Copy placement comes of age

Copy placement is now so much more than getting a copy of your title from A to B. As Gold Key Media’s Chris Horn tells James Evelegh, it is now a highly creative, data driven activity that utilises new technology to deliver a host of valuable benefits to publishers, their commercial partners and the venues themselves.

By James Evelegh

Q: What type of hotel do Chinese tourists typically stay in?

Park that seemingly left-field question for a moment – we’ll come back to it!

I met with Chris Horn, managing director of Gold Key Media, in his sixth floor room-with-a-view office in Broadwick Street, Soho, London to talk about trends in copy placement. His message was simple: the business of copy placement is now more creative, more imaginative, more effective and with a much greater reach than many publishers might expect. Copy placement (or audience capture, as Chris prefers to call it), if done properly, is a sophisticated, multi-faceted means of distribution which ticks multiple boxes: increased brand awareness, deeper audience and advertiser engagement, additional auditable circulation and a host of other commercial spin-offs.

Gold Key Media has been a leader in delivering non-traditional routes to market for publishers since 2001. Originally focused on supplying copies to hotels in London, they have over the years extended their reach nationwide, and, now with a thriving US office, internationally too. The range of outlets served has grown exponentially to include gyms, spas, salons, trains and corporate offices amongst others.

This has all been done in response to increasing publisher demand as traditional routes to market, such as newstrade and postal subscriptions, have contracted due to changing consumer behaviour. Copy placement is one part of the publishing mix that is seeing huge growth. The launch of new free titles, like Balance, the switch from paid to free distribution by titles such as Time Out and the Evening Standard and the increasing popularity of the hybrid model, as characterised by the great success of Cosmopolitan, one of Gold Key Media’s clients, have meant that the volume of copies distributed via copy placement has mushroomed.

Titles like Cosmopolitan have worked hand in glove with Gold Key Media to explore more dynamic circulation strategies, proactively seeking out prospective readers; going to them, not waiting for them to come to you.

“Copy placement”, says Chris, “has come of age as a circulation strategy.” In particular, he highlighted four areas:

1. New mind set

Now, more than ever, suppliers like Gold Key Media are focused on publisher needs. Gone are the days when a supplier might turn up at a publisher’s office with a list of outlets they had managed to do distribution deals with and then try to shoehorn that list into the publisher’s circulation plan.

What happens nowadays, says Chris, is that his team is likely to go to a publisher meeting effectively with a blank sheet of paper and listen to the publisher, hear about their objectives, their existing strategy and then work with the publisher to identify the gaps. Gold Key Media’s account management team will then go away and come up with a plan to address those gaps. Publisher needs first, solutions second, says Chris, not vice versa.

2. Redefining events

Event distribution is more than delivering a box of copies to Davos, or Rio, or ExCeL London. Important as the logistical aspect is, a publisher’s successful participation in an event is now the sum of a range of inter-connected marketing activities, before, during and after the event. Similarly, the definition of what constitutes an event is now much more fluid and imaginative. Of course, the Olympics, the World Economic Forum, The World Travel Market et al are all huge events and Gold Key Media has long standing relationships with them all, but what about the opening of a new Boots store in Oxford Street? A launch party at an interesting venue, like the Natural History Museum? Or the mini-makeover and manicure stand Gold Key Media set up and managed at Manchester’s Trafford Centre in August, for Cosmopolitan and event sponsor Rimmel? These are all events too and Gold Key Media’s highly proactive approach to events, from conception to delivery, is opening up exciting new opportunities for publishers.

Gaining distribution at existing events continues to be a key part of event distribution, but for Gold Key Media, where they are seeing real growth is in helping publishers create highly tailored niche events, where innovative and exciting activations can really bring the brand to life.

The only limiting factor, says Chris, is imagination. We can help publishers think creatively, to deliver vivid engaging experiences for attendees that fulfil circulation and commercial objectives and dovetail with a title’s broader social and marketing strategy, interacting with core audience across multiple touchpoints.

Gold Key Media’s events team can do as much or as little of the organisational heavy lifting, creative input or sponsor recruitment as a publisher might need. Events are resource hungry; Gold Key Media has the resource and expertise.

“And, not forgetting”, adds Chris, “the ABC has recently changed its rules to allow event distribution to be counted on circulation certificates.”

