7 trends for 2016 – it’s going to be a wild ride!

Adelle Horler is group head of content at New Media, who is also studying how to be a rocket scientist.

The magazine world is in flux – ’twas ever thus. If 2015 was anything to go by, 2016 will be an interesting ride. Here are seven trends for 2016 that make it a brilliant time to be a journalist.

  1. It’s all just too much

Every time we hear from ‘Mr Magazine’, Samir Husni of the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, he talks about how many new magazines have been launched worldwide. It’s part of his crusade to prove that print is not dead. (By the way, it was 62 in October, 79 in November, , and 68 in December 2015.)

But what it also proves is that there’s simply too much content out there. And a great deal of it has all been seen before. There’s an opportunity now for change.

  1. The king is dead?

So is it time to challenge the ‘content is king’ mantra? Maybe not, but the abundance of content is surely the death knell for flabby features we’ve read a thousand times.

We believe utility is the new king. Content consumers, especially millennials, will increasingly give us their attention only if they’re getting a gift in return: content that’s useful, that makes them smarter, slicker or happier.

Utility is the driver behind the internal comms widget New Media developed for Multichoice. It puts the power firmly in the hands of the people, who can hyper-personalise what information appears in their newsfeed, and it makes corporate admin simple and effortless. Employee uptake has been massive, because it’s plain useful.

  1. We can’t go it alone

Amid the content clamour, are our targeted audiences even noticing the gorgeous work we produce? Key in 2016 will be extending the creative process beyond content and into distribution – to make sure our content reaches the right hearts and minds.

We believe in the power of creative collaborations to distribute content and amplify reach – and the options are endless.

Mblife.co.za is an online site New Media creates for Mercedes-Benz South Africa. It carries quality content, and uniquely among motor manufacturers, the emphasis is on lifestyle rather than motoring. But no matter how beautifully crafted the material, it’s meaningless without a large enough audience.

In just two weeks we increased traffic to the site by a whopping 81%.

Collaboration was the gamechanger. New Media also produces the Eat Out restaurant guide, which has a large online audience. A simple competition delivered the Eat Out audience to mblife’s content, and they decided to stay – the newsletter subscriber base doubled over the same period, even though subscribing wasn’t a condition of entry.

  1. The brandwagon

A crowded content world is made more chaotic by the fact that now everyone’s a publisher, documenting our lives in public, on multiple platforms. Everyone – from the media to that Facebook friend you haven’t seen since primary school – is competing for attention with a pithy post or yet another definitive video on how to get thin.

That, however, has been a boon for branded content. Brands generally have the budgets to produce considered and accurate content, and an incentive to talk credibly to their customers.

If you’re wondering what happens during a knee replacement op, which would you trust more: someone’s homegrown blog, or a post from a surgeon on the Mediclinic Info Hub?

Provided it is excellent journalism, content from trusted brands will increasingly be seen as the more reliable, and for that we’re prepared to accept a marketing message.

Brilliant content marketing is when it answers a customer’s need. If Woolworths starts carrying a peculiar new ingredient on its shelves, it simply makes sense to carry ‘how to cook with…’ content on its print and online platforms.

  1. Print is premium

Like Mark Twain’s, the report of print’s death was an exaggeration. But it has to change to play to its strengths. Consumer print circulations are falling partly because when we want straight information or news, we go online – and get it faster, too. Print must deliver pleasure; the feel of paper, the smell of ink, the reward of leaning back in your chair, and the quiet single-mindedness of a medium with no flashing cursors, alerts or pop-ups.

Let’s focus on the things that print can do, that online can’t.

VISI magazine’s circulation has been climbing steadily since its relaunch, when the design focus shifted to leveraging the tactile beauty of print. ‘Among the changes was a shift to matt paper, which is easier on the eye but it’s far less forgiving than gloss,’ says editor in chief Sumien Brink. ‘So we take immense care with repro and photography, and insist on extremely high production values. But that’s vital – print has longevity so it must be extremely beautiful. It must uplift your spirit – you must want to have it around you for a while.’

  1. Don’t try to print the internet

With online snapping up the masses, niche print titles with a singular focus on a passionate community will continue to rise – to a point. We need to ignore the cult of growth at all costs and be content with a circulation that suits the niche. Fairlady editor Suzy Brokensha has got this right with Lose It, the magazine that’s exclusively talking to the Banting community of believers. ‘Readers dabble in content,’ she says, ‘but believers gorge on it.’ The magazine has settled on an achievable circulation, and is made profitable using a model that doesn’t rely on ad revenue. Suzy describes Lose It as a pop-up magazine that will exist only while the frenzy around Banting continues. That’s the kind of focus and flexibility that will ensure survival.

  1. Who isn’t full-service?

New Media started as a lonely custom publisher in 1998. By the time that world became quite crowded, we’d moved on to content marketing. There are now many content marketing agencies, and many advertising and digital agencies offering a content service too. At a recent interagency meeting on a particular account, every single person described theirs as a full-service agency. In a field with too much parity, successful agencies will be those that continue to reinvent themselves and diversify their offering, while remaining true to their core speciality.

During 2015, New Media launched both a books division and a digital agency, which allows us to offer multiple opportunities to our clients. But our DNA remains the same – quality journalism, whatever the platform, and clever ideas that meet an audience need. Like the book division’s first title: The Unplugged Cook Book – for eating well during loadshedding.

* This article was first created for The Media magazine.

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Written by Adelle Horler

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