It is hoped that this week's annual get-together of the magazine industry will be nothing short of revolutionary. More than 500 media executives are expected at the PPA's Reinvented event: a name designed to convey the change that has already taken place across the business, although I'd argue something less complete - such as "Reinventing" - would be more appropriate.
The PPA chairman and chief executive of Haymarket Media Group, Kevin Costello, will reveal plans for a new standalone magazine agency under the name "Project Orange". It will have a remit to promote the strengths and influence of magazine brands, in all their forms, to advertisers. Agency press leaders report receiving e-mails from industry royalty David Hepworth in an attempt to ensure the usual navel-gazing event resonates with those closer to the purse strings.
For years, the industry has not been united enough when it comes to selling the ability of magazine brands to tap into readers’ emotions. This is not an attack on the PPA. The difficulties in navigating the needs of some 230 business and consumer members cannot be underestimated. Rufus Olins, the chief executive of Newsworks, admits it took him six months to reach a consensus on the best ways to represent newspapers, and he only had six members. The result was the embracing of "newsbrands" and, with it, a move away from defending a platform. The rebranding of Newsworks’ annual shindig to "Shift" encapsulates his mission well.
'The PPA's difficulties in navigating the needs of some 230 members cannot be underestimated'
It is early days, but Newsworks has already started to change the conversation. Innovation has been lauded, challenges acknowledged and research commissioned. No longer are so many stories about newspapers bereft of any context. And, in the fickle world of media, anything that alters perception is vital.
Group M tracks magazine advertising spend falling by double digits throughout much of the past decade, resulting in its pot shrinking from £1.6 billion in 2004 to just £598 million in 2014. The trends are clear, but how the figures are presented is part of the problem: they only include print spend and fail to attribute spend back to magazines for any of their digital extensions.
The PPA celebrated its centenary last year and has been a bastion of excellence for much of its time, from lobbying to newsstands, from tax to distribution. But the times they are a-changin’, and a marketing body with a credible leader dedicated to amplifying the power of magazine brands must be welcomed.
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