3. Increased digital distribution opportunities at hotels

The distribution of newspapers and magazines to the hotel industry is where it all began for Gold Key Media. The distribution and sales of print copies remains sacrosanct, says Chris, but the August launch of its new digital media platform for hotels offers publishers a host of additional new audience extension opportunities.

Their new media platform allows hotel guests to stream digital editions of selected newspapers or magazines, either on a paid-for or free basis. The new media player has, says Chris, an enhanced look and feel and delivers greatly improved performance. Its home page allows the hotel to deliver tailored messages and offers to its guests, an attractive new tool that has helped ensure hotelier buy-in.

Increasingly, Gold Key Media is bringing its proactive approach to events to bear on its hotel offering and is creating bespoke digital packages. They dipped their toe in the water a few years back by putting together a digital package for the Lough Erne hotel when it hosted the G8 summit in 2013 and for Gleneagles hotel when it hosted the Ryder Cup in 2014.

Now, having travelled a long way up the learning curve and with a more sophisticated digital platform, Gold Key Media is much nimbler and can quickly and easily create bespoke digital packages around smaller niche events. For instance, the Pennyhill Park hotel in Surrey is base camp and host venue for the England rugby squad. The Gold Key Media team is currently putting together a digital package for this elite group of sportsmen – including a range of national and sporting press titles. It enhances the hotel’s service to its guests and connects publishers to a high profile opinion-forming segment of their target readerships.

That Gold Key Media is in a position to spot and then take advantage of such opportunities is testament to the many years spent relationship building with the hotel industry. These relationships, says Chris, are one of the company’s USPs and the company continues to invest heavily in them. Gold Key Media is a sponsor of the hotel front office managers’ association (the AICR) and, in August, teamed up with them for a sponsored bike ride to Amsterdam, raising money for industry charity Hospitality Action and Children with Cancer. A team of 30 riders, including Gold Key Media staff and 5-star hotel managers, raised over £25,000.

Aside from being a good cause, what this means for publishers is that Gold Key Media has a long-standing and trusted relationship with hotels, that publishers directly benefit from.

“The hotel industry continues to purchase significant volumes of newspapers and magazines every year and their continued support for our industry needs to be recognised and rewarded,” says Chris.

4. Smart racks

Magazine racks in the foyers of large corporate HQs are not new. Gold Key Media has over 300 in London, Birmingham and Manchester at prestigious high footfall office premises such as Microsoft, Adidas, Sony, ITV etc. The benefits of these distribution points are well documented: desirable target market about whom a great deal is known, self-selection and longer shelf life and availability.

What is new, though, is the introduction of facial recognition webcams into the digital display units above the racks, which opens up a host of new marketing possibilities for publishers. The technology has been in use for a while in the retail space, but Gold Key Media is one of the early pioneers in the publishing arena. They are currently running final tests before rolling out the new technology in 2017.

The webcams will allow Gold Key Media to build up a very detailed picture of who is using the racks and when, information which they will feed back to publishers. This gold dust data will allow publishers to refine their distribution, validate the advertising proposition and even allow finely targeted messaging through the digital screens triggered by who is standing in front of the racks. Female, under 35? A perfect fit for a women’s glossy or its commercial partners.

These developments, says Chris, all fit into a clear narrative – copy placement is now a rounded, multi-layered route to market that exploits new technology to enable publishers to create joined-up circulation and commercial strategies, where each route to market complements each other rather than cannibalises it.

Gold Key Media, he says, is standing by, ready to help publishers capitalise on these opportunities. Chris urges publishers to be creative, think laterally and be demanding! Don’t see copy placement as a cost, but as a huge opportunity. His company is there to provide a service; “we see ourselves as an extension of the publishing company; most of us are former publishers ourselves, so we know the challenges publishers face.”

And, finally, I ask Chris, where do Chinese tourists stay? “Not where you might think”, he answers, and only a company like Gold Key Media, with its inside track to the hotel industry would know the answer. This and a myriad of other nuggets of inside information could make all the difference to your copy placement strategy. “I’d be happy to give you a more precise answer; just email me at and I’ll tell you,” promises Chris.

Gold Key Media

6th Floor, 33 Broadwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0DQ

Chris Horn, Managing Director


Tel: 020 7491 4065