Magazine boss Nick Chan: We’ve done a shit job at branding our medium

The chairman of the trade body for Australia’s major magazine publishers has said that the medium has done a “shit” job at branding itself.


Nick Chan – chairman of Magazine Publishers of Australia – was responding to comments from OMD’s head of print Simon Davies during a Mumbrella Question Time held as part of Magazine Week.

Davies said: “There are not a lot of distinct magazine brands out there. What has happened over time is that a lot of magazines have just got very similar. There are fewer and fewer titles that you look at and go ‘I have to have that magazine’. The editorial content is often quite similar.”

But Chan, who is also CEO of Pacific Magazines, described Davies’ comments as “hogwash”.  

Chan said: ‘We’ve done a shit job of actually branding our medium out there, haven’t we?. Simon thinks they’re a commodity. They’re not. It’s as simple as that. The audience don’t do that.”

Chan added later: “We’re incredibly defensive when we talk. We say we’re not quite dead, we’ve still got a pulse. We do need to actually be really proud of our magazines in the printed form, the circulations and what we do with that.

“We have this incredible relationship. We have the hearts and the minds of our consumers. We need to bring it to the fore and show that it works.”

Asked about whether magazines should be marketing themselves as media brands rather than simply magazines, Peter Russell, GM of marketing for Fisher & Paykel, urged publishers:  “Please dont rush in. Please don’t be generic. Your goal is to be unique.”

And Geoff Hird, chairman of Publishers Australia, which represents niche title, added : “We publish magazines. Don’t lose that point. You can’t just suddenly become brands. We’ve got something that’s at the heart and sould of what we do, and that’s producing magazines.”

Meanwhile, ad sales people signalled their frustration at getting their messages heard by media agencies and marketers.

Responding to a question from the audience, Russell said: “I really feel for you. People like me have to put up barriers… or I’d be driven completely and utterly mad.”

And Davies warned: “The key thing is about providing relevant information, and that doesn’t happen that often. You have a lot of people that will come in with a 25 slide PowerPoint presentation when actually an email would have got it across.”


  1. Siobhan
    17 Nov 11
    3:18 pm

  2. Hugh had something to say about magazines this very morning.

  3. Nathan
    17 Nov 11
    3:19 pm

  4. A magazine isn’t a brand?! With comments like that no wonder they’re in trouble.

  5. JT
    17 Nov 11
    3:55 pm

  6. You’re right Nick; you’ve done a shit job. Magazines are indeed a commodity to consumers – just be thankful that habitual buying props up your declining circulations…

  7. A
    17 Nov 11
    4:15 pm

  8. I was actually at the conference. I think it was good and can only grow from here. Thanks to the presenters and everyone who attended. I agree with Nick – we have not been good enough at publicizing our medium and making it stand out. Just look at how the outdoor industry has re-energized itself.

    There was certainly a lot of frustration expressed at the Magazine Week conference by publishers who found it difficult (if not impossible) to get in to see agency buyers – let alone get the sale. I have also experienced this in the early Essential Baby days.

    There is a real disconnect between buyers and sellers particularly at the niche, independent and b2b end of the market and with the increasing amount of choice through our fragmenting media landscape, and agency resource issues this is a problem which isn’t going away – in fact it is getting worse.

    But it is a 2 way street….

    Every day I see media owners who have a great story to tell advertisers – but some unfortunately are not telling their story correctly (the 25 page powerpoint Simon refers too).

    I have also just been through a process of buying a campaign for a small client where I requested information from 25 media owners. While some were great to work with I still have not had any response at all from 5 of them. Some delivered information which was well below standard. I have mentioned this to several other buyers and have heard very similar stories. I should add it isn’t just magazines and also isn’t neccessarily at the smaller end of the market.

    Both sides of the media trading relationship have various issues to deal with and more work to do….

  9. Michael Petersen @ jfmedia
    17 Nov 11
    5:13 pm

  10. Tim, thanks for including my question to the panel at about 2mins into the video.

    I feel for the niche players be they mags or any other media for that matter. If the overall marketing budget isn’t increasing and agency comparable rev doesn’t grow, it just doesn’t leave time or money for agency buyers or even marketers to look too broadly. Its draining enough for them to go through the process of buying niche let alone researching it.

    Unless you can be leveraged in by a niche media marketing body or an existing sales supplier to the agency/marketer, it would be almost impossible.

    Shame the answers at the conference focussed on sales techniques once in the meeting rather on the ways to best get it in the first place. Many niche media sales people I know would leave one of the big boy’s reps for dead if they were given the same opportunity. MP

  11. Mr Consumption
    17 Nov 11
    7:15 pm

  12. I have one print magazine subscription. It is a 1/4 surfing piece called The Surfers Journal. The content is the reason I pay to receive it; well written, intimate, amazing photo’s and really different stories to any other magazine out there in it’s field.

    I pick magazines up at the airport sometimes and get put off by 50% of the pages being ad’s…

    Like any channel, it is all down to engaging the target market. Content is king(.)

    Get that right and there is a place for a printed magazine.

  13. Kavid
    17 Nov 11
    8:27 pm

  14. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the vast majority of Pacific’s mags licensed products who simply take enormous swags of their content from their overseas parent editions? Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Marie Claire etc!!! What I’d love to see Mr Chan do is (A) launch something and (B) fill it with unique local content! That’d renew people’s faith in his medium.

    Good point by Micheal here – ‘Many niche media sales people I know would leave one of the big boy’s reps for dead if they were given the same opportunity.’

    There’s a difference between an ‘account manager’ and an advertising ‘sales’ person.

    I’ve known account managers who have never truly ‘sold’ an ad in their careers :-)

  15. Jam Jar
    18 Nov 11
    9:47 am

  16. I must admit I do agree with Simon’s comment about ” The editorial content is often quite similar.”

    The majority of magazine’s are so focused on getting the advertising dollars in that they lose focus on there actual content of interest for the reader and the magazine integrity.

    Magazine’s have lost there focus, it’s a simple pattern – make interesting and original content – readers increase – advertising will follow.

  17. Jim P
    18 Nov 11
    2:14 pm

  18. Jam Jar, take another long careful look at those glum-dum faces in the video and ask yourself if you think any of their owners could be capable of creating a magazine with ‘interesting and original’ content. If you had to write a title for that charisma-free vid – it would have to be, ‘Who Died?’

  19. Nathan
    18 Nov 11
    3:01 pm

  20. I agree with Nick’s comment. Magazine people continually talk about how engaging the medium is. Yet they ignore that circulation and readership continues to drop. Engagement isn’t any good if no one is reading.

    Unfortunately Nick also uses this engagement argument in the clip above.

  21. Dorothy
    21 Nov 11
    11:10 am

  22. Nick Chan *wishes* New Idea sold 800,000!