Real Living editor-in-chief Deborah Bibby on the ‘grown up’ magazine and how it’s changed

deborah bibbyBauer Media has launched its digital hub Homes To Love which brings together brands such as Australian House and Garden, Belle, Real Living and Homes+. Mumbrella’s Miranda Ward spoke to Real Living editor-in-chief Deborah Bibby on what Homes To Love means for the title, Real Living’s 10th birthday last month and how homes titles audiences have changed.

Deborah Bibby has been at the helm of homes and lifestyle magazine Real Living since it’s launch ten years ago, and in that time has steered the title into a new direction in response to the magazine’s changing consumer, whilst also extending the brand into events.

The title is now part of Bauer’s digital hub Homes to Love which Bibby said the team “were very involved at the start”. 

“All the editors had a round table helping them to create what we thought our readers wanted. We have a lot of involvement,” she said.

Homes to Love“The digital team is going to be moving into our floor which is going to be great and we meet probably once a fortnight to decide on content.”

On the type of content the digital hub will host Bibby said there will be some different content but “not initially”.

“We’re not going to give it all away, but there is a percentage we will offer to Homes to Love to get the brand out there,” she said.

The hub will draw on the expertise and content of Bauer brands such as Australian House and Garden, Belle, Real Living and Homes+ and will be part of the publishing company’s new women’s network. Bauer launched its food digital hub, Food to Love, back in April.

Cover girl

Celebrating its 10th birthday last month, Bibby said the title has “grown up” in its ten year history.

“She’s become a lot more stylish, a lot more fashionable, more sophisticated,” said Bibby. “As a visual, when we first started Real Living we had so many rules for the cover – she had to not make eye contact, she wasn’t so fashionable, she wasn’t in heels, she was a lot more down to earth character.”

Real LivingBibby says it was mid-way through the title’s history that they “took a bit of a gamble” and made her “really fashionable”.

“The cover really transformed and the sales did really well so we kept on that path,” Bibby said on the change in direction.

“Originally I thought of doing that as I wanted to attract other advertising as well because fashion mags weren’t doing so well at that time,” she said.

“I thought ‘I wonder if you put a bit of fashion into Real Living if that would spark things’ and it has really slowly, but more to the point the reader really loved it.”

Bibby says the reader still sees the title as a “trusted source of advice and inspiration” but today the reader “demands a lot more”, with Bibby explaining the change on social media.

“She’s [the reader] more aware of what’s out there so we now have to offer more exclusive content and more experiences for her, the brand has to come alive,” Bibby said.

Brand extensions

Real Living has brought the brand to life through its School of Real Living which launched in 2013 and this year is being extended into a “masterclass”.

“We’ve got our first big masterclass happening this year and we’ve got a whole range of speakers. It’s really to try and help the reader,” Bibby explained.

“I started it saying ‘I don’t want advertisers, I don’t need it sponsored, it’s just a great event for readers’. ‘

But the more you try to push the advertiser away the more they wanted it.”

The school of real living masterclass has Myer and the International School of Colour + Design attached as sponsors.

“But it’s not advertiser driven, it’s more of an editorial day and that’s been made really clear,” Bibby stressed.

The Real Living brand has also been extended into books, with the magazine releasing it’s second book called Great Rooms and Why they Work.

“Those little extensions seem to hit the spot,” said Bibby.

While the brand extensions are important, Bibby was adamant the original print publication is still the the “heart and soul of it”.

“It’s still the area where it’s that trusted source,” she said.

“People are a little bit scared online,” Bibby admitted, before quickly correcting herself, adding the site is “obviously doing exceptionally well” but the magazine “is more curated and more trusted”.

Online design

On how online and social media has changed audiences Bibby said it means the reader “engages with us a lot more now”.

“It’s a lot more personal, she feels she knows us, we’re more of an engaged brand now, we’re a character,” she said.

homes+One year ago Bibby also took on the role of editor-in-chief for Bauer’s monthly home renovation and decorating magazine Homes+.

“It’s going really well. It’s stable. It’s going to be the little quiet achiever because Homes+ has no pretension,” Bibby said on the title.

“It’s basically the readers creating that magazine. There’s no stylist that goes out to photoshoots on Homes+, the reader styles her own home and she gets paid to do that. She’s creating that look and feel.

“There’s no masthead, the readers are there as the experts together with the few experts we do have. It’s going to be the little mag that slowly does very well because it’s completely authentic in every sense of the word.”

While Bibby had hoped the two titles would have stable circulations, according to the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations covering the six months ended in June 2015 Real Living posted a circulation of 76,009, a decline of 6.40 per cent and Homes+ had a circulation of 50,406.

Miranda Ward is Publishing and PR editor for Mumbrella

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