Time Out reclaims London
The first year as a free magazine has been a success. Both readers and advertisers like the new, more readily accessible London magazine.
“We have a print run of over 300 000 copies, giving us a tremendously broad reach. Exactly as planned, we’re well on our way to reclaiming London,” says Greg Miall, MD of Time Out Magazine.
Time Out is a true classic. The magazine was founded in 1968 by Tony Elliot, who took a minimal – and radical – editorial team and turned Time Out into the ultimate guide to what was going on in Swinging London. All the week’s music, film, theatre and sport, not to mention alternative culture and political meetings and demonstrations, was listed from A to Z. But the listings were also backed up by a combination of reviews and socially critical articles about London that almost always drew strong reactions from the establishment.
Over time, the radicalism waned as the commercial successes grew and grew. The pinnacle was achieved in the 1990s, when over 110 000 copies were sold. Time Out expanded internationally and now has 36 sister magazines in other major cities around the world. All except the magazines in London, New York and Chicago are run under licence.
New concept required
Like many other magazines, Time Out has seen losses in both sales and advertising so far this millennium. A few years ago it became clear that an overhaul of the whole concept was required.
Together with finance firm Oakley Capital, which purchased a 50 per cent stake in the company in 2010, a plan was drawn up, the main thrust of which was to make Time Out London a digital magazine. However, the decision was taken shortly after to adopt a more aggressive approach and make Time Out a free magazine.
The launch came in September 2012, when Time Out was distributed with huge razzamatazz at London Underground stations, not to mention selected stores, theatres, museums and other tourist attractions. It was immediately clear to readers that the new Time Out was not just a free magazine but also one that had been tailored to a new age.
From 60 to 25
Greg Miall, who was recruited to lead the new launch, sums up the dramatic relaunch as largely aiming at a new target group. Most of the old magazine’s readers were aged between 45 and 60. Now the focus is on reaching a younger generation that has grown up in an entirely different media landscape.
“Of course, it’s completely different putting together a magazine for a stressed 25 year-old who has no more than 30 minutes to read it on the Underground. It requires new content, layout, tone, visual language – basically a new approach to everything we do. And the editorial team has really nailed it. Today our largest group of readers is people aged between 25 and 45,” says Greg Miall.
‘Useful’ and ‘Entertaining’ are now the new keywords for everyone on the editorial team. Time Out must in part be a bible for those who want to plan their week in London, while also offering some really entertaining reading for those on their way to work. Short texts and exciting pictures are the model – not column after column of concert and film listings, like before. This change goes hand in hand with the now much stronger link to Time Out’s digital services. Masses of additional information – and purchasing opportunities – can be found via the company’s websites, apps, etc.
Time Out was relaunched as a free magazine in September 2012, attracting floods of new readers and advertisers, and the new magazine is also driving a great deal of traffic to Time Out’s new websites and apps.
Time Out celebrated its first anniversary as a free magazine on 23 September 2013, and has managed to attract new groups of advertisers in their droves. Time Out is now an advertising channel for leading international brands in the car industry, telecoms, travel and so on. These premium advertisers are well aware of the purchasing power among London’s commuters, not least those who work in the City of London, known as The Richest Square Mile in Europe.
The proportion of advertising pages now averages around 35 per cent, a figure that is forecast to increase to 40 per cent. The advertising market in the UK has recovered strongly since the recession and the major free publications that are distributed on the London Underground have become well established marketing channels.
The question is, of course, whether Time Out’s high advertising revenues cover the loss of income from previous magazine sales and subscriptions.
“Yes, we got there quite quickly, but we naturally have higher ambitions than those in the three-year plan we’re working to. The first year went surprisingly well and I’ve no doubt years two and three will be even stronger,” comments Greg Miall.
More than just a magazine…
The changes that Time Out has made should be seen in a broader context. The company has not only launched an important new free magazine, it has also created a completely new business model with the potential for loads of supplementary services.
“Time Out is an incredibly strong brand, which we can exploit in all sorts of different ways,” says Greg Miall.
Bulk, quality and brightness
The choice of paper is important for any new launch. Time Out’s starting point was its desire to reduce the number of pages to 64 and use the same paper for the cover and the insert in the new magazine. To create a product that feels sturdy, you need paper with high bulk, which made Holmen VIEW a particularly interesting option. And to attract premium advertisers, you also need a paper with high print quality and good image reproduction.
“The deciding factor was that Holmen VIEW was available with the higher brightness of ISO 80. That meant we could produce a magazine that stood out from our competitors’ titles due to its higher image quality and brightness. Holmen VIEW also gives better readability, which is important considering how poor the lighting can be on the Underground,” says Greg Miall.
“We haven’t just turned Time Out into a free magazine. We’ve given readers a brand new magazine and most people love it. At the same time we’ve created a new business model that fully integrates print and digital,” explains Greg Miall, MD of Time Out Magazine.
The eyecatching front page has always been a Time Out hallmark, and the tradition continues.
About Time Out
Time Out London has a circulation of 305 000 copies, of which 175 000 copies are handed out at over 100 of London’s Underground stations. Around 115 000 copies are distributed free to theatres, museums and other attractions, as well as through stores, newsstands and major booksellers such as Waterstones. Time Out London also still has around 15 000 subscribers, who have the magazine delivered to their home for GBP 25 per year. In addition, Time Out publishes a huge number of guidebooks, travel magazines, specialist books, etc. Around a million copies are printed each year. For more info: www.timeout.com
“There are no walls here”
Time Out’s business is at least as much digital as it is print-based. The website receives 6 million unique visitors per month in the UK, rising to over 10 million per month once the US and French sites are factored in. The online arena offers ticket booking, digital book sales, newsletters and lots of other supplementary services and products. Transforming Time Out into a free magazine has provided a great boost to this digital business. The magazine acts as a source of inspiration that drives traffic to the digital channels.
“Here at the office there are no walls between the different departments. Everything we produce is meant to be used in all our channels,” says Greg Miall.