Features

Why Bauer Media is back on the acquisition trail after years of scale backs

This week Bauer Media announced it would acquire three magazines from News Corp. It was a move that could be considered unusual for the publisher, given previous closures and redundancies. Mumbrella's Zoe Samios sits down with Bauer Media's GM of publishing, fashion, luxury food and home, Fiorella Di Santo, to understand the acquisition.

When Bauer Media revealed it had acquired three media brands from News Corp – Inside Out, Country Style and Homelife.com.au – it was surprising, to say the least.

Just nine months ago, Paul Dykzeul, the German publisher’s new Australian CEO had sat down with Mumbrella, outlining potential closures and redundancies that would eventuate, in an attempt to create a modern publishing business.

Di Santo says the acquisition was about filling out the ‘home’ consumer journey

But this time, walking through Bauer’s Park Street things seemed slightly different.

Fiorella Di Santo, Bauer’s former director of sales and general manager of publishing, was finalising some tasks at her desk, before joining me on a table in the middle of her office, which overlooks Hyde Park. Behind me were some of Bauer Media’s biggest brands, which will be joined by News Corp’s ‘home’ media brands from June 19.

Di Santo has only been in her new role for eight months, but with a sales background, she understands commercial and revenue opportunities better than most.

The connection between consumer and advertiser is stronger than it’s ever been,” she says.

“Advertisers follow consumers so you need to know how consumers behave in a category to think about where the commercial opportunities and the reality is these are commercial enterprises and we have to think commercially.

Inside Out was one of the brands that will move across to Park St

“When I’ve moved into this role that was Paul’s [Dykzeul], point – these publishing roles become much closer in their thinking about content and commercialisation. I was a sales person for 20 years so I always think about ‘what does this look like for advertisers?’ as much as I’m considering what does it look like for an audience of a brand.”

And in what is her biggest move since her promotion to the role, Di Santo and Bauer Media have invested in a category, which they hope will deliver returns. For her, the acquisition was strategic: it was about “end-to-end ownership” of the Australian home journey.

“We think that the three additional brands can really nicely coexist with the brands that we already have,” Di Santo explains.

“If you look at something like Real Living – very high readership, entry-level, slightly younger audience. It’s quite different from the offer you’re getting from something like Inside Out. Inside Out are active renovators, it’s the more established home. Then you look at something like Australian House and Garden, it’s your forever home.

“Belle gives you that beautiful global luxury aesthetic, Country Style is a celebration of regional living and country life.”

Naturally, there are a number of titles which Bauer Media might have been interested in buying. Between NewsLifeMedia and Pacific Magazines, home, luxury, fashion and food have large appeal, both commercially and from a consumer perspective. For Di Santo, acquisitions are still possible, in categories where Bauer Media sees a gap in its offering.

Bauer Media announced it had acquired three homes titles yesterday

We want to follow where consumers are interested in a category. Food is another really good example. Our food offer is very premium in Gourmet Traveller and then very mass in things like Australian Women’s Weekly food. That’s our strategy. Our strategy is to go and create areas of content that consumers are really interested in,” she says.

Earlier this year, Bauer Media axed Homes+, one of its magazines which sat in the homes category. Di Santo won’t disclose whether the acquisition was on the cards at the time, but says the offerings of the new titles are very different to what Homes+ provided.

She says while Homes+ was practical, the properties were not styled, and it was the “budget end” of the market. However incoming brand Real Living, while still budget conscious, focuses on a beautiful aesthetic.

“What these five brands are about is about any geography, any aesthetic, any budget. But it’s different to Homes+. Homes+ was very entry level, it was very practical. These titles do a great job in offering really nice inspiration as well as information,” she says.

But the other appeal for Di Santo is the power of the News Corp brands in digital, which is something Bauer Media is hoping to build out. Earlier this year, the publisher dropped the ‘Bauer Xcel’ brand and merged digital back in with print, a move which Dykzeul is passionate about.

Homes to Love now gives us an amazing footprint and the new acquisitions give us enormous social coverage – they bring amazing social audiences,” Di Santo adds.

We’re looking for brands that really support in a compelling way our digital assets and drive a really strong social narrative for us and these brands do it in spades.

The magazine channel has a great future and when you put it together with digital and social assets it’s a very compelling offer. For Bauer it’s restating we have enormous confidence in the future of magazines, when they strategically aligned to what you want to do. We will continue to work about driving a content offer that talks to women, informs women and allows advertisers to influence women.

However for Di Santo – it’s not just about strong print products. She’s focused on building our these titles and brands to create experiences for consumers and advertisers.

We do look for brands that offer that ability to have 360 degree touch points and Country Style does it and Inside Out does it. They produce great content about how tos and videos, Country Style does a beautiful diary, licensed merchandise styled as you know a beautiful diary, so there’s lots of other things apart from the magazine that the acquisition brings to us,” she says.

Although she will look to build out those touch points, Di Santo has no immediate interest in altering the new brands’ editorial content.

I look at Country Style, which is a celebration of country living, regional food, regional producers. How does that work with Gourmet Traveller, which also talks about destination dining in country regions? We’ll look at why set new acquisitions could work with our existing portfolios. Obviously we get great talent, we get new sources. How does that work for the homes portfolio? 

But there are no plans to change the content strategy of the magazines.”

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