Launched by Future plc in Sept 2020, PetsRadar has become one of the publisher’s most successful new launches of recent years and now comfortably sits in the top 50 brands within the U.S. lifestyle/pets category, according to Comscore.
The launch of the new title was accompanied by raised eyebrows, coming as it did at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in September 2020 when publishers faced considerable uncertainty not least from declining ad expenditure, furloughed workers, and event cancellations. Fast forward twenty months and PetsRadar now attracts 885,000 users each month globally with the next target, according to PetsRadar’s Global Editor-in-Chief, Dave Harfield, of two million.
Whilst Future plc has been better known recently for its string of acquisitions – including Dennis Publishing, WhatCulture.com, and Waive – it was quietly launching a number of home-grown titles throughout the pandemic including Gardeningetc, Advnture, and MyImperfectLife. Harfield says that the PetsRadar launch was based on trends its own in-house research team had identified, “Pandemic or not, success for digital brands lies in meeting the needs of specialist media consumption trends”.
Any digital launch must be accompanied by a strategy that uniquely serves the needs of audiences within the target market. What information do they need? How do they buy? Are there other titles out there that serve their needs?Dave Harfield, Global Editor-in-Chief, PetsRadar
A key area Future had identified was the pet market. As consumers spent more time at home during lockdowns, pets had assumed heightened importance. This is underlined by data that shows in the fourteen months prior to May 2021, there were two million new pet owners (9% of all owners).
Uncovering vital market insights
Future’s research into the pet-focused media landscape uncovered vital insights. Existing online content could be split into reference sites (offering advice on pet care) and retail sites (selling pet accessories and food) but none combined the two. Future created PetsRadar specifically to bridge this gap by combining trusted information on animal care alongside reviews of the latest pet products through which it could generate affiliate revenue.
According to Harfield, Future’s task was then to define core content areas. The American Pet Products Association identified key revenue drivers as food and treats, supplies and medicine, and veterinary care. This intelligence, combined with Future’s own search volume analysis, resulted in five core content areas: food, health, pet tech, accessories, and toys.
Once Future had identified its priority content, it assembled a team of writers, including qualified vets, experienced news writers, animal experts and seasoned reviewers. The publisher’s focus was on creating articles around its flagship buying guides, intercepting readers on their buying journey with expert advice and funneling them to the correct purchase for their requirements.
Results to date have far exceeded the publisher’s expectations with year-on-year audience growth of 3,000% (Q1 2020/Q1 2021). PetsRadar also generated £812k ($1M) in eCommerce sales between Sept 2020 – Jan 2022 with its best performing buying guide selling close to 4,000 cat toys. Indeed, its most-viewed buying guides have been read by 200k people in the months to January 2022.
Looking to the Future
Moving forwards, PetsRadar is looking to increase interest from major UK and US retailers, as well as bolster its pool of writers to include animal trainers, behaviourists, and nutritionists. Social media will also play a prominent role with Harfield telling WNIP that PetsRadar will expand its social media output substantially.
Our next target for the publication is to reach two million monthly users. Social will be a key engagement tool for our audiences and we’re looking at several dedicated PetsRadar channels to increase the variety of social audiences.Dave Harfield, Global Editor-in-Chief, PetsRadar
The success of PetsRadar comes at a time of significant growth for Future, not just in terms of acquisitions but also organically – interim results for half-year 2022 show 5% organic growth (averaging 18% over the past two years).
The publisher has also doubled down on its video output, rolling it out across its ‘Buying Guides’ and ‘Deals’ pages across its verticals. By integrating video content within its eCommerce portfolio, Future further tapped into audiences with a ‘ready to buy’ mindset which helped it drive more than £1 billion in eCommerce sales last year.
This was aided by the publisher integrating Video Multiple Ad Playlists (VMAP), an IAB standard, into its capabilities, contributing to a 40% increase in video organic growth. Digital advertising alone now represents 25% of Future’s revenue, up from 10% a year earlier.
We are pleased to deliver a positive set of results for HY 2022. Through the continued execution of our diversification strategy, we have delivered robust year-on-year growth. The strength of our specialist, trusted content continues to attract a high value audience, making us a partner of choice for advertisers.Zillah Byng-Thorne, CEO, Future plc