Bauer’s new digital-only title is its path to Gen Z readers

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 10 June 2020

Launching a new title just before a pandemic isn’t ideal, but Bauer’s Syrup is playing the long game to secure a Gen Z audience.

The digital-only title covers fashion, beauty and culture and launched in late February, just weeks before Australians retreated into lockdown. Bauer sees Syrup as a way for it to focus on 16-22 year-olds, an audience it considers to be untapped across the market.

“There aren't many brands that are speaking solely to Gen Z and they are quite different to other generations,” says Anna Preston, head of strategy at Bauer Media. “So I think having a space that can talk more solely to them, and to women as well, is really powerful.”

Research commissioned Bauer, called Offscript, used AI technology to better understand Gen Z. The research analysed more than 2,000 Instagram posts to discover and classify the underlying clusters of themes connecting the generation. The methodology was supplemented with qualitative research and manual semiotic analysis to provide context.

“We called the research that we did Offscript because there are so many permissible identities for this generation and there's no real one clear pathway,” Preston says.

“And so they're really operating off script and part of that means they have to embrace nuance. They're dealing with uncertainty and because of that they've actually adopted these real values and are very much a caring, listen and hear generation. Which I think is quite different to Gen X and Y. And the other aspect is that because there's not much for them to push against, rebellion is not really a key feature of them either.”

Despite the diversity within the generation, the study identified four broad ‘scripts’ that brands can adopt to connect with Gen Z; Celebrating the Average, Radical Artistry, Intelligent Play and Go Easy.

Given its target audience, social media has been important to growing Syrup’s organic traffic, something the team has been focused on, with Instagram providing it the most growth. Younger readers’ behaviour means the Syrup team has adapted to deliver stories entirely within social media platforms, and changing attitudes means Syrup is being more transparent about advertising.

“This is the first generation that was born and raised on the internet and they have a different attitude towards advertising than any other generation that came before them,” says editor Mahalia Chang.

“We really wanted to build a brand that has paid respect to that kind of point-of-view, so one thing that we're really passionate about at Syrup is complete transparency. We wanted to veer away from the traditional model where you read an article and then down the bottom there's a ‘brought to you by’. For previous generations, this probably wouldn't have been a problem… but for Gen Z, their level of distrust and their level of brand loyalty is so different that we really wanted to play into this idea of complete transparency.”

“When we work with a brand, it's all about building a partnership instead of it being a behind the scenes transaction. We really want it to be ‘Syrup is partnering with this brand for this reason’, and we have bought you this content because we think you'll like it. So it's just a different way of tackling this idea of advertising in 2020.”

With Syrup barely three months old, Chang says the pandemic has put the title in a “tricky” spot, but it’s working closely with brands as the nation heads out of restrictions.

“I don't really believe that there is a right time to launch a brand in 2020 and beyond,” Chang says. “But speaking from an editorial point of view, I have loved having Syrup live right now, because it's given us such a platform to connect to this generation on these topics that really do matter.

“Since February, we've had the bush fires, the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests that are going on at the moment. So I've been really proud and grateful to have Syrup live so that we can connect to this audience on really important topics that we have to have conversations about.”

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