (to more than 30 people) to develop these combinations of print, digital and sponsorship.”

Beyond print

The company could also look to grow through acquisitions, particularly as Fifield's media reforms open the media market to more M&A activity.

Bauer is Europe's largest radio group and has previously been linked with moves for Southern Cross and Nova Entertainment Company.

“We are a really active company with a lot of M&A activity around the world, we just acquired a big Scandinavian radio company. If there are some assets available we will think about it but there aren't any concrete discussions right now,” Schoo says, adding the company would also consider TV assets.

With the appointment of a new chief executive only a few months away, this year promises plenty of change.

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