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IMC 2008: Amid media clutter, magazines provide an oasis of engagement – BBC Worldwide’s Peter Phippen

23-September-2008
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IMC 2008: Amid media clutter, magazines provide an oasis of engagement – BBC Worldwide’s Peter Phippen

The fourth edition of the Indian Magazine Congress (IMC) 2008 deliberated on various factors that defined the role that magazines can play in the life of the consumer, and hence the advertiser. The two-day Indian Magazine Congress is being organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in association with WWM, Worldwide Media. exchange4media Group (exchange4media.com, Pitch and impact) and Business Standard are the media partners.

The afternoon sessions were kicked off by a session keynote address by Peter S Phippen, Managing Director, BBC Worldwide, Magazines. Phippen wears various hats within the BBC system, including being Co-Chairman of WWM, Worldwide Media, the joint venture between the Times Group and BBC in India.

Phippen addressed the audience on the role that magazines played in a multimedia environment. He said that the model of convergence seen in some of the more mature markets was not fundamentally different from the likely future of this industry, and that magazines indeed had a unique role to play in that. What this role was – was both the challenge and the question according to Phippen.

Replacement versus Complement

Phippen took the audience through the current media scenario, where the print industry was facing immense pressures both in terms of cost inflation in raw materials and other factors and the fact that the new generation of consumers was dabbling increasingly with new technologies.

He explained that even before the American credit crunch, advertisers had begun shifting their spends on the digital medium. This was where the difference between the replacement technologies and the complementary technologies became clear. To what extent can magazines deliver a unique and complementary offering? “The experience of reading itself makes it unique. You can immerse yourself in a book and let your own imagination flow, and that means something. This is not an experience on the decline,” explained Phippen. Even if some markets complained of dipping newspapers sales, in India, the market was never stronger. All media, in fact, are seeing growth in the Indian marketplace. Phippen said that the BBC Worldwide growth strategy was about globalisation. The magazine medium had a role to play in that.

The multi-media approach

Phippen noted that magazines, as media brands, had a huge heritage on building communities together. He said, “It is a heritage that has brought people of common interests together. This quality should be taken to other mediums. We did that with many of our magazine brands by taking that content on the web, on television, on the mobile and even on-ground. Has this free content model destroyed our business? On the contrary, it has increased the sales of the magazine. Where the Internet is the lean forward approach, magazines are the lean-back approach, and hence the two are evidently complementary to each other.”

Consumers today are doing many things at the same time – mashing content, entertaining themselves, sharing experiences and so on. This is an essential medium to build multimedia and when the same brand is seen across mediums, it makes a significant impact. Phippen shared the Top Gear case study in the international markets to substantiate his point.

He was very assertive on the role that magazines had to play in the future. He pointed out that it was important for publishers to understand and sell the unique qualities of magazines as a media vehicle to the advertisers.

“It is very difficult for any medium to create the kind of relationship that a magazine can with its audience. Magazines are uniquely trusted. They allow readers to participate with like-minded people and they help a reader in creating a sense of identity. In a world of clutter in media, magazines provide an oasis of engagement. In short, they are an incredibly powerful media vehicle,” Phippen stressed.

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