When you acquire a 125-year-old title with a small but dedicated client base, making significant changes can be a risk. Paragon Media took the punt and increased reader engagement, advertising and subscription revenue, and event attendance in the process. Paragon CEO Ian Brooks explains how.
In September, Paragon Media received industry acknowledgement for its relaunch of its Daily Cargo News (DCN) suite of print and digital products at the 2019 Mumbrella Publish award for best launch/relaunch for a small publisher. And it was a worthy recipient.
DCN has a long history, first being published in Australia in 1891 as the Daily Commercial News – it is Australia’s oldest shipping and maritime logistics publication.
The publication provides the Australian shipping and maritime sectors with news and data to stay informed with the evolving developments and trends within the Australasian and global shipping markets.
News covered includes: shipping and maritime logistics, shipping, bulk, import, export, broking, freight forwarding, government media, defence, agency, transport (land, sea and air), finance law, shipbuilding and repair industries.
The path to purchase
Paragon purchased DCN from Informa in 2017 after Informa announced that it was intending to exit trade publishing in Australia to focus on other regions.
Informa had acquired DCN in March 1999 for A$10 million following the publication’s long and interesting history of mergers, acquisition and receivership, all of which is detailed on Paragon’s website and well worth a read.
On the decision to acquire DCN, Paragon CEO Ian Brooks explains that he was looking for an acquisition at the time. “We always look for leaders in their fields – it doesn’t matter what the market is, if there is committed pool of clients then it is worth a look.”
DCN relied on a committed subscription base, average subscription retention of between 10-15 years, and a small pool of advertisers that booked annual packages.
“With DCN, we were fortunate to get our hands on a title with strong brand heritage that had suffered a little through foreign ownership. It just needed a little redirection. A no brainer really,” Brooks says.
Why was a relaunch was necessary?
At the time of the 2017 purchase, the DCN brand included a weekly newspaper, sporadic newswire, an outdated website, digital shipping arrival reports, and an awards event.
Brooks, along with DCN Publisher Lloyd O’Harte, knew that, although risky, a major change was necessary to ensure the publication’s survival.
“The old newspaper format had served its clients well for many years but was in desperate need of an upgrade,” says Brooks.
Brooks explains that the “current news” sections were old by the time the weekly paper was delivered and the feature format was no longer engaging. Readers were turning to websites to get their shipping and logistics news daily, while needing more time to consume longer feature-based reads.
“Advertisers also found the large format cumbersome and could only use broken space material or specifically designed ads. The paper stock meant that advertising or other imagery was never able to be shown to its full potential,” Brooks says.
Face-to-face client consultation
Paragon took time to consider the best strategy for relaunching the publication, eventually releasing the new-look DCN Magazine in July 2018.
“DCN had significant brand heritage which meant that any changes had to be made carefully.”Ian Brooks, CEO, Paragon Media
“But we could see that there was a lot of opportunity to improve the accuracy, functionality, engagement and profitability of the DCN products if they were given some considered attention,” Brooks explains.
Brooks understood that it was important to ensure the magazine’s key stakeholders were onboard with any changes that Paragon made to the brand.
“DCN’s audience is loyal and long-standing,” says Brooks. “Our first approach was to physically visit many of our key customers to seek their input. Sample layout and feature lists were presented to many clients.
“Once a direction was decided, all our advertisers and many of our key subscribers were again visited to explain the evolution.”
The aim was to make changes that would offer advertisers greater engagement, longer shelf-life and readership, better presentation of advertising creative, and an overall increased value on their investment.
Changes to the DCN product suite
So, the weekly newspaper was relaunched as a glossy, monthly magazine, the jewel in the crown of the new DCN suite of paid subscription products, which included: a daily e-newsletter, three different daily email data reports, an annual print directory, and an electronic data site detailing voyage information for all vessels calling into Australian Ports.
DCN’s product suite is now marketed to subscribers via subscription packages tailored to different industry personnel needs. Prices range from $590 to $5,250.
|THE OLD FORMAT||THE NEW FORMAT|
|A weekly 12-page newspaper||A perfect-bound, gloss 64-page month magazine|
|Sporadic newswire||A content-rich electronic pay-walled news service with at least 7 original articles each day (sent to over 4,000 subscribers)|
|A website in need of an update||An improved web platform built for enhanced user experience|
|Digital shipping arrivals reports with many manual errors||Automated digital shipping arrival reports to reduce human error (now a <0.5% error factor)|
|DCN Shipping Awards night had less than 250 attendees and low-level sponsorship||DCN Shipping Awards night now has 450 attendees and 18 fully sponsored awards|
|Introduced a Women in Shipping & Maritime Logistics and Gender Diversity Awards|
|Expanded editorial features, including more content on current issues such as gender diversity, youth, sustainability, technology and environmental issues|
|Monthly news-in-brief round up|
|Regular column from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Michael McCormack|
|Opinion/comments from well-known industry fostering a sense of community|
As part of the relaunch, Brooks says that Paragon also succeeded in reducing the ongoing cost base of the publication.
“We made significant investments in the editorial side of the publication because we see real value in spending money in this space, but we’ve made smart choices from an IT perspective – the website is more efficient to run, as are the data-driven subscription services.”
Relaunching with the strongest advertising revenue in five years
On 8 July 2018, the latest edition of the newspaper’s headline was ‘DCN entering a new era’ with an explanation of the new format. The daily news service ran similar articles.
An upgrade of the DCN website, e-newsletters and shipping arrival report services began to take place.
And on 15 July 2018, the new format magazine was launched with the strongest advertising revenue in five years following a dedicated campaign to sell the inaugural monthly edition to advertisers. This increased ad spend has been retained since launch.
The result? Brooks says that thankfully, the industry has embraced the changes with renewed support across the whole business.
Since the relaunch, advertising revenue has increased by 105 per cent on the previous year, and subscription revenue has increased by 11 per cent.
Brooks says that the new format has led to a higher level of reader engagement and participation, with the magazine now achieving a pass-through factor of five people, and attendance at the DCN Shipping Awards nearly doubling since 2016.
“Through our work and sponsorship, industry associations have also recorded increased attendances at seminars, lunches and golf days,” Brooks says.
“The community atmosphere that has been fostered by the publication has been extraordinary. That’s what makes it so exciting. We publish articles on industry networking and charity events, and everyone looks for each others’ faces in the magazine and on the website.
“Community is why our clients want to be a part of what we do. The atmosphere at our Awards dinner is dynamic. You walk into the room and everyone knows each other.”Ian Brooks, CEO, Paragon Media
Brooks’ three top tips for a magazine relaunch
- Know your client
- Make sure your new offering is better than the previous offering
- Note the difference between an ‘evolution’ and a ‘revolution’.
Brooks explains: “Evolution is change that you can slip by your readership barely detected, revolution is change that can cause blood in the streets. Decide which you want to implement and plan how to get the outcome you want.”
Paragon Media is a Sydney-based special interest magazine publishing house with seven print magazine titles.