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Lessons from Lockdown: Bauer Media

Timed to coincide with the launch of our free-to-download report entitled, “The Publisher’s Guide to Navigating COVID-19“, WNIP reached out to a number of publishers to find out how they have managed to successfully chart a course through 2020’s unprecedented choppy waters.

In this article, we focus on Bauer Media UK, one of the UK’s biggest multi-media publishers spanning magazines, web, events, radio and TV. Part of the wider Bauer Media Group headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, Bauer Media UK reaches over 22M UK adults via its portfolio of brands which include Car, Bella, Bike, Grazia, Heat, Empire, TV Choice, to name just a few.

Chris Duncan, CEO, Bauer UK

The first lockdown was a sprint to make sure that we could move to remote working and still make great products, while learning what was changing before our eyes. I think any second wave impact is much more of an endurance event where we understand what we need to do but must work together to keep up our energy, our creativity and our teamwork to keep doing it despite the continued restrictions.”

June Smith-Sheppard, Editorial Director – Specialist, Bikes

Unsurprisingly, motorcycle titles rely fairly heavily on motorcycles. And the best way to bring these to life in a magazine, newspaper or website is to ride them around a bit. So, when we had to stop riding bikes due to the lockdown, this became an issue pretty quickly.

As soon as some lockdown-softening was announced by the Government on May 13, the wheels were set in motion for a phased return to testing bikes. Bauer’s bike testers began by riding just one bike at a time for no more than two hours. This meant that there was only ever one rider and one photographer present. They observed strict social distancing rules and the bike was cleaned thoroughly before and after use. A two-page testing protocol was drawn up for all titles and a cunning way to collect and deliver bikes was devised so that bikes could be picked up and returned without any need to enter the office.

Where we wanted to present a multi-bike test, we rode and photographed each bike at a time and then on another day, the road tester would arrange the bikes in our private car park for the photographer to shoot as a group. This way we were able to present a group test of sorts without actually having to ride 3-4 bikes at one time.

We wanted to minimise our staff’s exposure and protect the public by staying out on the open road for as short a time as possible, to avoid being approached by members of the public and to lessen the chance of anything going wrong.

Our testing protocol also covers conducting photoshoots with readers, as some of our titles rely heavily on this kind of content. When shooting a reader’s bike, we stipulated that tests must be carried out outside with the reader and one Bauer employee, and interviews are done over the phone.

Liz Watkinson, Managing Director, TV Listings, Real Life and Puzzles

The lockdown period has seen the puzzles sector outperform all other magazine sectors. Record sales, new launches and multiple purchases have been the hallmark of this sector’s performance trends.

Of all the sub-sectors in the category, mixed puzzles and word searches have made the greatest gains. We also launched our second product into the children’s market – “Bumper Kids Activity Book” – on June 4th, to meet the demand for educational but entertaining content, to aid home schooling and keep the kids amused during lockdown.

Management of copy allocation was key to success, ensuring convenience and local stores had plenty of copy. Our plan is to work on sustaining this popularity and aim at the new audiences who have discovered – or re-discovered – the joys of puzzling as we continue to investigate opportunities across existing and new platforms.

Helen Morris, Managing Director, Celebrity Weeklies and Entertainment

Since lockdown we’ve continued to bring our readers the same mix of celeb, real life and style, but we’ve shifted the emphasis to adapt to lockdown changes and consumer needs and behaviours. For example, features on travel and experiences have been put on hold, whilst wellbeing, health, fitness, cooking and finance have taken centre stage. Plus, to celebrate the work that the NHS is doing for our country, complimentary copies of all three have been placed in NHS lounges.”

Celeb articles and interviews in Closer and heat have concentrated greatly on mental health and emotional wellbeing, providing thoughts and tips for readers. We’ve run more exclusive interviews than ever, speaking to the likes of Dynamo, Romesh Ranganathan, Emily Atack and Paige Turley, discussing how they’re coping with quarantine.

Lifestyle, fashion, beauty and interiors have also all been adapted to reflect life at the moment and our readers’ new needs, focusing on doing more with less and making do at home. Our heat style team have been doing their own at-home shoots for both fashion and beauty features, showcasing their lockdown looks and style solutions.

Bella made similar quick adaptions to content, shifting its focus to heart-warming real-life features, showing what positive and wonderful things people are doing to help those affected by Covid-19. To provide more escapism, we’ve also increased our puzzle segment to six pages.

Since lockdown began, all magazines have been performing well. Closer is outperforming the overall celebrity market trend ytd/yoy on the UK newsstand. Since lockdown both heat and Closer have maintained market share at 13% and 22%.  Since lockdown Bella has seen an increase in market share to 36%, maintaining its No.1 position in the market and the only title in the classic market to see an increase.”