Magazine branded awards range in scope from giant awards events, galas and ceremonies to print and digital content across platforms. Awards can bring in new readers through engagement, can raise awareness and promote magazine media brands, can increase revenue through ticket sales, sponsorships, affiliate revenue and the like.
According to the Innovation In Magazine Media World Report, awards are an event that publishers can promote all year long. In addition, award winners celebrate and promote their wins, which by association, promotes the magazine brand, writes author John Wilpers. Awards events help foster connections between magazine media publishers and their audiences and their partners.
If they don’t already, publishers ought to look into awards as an alternative or additional revenue stream. While they do add some additional workload for staff, they’re a bit of a no-brainer in terms of engagement, brand awareness and revenue.
At Bonnier Corporation, Popular Science does a Best of What’s New awards, Field & Stream does a Best of the Best awards, and Saveur magazine does their Saveur Social. “We have them in other brands as well: Boating has Boat of the Year, which is awarded at the Miami Boat Show each year, Cruising World and Sailing World also have a Boat of the Year award,” Gregory Gatto, executive vice president of Bonnier, said in a recent interview. “Most of our brands, at one point or another, have had some sort of awards programme.”
“Primarily, we approach awards from an editorial perspective,” Gatto explained. “We’ve been fortunate and successful in how our readers have really embraced our editorial awards; and because of our positions in our respective categories, we’ve been able to find a way to monetise them along the way. (Awards) have proven to be a decent revenue driver for us, but we always look at them primarily from the editorial perspective.”
Bonnier’s titles keep the awards editorial content in-house, a Herculean effort for staff on top of regular responsibilities. Awards can involve a lot of extra hours and travel for publishing teams in a lot of instances, he explained. “Saveur Social, for example, involves a lot of different places — we’re taking people on tours and to all kinds of events. Awards have definitely broadened some of the skill sets of our team as these programs get larger and larger.”
Saveur Social (formerly known as the SAVEUR Blog Awards), is an event-based awards programme which takes its audiences on a culinary journey across the country, and across platforms. “We go to a different host city every year,” Gatto explained. “We’ve done it in New York City, we’ve gone to Charleston, South Carolina and Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a great revenue driver for us because we’re bringing social influencers from around the world into this one event. It’s an opportunity for the host city to get exposure, and we’re showing a bunch of food influencers the local flavor by working with the city’s hotels and restaurants.”
Elevate your position
Awards programmes are beneficial for magazine publishers of all sizes, Gatto said. “It’s great from a branding perspective and kind of elevates us in our positions within our respective categories,” he said. “Your leadership position is what really drives these awards and which also makes them a revenue driver.”
Awards programmes also promote magazine media titles, and drive lots of engagement. Gatto said that Bonnier brands see spikes in key engagement metrics. “You definitely see the spikes in there,” he said. “When we do Best of What’s New with Popular Science, which happens in the fourth quarter for us, that’s really a big driver and that gives us a nice end of the year push. Same thing with Field & Stream’s Best of the Best. We get engagement spikes for Saveur in the fall when we do Saveur Social.”
Awards don’t provide a constant engagement high, like evergreen content might, but it is a steady amount of traffic with spikes before and after the awards themselves. Gatto explained there’s a lot of promotion that publishers have to put into it and the legwork to make sure that the word is out, that the awards are coming. “That’s where the awards packages really sing for our partners,” he said.
Gatto explained that readers love awards so much and the audience keeps coming back year after year, which provides a great opportunity to sell packages around them. Bonnier Media’s portfolio of special interest titles all have different types and levels of awards and each derive revenue in different ways. “Primarily, it’s sponsorship is and digital advertising revenue. There’s a little bit of print revenue that can go along with it depending on what the program is. We’ll do social, we’ll do digital display, we’ll do some print packages, and there is onsite at the awards events,” Gatto said.
Parents’ book awards, toy awards and best packaged food awards
At Meredith Corporation, Parents creates ‘Best of’ lists throughout the year. Their awards are editorial in nature. “When we create best hospitals, best books, best toys, best cars and best packaged foods we do so entirely editorially,” explained Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of Parents. “Sometimes, when the site runs an awards story, we make a little bit of affiliate revenue as people click to buy. (Awards) are not a huge revenue driver for us.”
Vaccariello explained that the brand occasionally also makes licensed revenue via seals for each of their awards packages. “A lot of the beauty brands, for example, will run the best makeup award seal on their packaging,” she said. “Magazines tend to sell those seals to the winning company.”
Instead, Vaccariello says awards are a great way for publishers to curate content for their readers. “Everyone likes to win something, everybody likes attention and a credible brand like Parents giving a little approval, if you will, to another brand, everybody wins. (But you can’t ever, in the world of Parents, buy your way onto an awards list.)”
Parents is different from others in its award-related workload, in that it outsources its labour of love to expert judges. “In the case of the Best Books Awards, we have about a dozen children’s librarians, teachers and literacy experts to help us select some of the books,” Vaccariello said. “Then we give each book to 75 kids to read. So, it is probably about a hundred kids and teachers and moms and dads involved in that testing process.”
The same process is followed for Parents’ Packaged Food Awards – 75 kids taste test each of the foods which have been curated, and meet parents’ nutrional criteria, Vaccariello said.
The Packaged Foods Awards content takes about two or three months to complete. “It is a lot of work, and I think it speaks to the power of the print magazine,” she said.
In today’s fast-paced environment, magazines don’t often get the ability to take three to four months to work on a project, to really test things out and get feedback before putting it in the magazine. “You don’t get that kind of luxury often if you’re working for a digital media brand. So, it’s one of the many benefits, I think, of print.”
Much like anything else in the magazine media industry right now, publishers ought to keep their awards innovative in how they’re delivering these content packages and events.
“You have to maintain that engagement and you can’t keep doing the same old thing every single year because people get bored with it,” Gatto said. “Whether that is a digital layout or format, how you’re delivering things socially, or whether you’re leaning more on video or audio – you really have to be finding out where the audience is, and what they want. You’ve got to pay attention and look at the metrics. As long as the engagement’s high, that’s what we’re going to keep chasing.”
At Field & Stream for example, the Best of the Best awards have evolved over the 15 years they’ve been doing them. At one point, it involved head-to-head testing in certain product categories, and then was changed to be a round up of gear, and then a curation of what editors thought was best. “We found that we got a lot of solid response from that, so we went in that direction. You have to experiment sometimes and if it doesn’t work out, you can go back and change it up,” Gatto said.
Vaccariello explained the biggest change is that awards are disappearing. “I’ve seen fewer of them, frankly, because they’re so time intensive. Awards are staff intensive and as magazine staff have shrunk, they don’t have time to do these things monthly,” she said. “Some magazines I remember back in the 90s and the early aughts were doing a list of top this or top that every month, and they just don’t have staff to do it anymore.
“I think if you see one of these things as a reader, you can be assured that it’s really important because the magazine brand has decided to spend its time on that,” she said.