Print and digital 'not opposing forces', conference hears

Print and digital 'not opposing forces', conference hears

Print and digital are not opposing forces, they should work together as a “reader-centred good”, the Guardian’s Richard Furness has said whilst discussing the newspaper’s recent redesign.

Speaking to delegates at The Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity Conference at London's Milton Court on Tuesday (26th June), Furness, m.d. of publishing and consumer revenues at Guardian News and Media, discussed how the newspaper had rebranded all of its global assets in both print and digital. He said that to undergo the major change the company had had to reconsider and re-evaluate what a printed newspaper was for in an increasingly digital world.

After weathering an “incredibly difficult period of time” for printed papers across the world over the last 10 years, the company had decided to address problems with its two core revenue streams - print advertising and circulation revenue, which were both in long term decline.

According to Furness (pictured), the goal of the rebrand was to “put the print model on a more sustainable footing and to safeguard its future.”

The newspaper was previously printed in a unique Berliner format, but this was proving not to be cost-effective, so the company decided to outsource its printing and distribution, close its own printing site and change the size of the newspaper to Tabloid.

Mylene Sylvestre Welton, publishing director of Guardian News and Media, said that the rebrand underlines that the company “believes in print”.

“It is still really crucial for our business model, and for the gravitas it gives the brand”, she said.

The launch of the new tabloid format marked “the end of an era”, said Sylvestre Welton, and the move to the less unique format meant the company had to deliver a strong design to ensure the newspaper stayed unique to readers.

“In thirteen years since last redesign, the way people consume content has changed massively, we wanted the new design to reflect the changes and deliver rich experiences for readers in print an online. What started out as a print project, became something bigger and resulted in redesign of every print and digital product.”

Three months after the rebrand, the newspaper managed to regain market share and bring readers back to print. It enjoyed “record” subscription numbers that were 300% ahead of target, as well as record contribution levels.

Earlier at the conference, keynote speaker Andrew Tuck, editor of global affairs and lifestyle magazine Monocle, had said that “promiscuous" readers were irrelevant to the company's bottom line. Instead the magazine is pursuing meaningful relationships with readers, Tuck said, and shunning social media.

The conference also saw Andrew Bruce Smith, director of social media consultancy Escherman, discuss digital advertising fraud. He highlighted to delegates recent incidents of Facebook inflating its metrics and the danger of influencers and brands buying social media followers. He dissuaded businesses from purchasing followings, saying that the data profiles created by fake profiles are "not helpful" and will "hurt your business in the long run".

Marketeers and publicists who created some of the biggest book campaigns of the year including for Goodnight Story for Rebel Girls (Penguin), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins) and The Handmaid's Tale (Vintage), presented case studies to attendees of the conference. They said it was important to harness internet advocacy, and for marketing and publicity teams to work seamlessly together. The importance of getting retailers on side was also emphasised.

In a panel about prizes, Dotti Irving, c.e.o. of Four Culture, said it was often the smaller independent publishers that "really made the most" of prize nominations. She said that Saraband, which has two members of staff, "absolutely went for it", and maximised publicity and the exposure when Graeme Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016. She advised delegates that it was important to dedicate time to briefing authors and to the prizes' campaign trail.

In the session “Facebook: Friend and Foe”, audience members were encouraged by panelists including Bloomsbury’s head of digital marketing Tram Anh-Dan to focus on engagement, not selling, on the platform, and to remember it is video posts that gain the most traction, having been prioritised on Facebook’s new algorithm. Other tips included dispelling the myth Facebook is perfect for micro-targeting; “It couldn’t be further from the truth for us,” said Nick Marsh, Wonderbly's head of product and design. “If you want to market in a specific niche, then use Google."

Mills & Boons’ marketing director Joanna Rose wowed audience members meanwhile with her tale of how it managed to reinvigorate a classic brand to capitalise on a market in which 13.5m books are sold every year. Considering 300,000 existing fans and 2.5m lapsed readers, Mills & Boon took a new approach, changing up its imagery by using filters and close-cropping to bring its books, marketing materials and points of sale in line with contemporary proponents of the genre. It also launched a new “sexy and explicit” series, Dare, and positioned itself as “the experts on romance” seeing sales surge.

And Trapeze's Sam Eades led a “publicity confessional” on stage with prosecco with Georgina Moore, communications director for Headline and Tinder Press, Answen Hoosen at The Bird Literary Agency and Reetu Kabra, director of RK PR, talking highs and lows of the job and what the best publicists are made of.

The day was rounded off by surprise guest Sam Conniff Allende, author of Be More Pirate (Penguin) who recently broke a few of his publisher’s rules by flyposting Penguin Random House's offices for publicity and partnering with start-up Blinkist (also speakers at the conference) to spread the word even further. “There are numerous times where we are following the rules and it’s not the right thing to do,” he said, concluding: “I advocate a daily rule to be broken. The next essential skill is getting good at rule breaking.”