PROFILE: Future Publishing

Ben Parfitt
PROFILE: Future Publishing

FUTURE'S ABC RESULTS

Official Xbox Magazine
2010: 60,859
2009: 60,834

Official PlayStation Magazine

2010: 46,012
2009: 47,033

Official Nintendo Magazine
2010: 45,015
2009: 51,271

Edge
2010: 28,051
2009: 29,007

GamesMaster
2010: 28,003
2009: 34,313

PC Gamer
2010: 25,019
2009: 26,487

Xbox World 360
2010: 23,061
2009: 25,874

PSM3
2010: 20,640
2009: 21,224

Your ABC results were mostly down. Was that really surprising?

Not really. Print is still amazingly important to us and is something we will continue to support. The newsstand is pretty challenging. Just look at the men’s lifestyle publications – they’re seeing 20 and 30 per cent declines. The games market in comparison is faring pretty well.

Over the last six months we’ve been doing a lot of testing on our covers, packaging, cover lines, promos and everything. The first one we did that with was Official Xbox, and we took quite a lot of learnings from that testing. This has resulted in a flat ABC – which is pretty remarkable in today’s market.

With the mass decline you’ve seen in the male lifestyle sector, Official Xbox Magazine is now more popular than Esquire, T3, Wired, Loaded and Front magazine. These are established male magazines and OXM reaches more consumers every month.

A little later in the year we started the same testing for PlayStation magazines, and sales numbers have picked up, which is the reason why you’ve only seen small declines for PSM3 and Official PlayStation Magazine. We are outperforming Play in the market by the level of decline, with an average fall of 2.5 per cent compared to their 9.5 per cent drop.

We’re showing that via innovation and by doing things properly we are making a difference on the newsstand.
We’re now starting to roll this testing out to the other markets. And next year we should start to see the full impact of it.

The areas that are proving the toughest challenge have been GamesMaster and the Nintendo market. We redesigned GamesMaster in May last year and since then it has been doing a lot better. Nintendo has been a bit of a struggle, as there’s been less core releases on the market. But we’ve got some pretty big plans for 3DS in NGamer and Official Nintendo.

Do you foresee the need for fewer print magazines?

I am sure over the next five years there will be some churn in this market. And if you are not a brand with a clear identity in this market then you will not survive. It’s also not enough for a brand to survive in print alone. You have to be a multi-platform brand and you have to reach your readers wherever they are. It’s about having a good online presence, being on social networks and doing live events. Print readerships may be smaller but the business we build around those brands is where the strength is. But as I say, those businesses wouldn’t exist without the print brands.

How have you performed in terms of subscribers?

This year we have our highest level of subscriptions we’ve ever had. We’ve got a more stable base of consumers buying the magazines each month. If your publication has a clear focus, then gamers are willing to lay down money for a 12-month period. We also have so many new channels where we can speak to consumers and clearly show them the benefits of subscribing.

Considering the growth you’ve seen online, is print still important for your business?

It is the number one revenue driver for us. There is huge growth online, but the fact that over 60,000 people are still willing to shell out £5.99 a month for an issue of OXM, just shows how engaged those consumers are.

We have seen massive growth online but you are looking at just one revenue stream, which is advertising.

We know people’s media footprint is changing and we need to evolve with it, so we need to be online, on-console, at live events and so on.

How hard has it been to grow your websites without compromising your print brands?

The two need to complement each other. You get to put a lot more warmth, colour and character into a magazine piece compared to the fast-moving online world. We have well over ten magazine brands that can fuel our websites as well as separate editorial teams that can react quickly to what is going on in the media. We have the benefit of both. It is about getting the balance right of what content we have available in print, when and how it goes up online, and making sure we stick to embargoes.

So how have your websites been performing?

We get our data via Site Stats, which is how we measure our sites internally. PCGamer has done very well since its re-launch and is just shy of 2m global uniques.

Computerandvideogames reached a high of 2.75m uniques in November and is tracking 81 per cent up year-on-year. Clearly we experience highs and lows – there’s less visitors in January and more in November and so on.

GamesRadar is performing well. We were at 5.25m global uniques in December and we’ve recently launched an iPhone app for cheats and guides. We’re utilising that online content to reach customers on different platforms. Digital in all forms is an area we are heavily investing in.

Do you feel there’s a need for one overall auditor for games websites?

I do. There are so many different measurements on websites that it is very confusing for advertisers and competitors. We would like to be part of a simple system that is fair, easy to understand and works for everyone.

At the moment, I don’t think ABCe is what it could be. We look at one isolated month of activity, which you could shove a lot of resource into to drive a traffic spike, and then that becomes your ABCe for a set period of time. I don’t think that is a fair reflection of how a website is performing. So as an industry we need to work with ABCe or whoever to find a solution that works for all of our partners. I definitely agree with it I just don’t think we’re there yet. It’s a nightmare, it needs to be simplified. Magazines are very clear cut.

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