The Canadian publishing market is a fascinating one - with the local media not only having to create content in two languages, but also facing fierce competition from across the border in the US.
Yet many of the issues the media companies face are global ones too - such as relationships with social media platforms, advertising strategy and harnessing content innovations such as video and voice.
Jacqueline Loch is the VP & Group Publisher of St. Joseph Media, a division of St. Joseph Communications, Canada’s largest privately owned communications company. At DIS 2019 she will be taking an in depth look at how the company has succeeded in replacing programmatic advertising with deep content marketing integrations - a strategy that has proved very popular with the brands they work with.
Here she explains more about the nuances of Canadian magazine publishing, as well as the importance of premium print brands.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What was your journey to St. Joseph?
I am an art college-educated media lover specialising in delivering multi-platform content marketing solutions and ROI for audiences and advertisers across print, digital and social media.
In my current role as VP & Group Publisher, Women’s Brands at St. Joseph Media, I oversee a portfolio of brands including FASHION, Weddingbells, and Mariage Québec. I work closely with St. Joseph’s largest clients to create innovative cross-platform marketing solutions. I am also Board Chair for The Custom Content Council in New York.
Prior to this I was VP Group Publisher, English Brands, Groupe TVA, where I published: Canadian Living, ELLE Canada, Style at Home, Canadian Gardening and The Hockey News. In my former role as VP Content Solutions at Rogers Media, I launched and led Rogers' award-winning Content Solutions division — responsible for creating multi-platform content strategies for a wide range of clients. I am a graduate in Communications & Design from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD University).
And what is your main role in the company today? And how does this pan out on a day-to-day basis?
St. Joseph Media is a privately owned Canadian media company, a division of St. Joseph Communications, Canada’s largest privately owned communications company with three distinct divisions: media, content and print.
I lead the Women’s Group, which includes FASHION, the #1 fashion and beauty brand in Canada with 1.4 million readers. It has the largest social media audience of any Canadian magazine with over 2.67 million followers across Instagram (@FashionCanada), Facebook (Facebook.com/FASHIONCanada), Twitter (@FashionCanada), and Pinterest (Pinterest.com/FASHIONMagazine).
I also oversee Weddingbells and Mariage Québec — Canada’s leading bridal publications with reach to over 80% of Canadian brides across our platforms in print, digital and social media.
Within my group, I have developed and led a boutique branded content practice producing multi-platform content strategies for a variety of our top advertising partners including L’Oréal Canada, Lise Watier, CHANEL, Canadian Tire and P&G.
What are the main challenges of magazine publishing in Canada?
Magazine publishing in Canada faces the same big issues that challenge magazine publishing all over the world: traditional print advertising revenue continues to decline so we need to diversify our offerings and transform our businesses. We are competing for revenues with Google, Facebook and Amazon; and the big media owners are nervous and contracting and divesting themselves of magazine brands.
In addition, we also face a set of challenges that are unique to our country. We are a relatively small market with three main consumer magazine media owners. Two of the largest media owners are telecommunications companies, in other words, magazines are not their core business. They are both rapidly reducing their media businesses, closing titles, reducing staff, converting print magazines to digital only publications — all of this regularly gaining the negative attention of business press and advertisers.
In English Canada, not only do we compete with other Canadian publishers, we compete with all of the major American magazine brands that are readily available in print on newsstands and on digital and social media channels. We are a subscriber-based market with subscription levels averaging 85% and higher, this combined with the geographic scale of our country makes the cost of distribution of national titles for subscribers and newsstand extremely expensive.
From an advertiser perspective, we face the perception from many international fashion and beauty brands that we are like the USA market. We are a unique market from the USA – we are a growth country with exponential growth in very affluent Asian and South Asian immigrants creating micro luxury markets in specific urban centres. I spend a lot of my time meeting with these advertisers to talk about our unique growth opportunities and luxury market.
And how do you work with brands across platforms - give us some examples?
We focus on quality and what is right for our media brand. We produce best-in-class branded content integrations that are on strategy and on brand for our clients and our brand. We have produced many first-to-market executions across all platforms from digital, print, e-newsletters, social media to experiential and events.
We follow the same guiding principles that we use to create our editorial content and leverage the category expertise and influence of our editorial team to create high-quality co-branded advertiser integrations. We work with like-minded brands that are focused on the same objective that we are — engagement with our quality audience.
FASHION is powered by social media platforms and we know that over 68% of our digital content is consumed on a mobile device. Our video and mobile content strategy is driving consumer engagement and helping to attract diversified audiences — diverse in both audience age and ethnicity.
We have changed the game in working with advertisers by elevating the branded content that we produce. Our editorial team leads many of our high profile co-branded integrations resulting in best-in-class content solutions for our advertisers that are aligned with their marketing objectives and provide exceptional ROI.
A couple of examples come to mind – the first is FASHION X Lise Watier. We partnered with them to create a “live FASHION beauty shoot” where we created exceptional co-branded content for print, digital, video and social media showcasing the launch of a Lise Watier cosmetic collection called “Haute Nature”. The live shoot took place during the day in an editorial set aligned with the Lise Watier campaign. That evening, the studio was turned into a live event where we invited 100 influencers to the secret location. The real-life photo set, combined with make-up stations, a bar, and several installations made for Instagram moments provided the backdrop for the Lise Watier Haute Nature Make Up Collection Launch Event. The content was teased out on social media and the editorial co-branded content was published multi-platform aligned with the September 2018 issue of FASHION.
