Are Media’s Jane Huxley on the survival of print media in Australia and the acceleration of e-commerce in publishing

“We sell a magazine every second in Australia, right now,” Are Media’s CEO, Jane Huxley said during Mumbrella’s Publish conference on Wednesday. “That’s not a sign of a business that’s slowing down anytime soon. If we were selling a magazine every ten minutes, yeah we may say yeah, this is something to start thinking about, but we are selling an extraordinary amount of magazines.”

Are Media is Australia’s largest content company for women, according to Roy Morgan, and reaches nine in ten women every year through its portfolio of brands including The Australian Women’s Weekly, marie claire, Gourmet Traveller, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman’s Day, Country Style, beautyheaven and bounty.

Are Media CEO, Jane Huxley at the 2022 Mumbrella Publish conference.

During the fireside chat, Huxley shared her vision of how Australia’s publishing landscape is evolving, the first priority moving into Are Media as its CEO, and making moves in e-commerce.

“I think Are Media grew a really great muscle during the last two years and learned quite quickly how to work from home,” said Huxley. “The team pivoted really quickly, and we never missed a deadline, and it was quite extraordinary to see people adapting so fast on the print side of our business, which requires a lot of creativity, it requires a lot of people working together. The way that people adapted was phenomenal.”

As Huxley made her first steps into the doors of Park Street’s publishing house, Huxley was clear where her first priorities were.

“It was to remain that stability that the prior head of the company had really worked hard to create, and to show up for the business,” she said.” Being the first female CEO of the company, I feel like I had an advantage on my very first day. A lot of our organisation, looks, feels, and sounds like me, so I had a bit of a natural advantage there.”

When Huxley commenced the role 15 months ago, she sat in reception, answered calls, and visited news agencies to pack shelves, which Huxley believed to be crucial for understanding the business.

“Supply Chain is everything to a CEO. I hadn’t worked in mag publishing. I have been in content businesses all my life, but I didn’t really know a lot about how magazine publishing worked,” she said. “So, I followed the supply chain, from the initial idea that we wanted to put in the magazine, all the way through to when it gets into the hands of a customer.”

Jane Huxley at the 2022 Mumbrella Publish conference.

Huxley said she sat in and worked alongside individual teams for each magazine within the company, then would talk to the designers, and look at all the tech that underpins the entire business, with Huxley adding, “I went to the printing facility, then followed that through to the distribution, where we pick and pack the magazines, put them on trucks, we send a truck to every single newsagency and supermarket in Australia and New Zealand, twice a week. The operation behind that is extraordinary.”

As for what’s next for Are Media and the publishing industry in Australia, Huxley said while the circulation of magazines shows no signs of slowing down, and a clear want for print titles here, the future of content for the company is e-commerce.

“We are proudly in the print business because the customers love it. However, we are starting to invest more in the digital market, and have extraordinary communities in Bounty and beautyheaven.”

In March, Are Media acquired the Australian e-commerce business Hard to Find. The acquisition will significantly expand Are Media’s existing content commerce capabilities, strengthen its revenue diversification strategy, and leverages Hard to Find’s technology to engage audiences even further with Are Media brands and content.

“When you think about the role of magazines and the role of content at Are Media, traditionally 125 years ago, the role of magazines and content in Australia has really been to inform, to influence, to inspire, and what happens at the end of that is there is typically a transaction,” said Huxley. “We have audiences that a browsing audience but a great deal of our audiences both on print and digital today is what we call intention-based audiences, particularly in the home sector.”

She added: “Those customers buy the magazine and browse the product with the intention to do something. The way we monetise this is clearly through circulations, and then advertising because advertisers see its very clear position in an intention audience. But, when you take that one step further, the future of content for us is e-commerce.


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