What’s been going on…

James Evelegh’s roundup of some of the news stories that caught his eye over the last couple of months.

By James Evelegh

What’s been going on…


Hats off to Bauer Media for launching stuff. This period saw them unveil two new magazines – Pilot TV and Simply You.

Pilot TV is a new title from the Empire team. Editor-in-chief Terri White said: “Pilot TV is the first magazine of its kind, anywhere in the world: a magazine dedicated to the life-consuming world of cinematic TV.”

Simply You comes from Bauer’s real-life stable, and if you think you’ve seen it somewhere before, that’s because it looks just like all the other titles on the real-life shelves.

Liz Watkinson, managing director of Bauer Media’s TV Listings & Real-Life portfolio said: “The idea of a magazine using real-life stories to help, support, encourage women to fulfil their goals was seen as differentiating, relevant and appealing to the readers we spoke to. This magazine … will guide our readers towards being the best version of themselves.”

Pleasing as it is to see new print titles on the newsstand, I couldn’t help noting a certain hesitancy about both launches – the first issue of Pilot TV is ‘Issue 0’, because it is … err …a pilot … If all goes well, we are promised a full launch in September. Similarly with Simply You, which is being “published monthly from May as part of a three-month trial to establish the title in the marketplace”. All very sensible but I wonder why they bother saying it. Publishing is a permanent trial and the plug can be pulled at any minute on any title. I can’t recall any mention of trial periods in the mega launches of the early and mid-noughties.


When Future is in one of its periodic acquisition binges, batten down the hatches. In the last year or so, they have snapped up Imagine Publishing and Centaur’s home interest titles, reacquired the music titles they had previously sold to Team Rock and bought Noble House Media and Blaze Publishing. In the last couple of months, they acquired NewBay Media and five titles (What Hi-Fi?, Stuff, FourFourTwo, Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome) from Haymarket. After interventions from the Competition and Markets Authority, Stuff has since been taken out of the equation, so presumably Haymarket is still open to offers for that title.

The acquisition of NewBay extends Future’s music portfolio into the B2B space and also opens up further opportunities in the US market.

Speaking about the Haymarket titles, Zillah Byng-Thorne, CEO of Future, said: “This acquisition is a further demonstration of our strategy to develop evergreen content that connects with communities and further diversifies our revenue streams. These titles are well established brands with strong market positions that expand and enhance our presence in existing verticals and extend our reach into new communities.”

“These world-class brands engage, inform and entertain millions of passionate enthusiasts,” said Kevin Costello, CEO of Haymarket, of the titles he’d just sold.

Aren’t “world-class brands” the ones we’re supposed to hold onto?

Elsewhere in M&A land, Media 10 publishers of Grand Designs, Good Homes, On Office and Icon magazine and organisers of a number of events, including The Ideal Home Show, acquired Pro Publishing Media & Events, specialists in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom sector. In terms of market fit and potential synergies, this seems to have the compelling logic that seems so lacking in – to step outside publishing for a moment – the proposed Sainsbury’s / ASDA merger. In the B2B space, Euromoney Institutional Investor, having recently divested itself of a number of brands, opened its wallet and bought Extel – again, on the surface of it, a sensible, strategic fit.

Extel runs an annual survey across the European equities investment community. The Extel Survey began in 1974 and in 2017 over 15,500 investment professionals cast 1.1 million votes across the investment industry, providing a significant dataset to help clients analyse and drive their market understanding, said the press blurb.

Will Rowlands-Rees, MD of Institutional Investor Research, explained the opportunity thus: “We will create a unique bulge bracket through domestic broker view of research product evaluation in the European market at a time of tremendous market change driven by MiFID II,” – an explanation that will make complete sense to those who work in asset management.

Left-field revenue initiatives

Top prize for the most interesting new revenue stream must go to Hearst. In March, they announced a new partnership with Coast & Country Hotels to rebrand two of their hotels. The Lansdown Grove Hotel, Bath and the St George in Harrogate will be refurbished and renamed the Country Living Lansdown and the Country Living St George respectively.

