Shortlist and the Next Digital Wave

The UK media brand built a sizeable and profitable business by focusing on a platform that many other publishers were starting to leave behind – print. 

Justin-Timberlake-Shortlist-magazine-September-2011The digital disruption of the publishing industry is far from over, according to one veteran publisher of the last digital wave. But focusing on print has gotten them this far, and they see no reason why that should change.

“Did you ever feel a little Canute-like ten years ago when you were launching print magazines when everyone else was focusing on digital? Why were you so convinced of the potential of print?” asked Ashley Norris in FIPP when interviewing Shortlist Media’s strategy director Tim Ewington.

“We believe that free magazines fit well into the lifestyles of the digital generation alongside the digital media where they spend most of their time,” Ewington replied. “Free print can have scale and power, punching through the media clutter and it is a great way to build a new brand.”

Shortlist Media is the publisher of both ShortList and Stylist, “created for the internationalised, urban consumer. We believe that the concept can work in many advanced, urban economies where there is a strong advertising market and distribution can be achieved,” Ewington explains.

(It should be noted that Shortlist uses an ad-supported, free distribution model, and is surprisingly skeptical that a paid circulation model can work for fashion brands. We know an awful lot of publishers who would disagree.)

Shortlist launched in 2007, certainly a challenging time for any title. As Ewington notes, “We wanted to reinvent magazines in terms of approach, distribution, price, production and attitude.  We believed that there was an opportunity, as insurgents, to reinvent the medium.”

And while he sees the local London market as reaching “the saturation point” for free magazines, he still sees further opportunities and possibly international expansion. Whatever the future, the brand will not be caught unawares when the next big tech disruption surfaces.

“Digital is the big, powerful tide and will wash away many existing media brands. We believe that its power is only just beginning to be felt and we’re working hard to evolve Shortlist Media to prosper through the next waves of digital change,” he notes.

Food for thought as media brands continue to refine their business models in the ever-evolving media landscape.