Media Pioneer: Blaze Publishing

For specialist publishers, writes Carolyn Morgan, the app store is a great channel for highly targeted niche content. Blaze Publishing has earned a place on the 2012 Media Pioneer Awards shortlist with its portfolio of iPad editions of shooting specials and bookazines.

By Carolyn Morgan

Growth in print driven by segmentation into expanding niches

Blaze Publishing is an independent publisher, focusing on shooting and country sports markets. According to MD Wes Stanton, their growth has been driven by launches, concentrating on sub-markets that are too small for larger publishers to make profitable. Blaze consider themselves as shooting market experts first and publishers second. Close relationships with readers and advertisers mean they are able to identify growing niches early. They start with specials or quarterly publications and build up frequency if the market seems buoyant.

Blaze Publishing’s special bookazines in print are associated with their regular monthly magazine titles – Sporting Rifle and Clay Shooting. The Sporting Rifle book of Rifles & Ammunition, and the Clay Shooting book of Competition Shotguns were premium-priced bookazines at £6.99. A one-shot bookazine for the archery market, based on content from Bow International magazine, was priced at £9.99 and sold through specialist archery shops rather than traditional newsstrade.

Print-wise, copy sales were in-line with expectations for premium-priced publications – anywhere between 25% and 50% of their monthly print sales figures – so the profitability was modest, although worth doing as part of the overall business per brand.

App store versions of bookazines have generated over £10k

With the acquisition of Diesel Car from Trojan Publishing, Blaze put their titles onto the Magazine Cloner app platform. They have since been experimenting with bookazines on tablets, adopting a similar strategy to their print publishing.

What came as a bonus was the sales of bookazine apps on the iPad via the iTunes webstore. Blaze resolved to keep prices the same as the print versions, and over 12 months, extended the profitability of this group of titles. The content is specialist, and Blaze designed the bookazines to have a long shelf life.

According to MD Wes, “Though total revenue from these digital editions was individually modest, the total gross contribution of over £10,000 has been a welcome addition to Blaze Publishing’s business – the marginal cost of securing this revenue is small, and certainly worthwhile.”

Low-risk channel for digital-only specials

The iPad bookazines are reaching international markets that aren’t cost-effective in print at no marginal cost. Email marketing is proving effective in cross-promoting across the portfolio. Blaze are now looking at testing out some specials on iPad-only, by compiling already-published content, and not even going to print. The next step will be creating some digital-only ad opportunities.

For specialist publishers with “evergreen” content, creating targeted specials for the App store is a relatively low-risk digital publishing option.

The Media Pioneer Awards recognise innovation and entrepreneurial achievement in specialist consumer and B2B markets. Winners are announced at the Specialist Media Show on 24 May 2012. We’re delighted to welcome Audience Media as sponsor for the 2012 Media Pioneer Awards. Audience Media provide a publishing solution with a single CMS to publish to web, print and tablet plus subscription management.