How Google and Meta restrictions inspired Boss Hunting to launch a print magazine in 2024

Boss Hunting started as a humble Facebook page nearly 12 years ago, and branched into a Tumblr blog a few years later.

With 700,000 monthly page views and 350,000 unique readers a month, Boss Hunting currently claims a larger, more engaged audience than its rivals in the competitive men’s lifestyle space, such as Esquire and GQ, something the co-founders credit to “a decade of engaging, educating, and entertaining Australia audiences”.

Now comes the biggest challenge: converting this audience into paid-up, print magazine readers of B.H. Magazine, a bi-annual offering from the same tight-knit team, overseen by industry veteran Richard Clune’s Bleue Agency.

The first issue is available from Thursday and features interviews with Joel Edgerton and Ferrari F1 driver Charles Leclerc; a feature on the frustrated business owners in the Australian independent beer industry hit with rising costs and excise taxes; and a look at post-Olympics depression in competing athletes. That’s just the tip of the iceberg — as the magazine’s EIC tells Mumbrella, the first issue is less a magazine, more a “hefty, quality coffee table book”.

James Want, co-founder of Boss Hunting and editor-in-chief of B.H. Magazine speaks to Mumbrella about the joys and struggles involved in launching a print magazine in the AI-strewn battlefields of 2024.

What made you decide to expand this brand into print, especially given Boss Hunting’s current audience seem to be digital natives? How long have the plans been in the works?

We grew up reading print. It is the reason Boss Hunting exists, and the whole team are still big fans – particularly some of the newer titles being released across the US and Europe. I’d definitely agree that our audience — Australian males 18-44 — are digital natives, but we feel there is a growing discontent with being in front of a screen all the time.

B.H. Magazine is our way of producing category leading content via a different medium to what our audience is used to, and becoming less reliant on platforms to speak to them. The response from our digital audience when we announced the pre-release was phenomenal, and we can’t wait to grow a loyal fan base in print. We’ve dreamed of doing a print magazine, but there really wasn’t anything apart from gut-feel to make the jump.

Midway through 2023, we said 2024 was going to be our biggest year yet – and with the magazine alongside a new website, rebrand, and an ever-growing audience – we’re well on the way to achieving that.

What are the challenges of launching a print magazine in 2024? Was anything harder or easier than you thought it would be?

None of the team had any experience in producing a print magazine, so we engaged Richard Clune [formerly editor-in-chief of Robb Report and GQ Australia] to hold our hand through the process, and he was invaluable with his contacts and insight. From a challenge perspective, the whole project was about ten times harder than we expected it to be, with editorial, design, stock and printing obstacles that have resulted in many learnings. We also pulled the whole thing together in ten weeks. I’d say all the hard work has been worth it, and we’re pumped to release Volume 2 in October.

What’s your elevator pitch to potential advertisers?

B.H. Magazine is an Australia-first publication backed by a well established brand that Aussie men know and love. We understand what young Australian men want, and brands want to align with that. Volume 1 has been supported by the likes of TAG Heuer, KIA, Rimowa, IWC, Grey Goose, Grand Seiko, Patron, and Crown Resorts to name just a few. The calibre of partners who have jumped on board for our first ever print edition speaks to the trust the market has in B.H. as a brand.

What about to current readers who love BH but are not used to paying for content?

We reach almost a million Aussie men every month across web and social, and obviously don’t expect to sell a million copies. But we know from the data that around 1-2% of our total audience are superfans, and 1-2% of hundreds of thousands is still a significant number of people. And, at the super competitive price point of $20 for a hefty, quality coffee table book — it couldn’t be less of a glossy mag if we tried — I think people will be surprised it doesn’t cost more.

Once people have it in hand, and see the content within, we’re confident they’ll be happy to pay for the next one.

BH has thrived in an overall industry downturn. What’s your secret?

We’ve connected to our Australian readers through personality led video – a format our competitors are still trying to emulate – and also maintained our brand integrity by curating premium content on site. Staying lean and staying nimble means we have the ability to adapt to a media landscape that is ever-changing, and always unforgiving. Hiring good people and constantly testing and iterating without jumping at the next fad without a thought has also helped.

The Meta thing is obviously a blow – but does it open up any opportunities for publishers like yourself?

The Meta thing, should they kick publishers off the platforms, would definitely be a blow, which makes the timing of our magazine rather fortuitous. If anything, it’ll end up pushing established brands like ourselves with genuine audiences into print, experiential, and YouTube. Many will likely sink, a few will swim, but ultimately those with strong audiences will thrive as they follow the brand to the next format or platform.

What lessons from traditional print have you been able to carry over to this new project, and do they still apply?

Combining Richard’s history in print and our proficiency in the digital space, this magazine is a really digestible hybrid of both mediums. The way we consume content has fundamentally changed, even within the pages of a ‘traditional’ print magazine. Yes, we will be exploring long-form reads and features where appropriate, but we won’t shy away from the engaging nature of snappier, more consumable segments where necessary.

By its very nature, playing in the print space has allowed us to work to longer lead times and sharpen every corner of a story or feature before publishing, which has been a welcome change to the rapid digital world we usually operate in.

Conversely, what digital ‘habits’ or trends, or even content types, have you found won’t work in the print realm?

One of the key reasons we undertook this project was so we could break free of the shackles imposed by Google and Meta. We’re not writing for search value or click bait. Our editorial team have airtime for their passions, they can set the trends, and voice their opinions. We can lean on authorities in the space as well as in our own team, and really create a product that’s the absolute tip of the spear in the categories we cover.

Video, which is something we do a lot of on socials, obviously doesn’t translate to print but we plan to shift our attention to YouTube, with longer, more informative, higher quality executions, to complement our print direction.

Anything else you’d like to touch upon?

If Meta exit the market this year, selecting the ‘right’ partner will be crucial for brands and media buyers as campaign scale will be harder and more expensive to achieve.

Publishers who have built trust with a loyal audience will be critical to campaign success. Also, respect to all the publishers still doing print, it’s really hard!


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