In a market reeling from a hard lockdown and the shock withdrawal of the country’s dominant magazine publisher and its titles, Margaret Hawker, general manager of integration at publisher NZME, saw a publishing opportunity.
Witnessing the success of NZME’s fashion and lifestyle weekly NIM (newspaper-inserted magazine) Viva, Hawker believed a quarterly retail magazine of the same name and brand ethos would hit the mark with Viva audiences, the nation’s magazine readers, and advertisers with budgets for a high-quality fashion and lifestyle quarterly.
To get the magazine across the line, Hawker had to convince company management that a magazine would work within NZME’s daily news operation, attract sufficient advertising revenue to cover costs from the outset, and was doable with existing headcount and resources.
Hawker shared her thinking and the success factors behind the award-winning launch of NZME’s new magazine, Viva:
Q: What made you confident that Viva magazine would be successful?
A: Bauer Media’s New Zealand exit left a big hole in the lives of many Kiwi magazine readers. But more than simply presenting NZME with an opportunity to fill the void in the wake of Bauer’s closure, our confidence grew from research indicating that Viva readers were magazine readers, and that a quarterly magazine with the same DNA would hit the mark with our audience — and advertisers.
We were also motivated by the belief that once lockdown ended, there’d be a race for shelf space in-store — and the first titles to launch would be the likely winners.
Q: How did the Viva weekly insert inform magazine content and style?
A: Viva’s fashion and lifestyle DNA provided exceptional foundations for the magazine. We took this blueprint, tapping into weekly conversations to produce a more considered read that people could dip into at their leisure. For example, whereas the Viva insert focuses on current fashion, the quarterly investigates trends and styles in the seasons ahead. So, there’s no need for magazine readers to make a giant leap every quarter.
Q: Clients and agencies lapped up the concept. What excited them so much?
A: Advertisers love a good a magazine. A beautiful quarterly is a great advertising environment because readers are looking to be inspired. I also believe advertisers really admired the courage it took to launch a magazine during one of the toughest advertising periods we’ve ever seen. Obviously, the loss of the Bauer titles hit advertisers hard, so a new title in a decimated category was good for everyone.
Q: How did you measure success?
A: We started with a bang, capturing premium ranging positions in-store, which propelled Viva Magazine to the No. 1 selling monthly/quarterly title nationwide after the first week of launch. Our relative infancy means we’re unable to provide an audited figure of readership. However, with the Viva brand appearing in weekly print, online, and across the wider NZME network, the magazine benefits from a large established audience of 295,000 readers weekly and monthly unique audience of 133,000.
Indeed, the size and engagement of our existing audience was one of the compelling reasons we launched the quarterly. At this early stage in our development, we are concentrating on distribution — to be where our audiences are in destinations such as Koru lounges, great retailers, and sampling in hotels.
Feedback has been extremely positive, and research confirmed that we’ve grown our market, extending Viva’s Auckland-centric footprint nationwide to reach readers unfamiliar with the brand. And 89% of readers said they’d read Viva Magazine again.
Q: What did you learn from this project?
A: I can’t understate the bravery of NZME to back a magazine launch during the upheaval of lockdown. For a company that works to the beat of daily deadlines — that was special. I think the lesson is that if you’ve got a strong brand and people who are passionate about developing it, then you’ve got to give it a crack.
Viva Editor Amanda Linnell did an amazing job. Her commitment and ability to pull together a team to create beautiful, inspiring, ground-breaking work against horrendous deadlines and with lockdown looming is second to none. It’s hard to imagine this project coming to life without her editorial vision and creative leadership.