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Keeping ahead of our audience

James Kick, one of the new associate publishers within Future’s entertainment division, looks at the challenges ahead.

By James Kick

Of all the names I could’ve been called in my first planning meeting as the new publisher of Future’s PlayStation portfolio, Kevin Costner wasn’t one I had in mind.

But the smirking editor that made the remark can be forgiven because it also meant he understood the point I was trying to get across: if we build it, they will come.

Audience is key and will always remain so for publishers. So it’s extremely important that they remain at the heart of what we’re trying to do with titles such as Official PlayStation Magazine, PSM3 and FirstPlay. Media is evolving, videogames are evolving and we need to take notice of how our gaming audience is evolving.

They’ve changed. They’re not guys hiding away in their bedrooms anymore. They’re professionals, or will be after finishing school or college. They’re highly engaged, cash-rich young men playing games: pre and post-pub, with mates, on and offline, through large HD TVs. They’re wearing designer jeans and swigging bottles of classy European lager. Their smartphones and laptops are extensions of themselves. Oh, and there’s loads of them – more than three million people own a PlayStation 3 in the UK alone, and a similar number own a PlayStation Portable.

Sony has a big year ahead and we’re well positioned - we’re growing the reach of our brands at a rate of knots. Not to keep up with our audience, but to stay ahead.

The spine of all our brands is the trusty print magazine and our highly engaged, loyal readers. The magazines are still the premium, tangible thing that the web can never be. The web will never make that nice thud sound as it drops on your coffee table. The web will never have that glossy feeling.

Our magazines, as specialist publications, have an affinity with our readers that the web will never be able to take away. In fact, our latest figures show we have more subscribers to our gaming print products than we’ve ever had. Print isn’t dead. It’s the foundation of the arena we’re building for our gamers to play in, and our monthly labours-of-love remain the most important element of our media brands.

But, of course, we’re also online with a huge audience: vibrant, highly engaged communities of gamers. We’re on-console, producing premium editorialised content delivered in front of our gamers whilst they play. We’re on cover discs, a medium that is the foundation of Future, let alone our current games portfolio. They remain a key pillar for games content and we continue to develop them. And we’re on stage with events such as The Golden Joystick Awards, which generated over 1.5 million consumer votes last year.

It’s a multi-layered approach that works for us, our clients and for our audience: in total, Future reaches more than 2 million high volume gamers every month.

So as our audience changes, so do we to fulfil their media needs. We need to build a portfolio that engages them across many platforms and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’ll keep pushing our web offerings, apps and events forward so they complement gamers’ lives, but we’ll always acknowledge the print products which remain our anchormen.

In my first few weeks as a publisher, I’ve learnt that as long as we keep ahead of our changing audience, we’ll continue to grow our reach, brick by brick. I’ve also learnt not to use “if we build it, they will come” in my next planning meeting.