Written for SYP Scotland blog | Marcus Arthur – Taking Local Brands Global – Magfest 2015
Next up in Magfest, we go global. Marcus Arthur is the President of BBC Worldwide, UK and Australia and he begins with a question: What format is declining faster than magazines? It seems a difficult one as the printed product is assumed to be the fastest falling, but he mentions DVDs, who have halved their revenue from £100m to £50m in the last year.
So to survive in a world where so many areas are in decline through disruption, you need to consider ways to make a brand more than just a singular product. His ambitions are threefold, but when the first two occur the third should naturally follow:
- Create an innovative media company
- Grow the reputation
- See strong financial returns
So how does BBC Worldwide do that? Investing in premium content, building strong global brands and channels, and looking at digital. This counts, he believes, for both large and small companies. The problems they face are shared.
“We have to extend a fan’s enjoyment,” explains Marcus. His job is to take an intellectual property like Doctor Who or the Antiques Roadshow and sell it to a foreign broadcaster or put it on one of their channels. He constantly asks, “What does a fan want to see? What do they think? What do they enjoy?”
He has a few examples to talk through, the first of which is Good Food. Back in 1989, the goal was to launch a new BBC magazine staple, and this has gone on to be “the most unheard of big success of publishing.” Their circulation is still 250,000, with 154,000 of those subscriptions. “It’s the DNA,” he says. “Tried, tested recipes that work. You make it, it turns out like the picture.”
They’ve branched out to a website that has vast visitor numbers, and they partner consistently with experts, hosting live shows all over. “It’s a live personification of the brand.” Publishing a book might eat a little bit into their magazine sales, but it’s better that they get the custom instead of a competitor – have a broader view. “Be the first to diversify and innovate. If you don’t, someone else will. We publish print for profit, and digital for growth.”
“Digital is not the end, it’s just a channel,” Marcus adds. So where do you go beyond digital? “Data is going to be the future.”
Next, he talks of Top Gear. The trio have left the BBC and are launching a new show with Amazon, but Top Gear is more than a TV show. The magazine has 130,000+ circulation and 1.6m+ readership. They’re rolling new host Chris Evans gradually into the brand. “You just start again with the talent, not the brand,” he says. “It’s three guys in the pub talking about cars. They need accessible knowledgeable presenters who have real opinions on cars.”
“We need to be in control of our relation with our fans,” he says. “We try hard to allow guys in the business to be creative.” Within the Top Gear team, they have a lot of great brand elements that they can play on, and even partnered with Lego because they believed it was something fans would enjoy.
The third project, BBC Store, is one that hasn’t been launched yet, but combines the shifts in viewership, public desire and trying to combat the disruption going on at present. It really, again, boils down to putting fans first and finding new ways to do so. It may take time, it may take money, but when the fan is first, loyalty will soon follow.
“If your boss wants to stop investing, convince them that it’s the wrong thing.”