PR agency news: Wasted Talent, The Face, and global niche publishing

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We wouldn’t be the only PR agency in Manchester, nor the only PR agency in the UK, to understand that press industry headlines are frequently rather negative. Staff redundancies, title closures, the decline of sub editors on major newspapers and websites. As such it’s nice to hear of some good news coming from the journalistic sector.

Mixmag Media, which, unsurprisingly, publishes Mixmag- a specialist music title that has been in print since the 1980s in one form or another (originally more newsletter than glossy monthly)- changed its name last month, and with it hopes to expand its offering into other niche areas. And by that we mean buying up Kerrang, another monthly, focused on heavy metal and hard rock, along with The Face- the latter arguably being the most interesting aspect of the story.

Both Mixmag and Kerrang have seen readerships fall in line with ongoing trends across magazines on the whole, although they have taken major steps to reorganise their offering. Mixmag, for example, reaches more than 20million per month via its YouTube broadcasts, attracting major sponsorship from associated nightlife brands such as Smirnoff. All of which has helped fund new offices in New York, Brazil, South Korea, France, and China.

Meanwhile, investment in online output has seen the UK website become one of the most visited portals in the world of club and electronic music culture. Neither title has ever vanished from the shelves since their respective launch dates, and so- although Kerrang is a new acquisition for Wasted Talent and therefore now under new ownership- it’s going to be pretty much business as usual going forward.

Not so in the case of The Face. First hitting newsstands in May 1980, it spent decades as one of the most respected magazines catering to youth readers- splitting content across music, fashion and art, with the emphasis on indie and more alternative artists, not to mention stunning photographs. That success continued through to the millennium, after which dwindling sales and the resulting drop in advertising caused then-owner EMAP to sound the bell, and kill it off. Until now.

 

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At the moment there has been no confirmation as to how The Face will be relaunched, but Jerry Perkins, Chief Executive of Wasted Talent, has made it clear there will be a comeback- bets are on for whether that’s online-only or in print. Another notable side to all this is the way in which the publishing group is setting out a stall as being dedicated to the respective ‘scenes’ each title documents.

What this means is that whilst magazines like NME responded to falling circulation by removing the cover price and looking to feature increasingly mainstream pop acts on the cover, the opposite is true in the case of Mixmag, Kerrang, and presumably The Face as and when that resurfaces. The focus, apparently, will be on credibility, delivering messages the writers believe in, showcasing acts they genuinely support- rather than those they think will sell- and promoting discovery, rather than simply bolstering the star status of those already well and truly in the limelight.

The Drum has described this approach as ‘Global Niche’, looking at the success of the ever-growing Vice empire as an example, which has expanded across multiple territories whilst still sticking to a comparatively small print run in each of the territories the original magazine was published in. Having a relatively small number of readers, but having many clusters of those readers in a lot of different parts of the world is a more cost effective way of growing, and avoided the need to ‘sell out’ in terms of what will be covered. Hence the brand being one of the biggest media empires on the planet right now.

We’ll be watching with keen interest as to how these developments pan out for Wasted Talent, as should any company with an interest in youth and specialist music culture, nightlife, and fashion. But, whatever the outcome, it’s impossible not to welcome a move that looks to retain credibility and professionalism in a sector increasingly dominated by free magazines, passionate unprofessional websites, and fan-based blogs.