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Renegade Collective founder Lisa Messenger: ‘I hate putting celebrities on the cover’ as she eyes US expansion

renegade collective ryan goslingThe founder of female-oriented entrepreneurs magazine The Renegade Collective Lisa Messenger has outlined plans to expand the publication internationally, and said she “hates” putting celebrities on the cover.

Speaking at Thursday’s Publish conference in Sydney, Messenger outlined how she intends to move to the US to help develop the magazine in that market, one of 37 the mag is sold in.

Referring to the current edition with actor Ryan Gosling on the cover, Messenger admitted “to be honest I hate it – it kills me”.

“I just wanted to put ordinary entrepreneurs on the front. But what I’ve learnt is I have to play the game a bit,” she said. “I have got to look like the other women’s magazines and things, because that’s where our biggest market share is.

“So I purposely put the biggest people I can get now on the covers. And I’ve made essentially what is a business magazine look like a design and fashion magazine. So it’s been quite strategic.

“I’ve had some struggles about that myself, but then I think that if people are picking it up and it makes them read it because they’ve been tricked into thinking its something else, and then they go ‘Wow this is amazing’ and they keep buying it, then I’ve done my job.”

Lisa Messenger speaking at the Publish conference

Lisa Messenger speaking at the Publish conference

On her recent trip to the US, where the magazine has been sold for the last 18 months, Messenger told interviewer, publisher of The Source Camille Alarcon: “It was an amazing opportunity to go over there. It’s about finding as many touch points as possible.

“I get equally as excited when people run up to me, gushing, saying ‘Oh my god, the Collective’ – we get a lot of that – but I get equally as excited when people go ‘Nup, never heard of you’. That’s good, and humbling. I’ve got so much more work to do. I would be really scared if everyone knew about it now. It’s gonna get a lot bigger.

Asked about whether she would relocate, she said: “I’ll probably have to move to the U.S. for probably about 18 months, in about 18 months, to really grow that market out. It’s doing well but it’s organically doing well at the moment. I think for me to be the face of the brand I need to be on the ground in the markets.”

“But the plan is to – next year and I’m not sure when, within six to 12 months, to do a US edition which will feed the US and Canada and then to do a UK edition once we’re in the UK, which will be in Europe for now, and then Australia, and we’ll start putting more Aussies on the cover here. It’s hard for all markets, but Australia has to be our absolute primary focus at the moment.”

She said the magazine is currently comprised on 70 per cent overseas and 30 per cent Australian content, which she said was a deliberate ploy to differentiate the magazine in the local market as  “I was on the other side of the media for years and I was bored to death of myself.”

However she admitted it was hard to manage the different distribution and economic models that work in the different territories.

“The economies are so different, like in Australia we retail for $9.95, in the U.S. I think we’re 13 dollars,  and most magazines in the U.S. retail for 2-5 dollars so I need to change the revenue model over there,” she said.

“I need to have a team on the ground – which is partly why I want to move there – to sell ads so that we bring the cover price down and we’re gonna do lots of partnerships.

“Basically we’ll emulate what we’re doing here. I can’t do all of that from Australia. It is interesting, and it’s interesting from an advertising perspective as well. Because CommBank does not care less if I’m in 37 countries. They only care about this market, whereas someone like Lindberg, with sunglasses, they love that we’re in 37 countries. So it’s a constant flux.”

On distribution she pointed to the Netherlands where the magazine was given prime spots in newsagents for free, but added: “We’re not in the UK yet because we have to spend the equivalent of about $12 000 a month just to be ranged in (newsagent) WHSmith. So it’s complex how there’s different markets.”

Messenger also said she was reluctant to get the circulation of the magazine in Australia audited admitting: “I don’t really believe in it. They only measure print and I believe we have a lot of other touch points. We might get there, we’ll see.”

Jack Fisher

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