James Wildman, Hearst UK CEO, said: “This hotel license agreement is a fantastic addition to the ever-growing Country Living portfolio of brand partnerships and endorsements. This is a very ambitious project and is the first time a publisher has put its stamp on a hotel. Together we plan to create something new, that will surprise and delight Country Living loyal fans as well as introducing many more to the brand.”

Both hotels, situated in historic buildings, are, we are told, being redesigned under the guidance of Susy Smith, group editorial director, and the Country Living editorial team, who are all, I assume, undergoing intensive training to try and get some interior design qualifications under their belts.

Second prize goes to Family, ShortList Media’s in-house studio, who are taking on more and more agency-style creative work for brands, for display and broadcast on non-ShortList properties. Most recently, they created a TV advert for GAME.

Liz Harriott, group entertainment director at ShortList Media said: “We are delighted to have expanded on the ShortList Family offering by moving into the TV creative and production space. Developing our creative and content services into a broadcast space is a natural step for us.”

(Lack of) press freedom

In Reporters Sans Frontières’ recently published 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the UK failed to improve its miserable ranking of 40th out of 180 countries.

There is small comfort in the fact that the US, proud home of the first amendment, but currently in the thrall of a press-bashing autocrat, did even worse – they came 45th.

“Maintaining our ranking of 40th out of 180 countries is nothing to be proud of, and puts us in the embarrassing position of having one of the worst records on press freedom in Western Europe. This is unacceptable for a country that plays an important international standard-setting role when it comes to human rights and fundamental freedoms. We must examine the longer-term trend of worrying moves to restrict press freedom, and hold the UK government to account”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The top ranked country on the index was Norway, followed by Sweden. Given that both those countries also ranked in the top ten in this year’s World Happiness Index, where they were joined by Finland and Denmark, I fervently hope that, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I come back as a Scandinavian.

For the record, on the Press Freedom Index, Russia came in at 148, Turkey at 157, China 176 and, in bottom place, North Korea at 180. Just a hunch, but my guess is that these countries also performed quite badly in the Happiness Index.

Ashley Highfield

Early May saw the resignation of Johnston Press CEO Ashley Highfield. The official reason is that he’s leaving for family reasons and in order to fulfil his plans to transition to a be a 'plural' non-executive director as the next phase of his career. The unofficial reason, surely, is that after seven years in charge of the regional press group, he was completely knackered and wanted out.

Given that the former BBC and Microsoft executive, who prior to joining JP, had had no newspaper experience and was taken on for his new media credentials, it’s perhaps surprising that he cited the acquisition of the i newspaper as a “particular highlight” of his time in charge.

Ashley said: "I have been privileged to lead Johnston Press during a period of unprecedented turbulence in our industry. Since 2011, we have grown our overall audience, in particular our digital business, created an industry leading tele-sales operation and maintained margins.”

As epitaphs go, I’ve seen more uplifting ones than “he maintained margins”, but, hopefully, all the upheavals of the last seven years will start to bear fruit under JP’s new CEO, David King.


And, last but not least, April saw the long-awaited unveiling of PAMCo’s new metrics – Audience Measurement for Publishers (AMP) – the replacement for the NRS.

This is a big deal.

According to the PAMCo press release, the new data currency, which has been in intensive development in consultation with the industry, will for the first time, allow users to look at audience delivery across all publisher platforms – phone, tablet, desktop and print. This utility unlocks the huge audiences consuming publisher content on phone and tablet devices (which were not previously visible on the NRS) and opens up many new opportunities to plan and trade the audiences drawn to the content produced by UK publishers. The published media industry is the first medium to be able to measure audiences across all platforms.

Speaking last year, Simon Redican, PAMCo chief executive, promised that AMP would represent “better data, better research, better functionality. The industry needs a story of transformation and this provides that. It will help get publishers over the tipping point in their journey from print to platform-neutral. With the arrival of AMP, we will have something our competitors don’t.”

Over the last twelve months, much work has gone into briefing publishers and agencies on the new metrics. Hopefully, all that hard work has paid off, and publishing sales teams are, right now, making ever more compelling cases to media buyers about the merits of our brands and that ad sales are starting to head in the right direction. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.