A second example is a cover integration that we produced with Hong Kong and Thailand Tourism. The editorial team travelled to Hong Kong and Thailand to capture content for the Summer 2018 issue of FASHION. The experience was turned into a co-branded cover feature in print – with a split run cover to separately highlight each partner — long-form digital content, video and social media. While there the team captured content for the cover feature and was integrated fashion, beauty and travel content into the final execution.
How important has content marketing become to the Canadian publishing industry in general, and St. Joseph’s in particular?
Content marketing is exceptionally important to both the Canadian publishing industry and to St. Joseph Media. Our co-branded content programmes and our third-party content business is one of our key areas for revenue growth and revenue diversification.
We have senior-level conversations with our advertisers all the time and there is a common message that we are continually receiving from the CMOs and Agency Heads that we partner with. The message is that they love FASHION as a brand, but that they are looking to us to offer them products and solutions that they can partner with us on. They are looking to test and learn, they are looking for consumer engagement — and they are very interested in what we are doing for our audiences from an editorial perspective and what our audiences are looking for.
They are looking for true editorial integrations and partnerships and they are very interested in the fact that we are investing in our brand. The traditional sales conversation is now one about collaboration and partnership. Together we are creating new opportunities that are leading to larger investments beyond the typical page rate. We are creating content assets that can be shared across an advertiser’s content ecosystem as well as our own. There is money for innovation and good ideas that are on brand and on strategy for both partners.
Traditional magazine revenue streams continue to decline year-over-year, and that is not a sustainable business model for any media brand. At the same time consumer media consumption habits have been changing towards mobile-based experiences that range from video to social platforms. On top of all of that change – social platforms are emerging, evolving and being adopted (and dropped) at a real-time pace.
We have focused on consumer engagement and editorial integrations — and through innovative concepts and technology, we are changing our conversations with advertisers and the way that we partner with them to bring advertising brands to market. We are treating FASHION magazine as a brand with a complete 360 eco-system and we are focusing on when, what and where consumers are engaging with us. This approach has turned the revenue model on its head — we are no longer selling media — we are co-creating complex marketing solutions with our advertisers. We are taking innovative concepts, testing them out via editorial executions, proving out the concepts and then taking them to market and using our editorial best-practices and benchmarks as the model to establish KPIs and to prove out ROI for marketers. The result is a shift in advertising revenue from 100% traditional to a diversified stream with revenue coming from everything from branded content, video, social media, influencer programs, co-branded cover executions to augmented reality, events and custom research.
Has the changing nature of social media - like Facebook’s algorithm change of Jan 2018 - impacted on the way that you distribute that content?
Absolutely it has. Organic traffic is very important to our brands. FASHION is powered by social media both in terms of scale of audience and for referral traffic to our website. The content strategy and the content distribution strategy are both constantly evolving. The editorial team understands the importance of writing content for SEO and to drive referral traffic from Google. We write for semantic and voice search and we package our digital content for SEO ranking and pay attention to length of articles, video content with transcripts and keywords.
Our audience and our brand is highly engaged with Instagram and we drive Instagram referrals via strategic use of Insta Stories and links within our posted content. We test out content and platform usage in editorial, establish best practices and take them to advertisers for our partnership programmes. We use Instagram, Insta Stories and Facebook Live to distribute our cover stories and our content well in advance of our print publication coming out in market. Our content is designed for mobile consumption and multi-platform content distribution.
Our advertising integrations and collaborations are focused on creating premium reader experiences, and that is what we use to measure everything that we do. We have created premium digital experiences for our advertisers with a controlled luxury environment and opportunities for 100% SOV. We turned away many of the programmatic advertising categories that were harmful to our brand, which meant turning away revenue, in favour of creating a luxury environment that we sell at a high CPM. We focus on quality of engagement and consumer experience versus reach and audience numbers.
There still seems to be a huge demand for print from brands. And indeed we have even seen Airbnb and Facebook produce printed magazines. Why do you think this is, and is this also true in Canada?
Print is a completely different experience – we have worked hard to position FASHION as a luxury brand and our print edition as a tactile luxury experience that we use to surprise and delight our readers with every print edition.
The fundamental shift in positioning FASHION as a luxury brand versus a magazine has led to a complete rethink on how the brand is taken to market and how we behave in market.
We started acting like a luxury brand.
First we looked at the print product itself. We made a decision to be a luxury brand — and we made a commitment to deliver a quality luxury brand to our audiences and to our advertisers. This applies to everything that we do from the quality of the paper stock that we print on, to the quality of our content and our content strategy to the quality of our advertisers. Our goal was to focus on creating a luxe environment and a luxe experience.
Where do you think that content marketing will go in the future? More video? Immersive content?
The future of content marketing is exciting. We are already seeing a massive swing to mobile consumption and video content — with the implementation of 5G mobile networks and new mobile devices, AR and AI are set to take off. Voice search and writing content for voice search has incredible opportunities and we are just seeing the beginning of media brands working with advertising partners to write scripts for Amazon that are linked to voice search and voice-activated e-commerce.
I think that content that drives e-commerce will be a real growth area. Currently it is in its infancy, we are building our digital content with a mobile-first approach and have created a suite of digital modules and e-newsletter products that we can use in collaboration with an advertiser to drive to their e-commerce platforms. We have created shop-able slideshows within our online editorial features and have launched new e-newsletter products with images with “buy now” buttons that link directly to an advertiser’s e-commerce platform. Shoppable video will continue to improve as will the in app shopping capabilities with social platforms like Instagram. Then there is the Internet of Things — a whole new world for content marketing and content experiences.