Dubai-based business title Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) has gone digital. The weekly magazine that started in 1957 will now be published once a month with a strong emphasis on online content.
We catch up with MEED’s editorial director, Richard Thompson, to learn more about this move.
On the timing
The timing has been down to our subscribers. MEED has been focused on providing a digital subscription service for many years, and over that time, we have seen our subscribers moving from print to digital consumption. The magazine is still very important to many of our customers but it has become clear that the role of a weekly news magazine has far less value in a world where people want their market updates every day, throughout the day. So the magazine was becoming less valuable as weekly. We have reviewed every aspect of what our customers want from their subscription and as well as investing in our daily news, data and analysis on www.meed.com and on the MEED app, we have redefined our magazine as a premium, forward-looking monthly review for business leaders.
On the role of print sales
[The role of print sales has been] none at all. MEED has never sold print and digital separately. The subscription has always had both. The major factor is the time it takes for a print magazine to get to the reader. We print in the UK because we serve a global audience, but the magazine can take anywhere from two to ten days to get to the subscriber depending on where they are. In a digital world, that is not good enough and we were increasingly getting negative customer feedback about late magazine delivery.
On the print performance in the last 3 years
Our subscription volumes grew about 8 percent in 2015, with print and digital included in all sales. On the advertising side we have seen a shift from straight run-of-page advertising to bespoke solutions and special operations such as supplements, roundtables, webinars and print sponsorships. This is an area we expect to continue growing.
On the strength and progress of its digital platforms
We have made very good progress over the past 12 months to move from a straight dotcom news site to a much broader digital offering over that can serve our customers on all screen shapes and sizes, on mobile and desktop, and offline as well as online through the MEED app. We have also introduced new reporting shifts in order to provide a flow of content for a longer period through the day. We have invested in our digital platforms and formats to provide greater engagement and interactivity through things like live streamed webinars. We have even built a dedicated TV studio to support this. We have added a suite of daily and weekly newsletters split by sector and country. So, yes, the platform is good, but there are always things to do to make it even better. In terms of engagement, our strategic goal is to get all of our subscribers using us every day, throughout the day. We track daily and weekly usage and we now have about 45 percent of our subscribers using us every day, and about 75 percent using us monthly. These percentages have grown strongly over the past two years.
It is not just about digital, we are also seeking to drive subscriber engagement through live seminars and market briefings that always play very well with our audience as it allows for networking as well as information exchange. These also provide us with real feedback gold dust.
On the role of social media
This is an area where we are putting more focus now. We are very visible on Twitter and all of our reporters and editors work hard to build follower networks in the sectors and countries that they cover. We also use LinkedIn for specialists groups. And, of course, we have a YouTube channel for video. But there is a lot more that we can do with social media and we are seeking to be more creative in this area.
On what the shift means for the editorial team
The MEED editorial team has been structured around our digital output for several years. In fact, one of the challenges that we have faced in recent time has been trying to get a weekly magazine produced by a team that is web-focused – it is not an easy task. We are well set up for digital reporting in terms of using images, story structure, hyperlinking, presentation of data, and so on. The areas where I would like to see us develop are things like video reporting, live broadcasting, harnessing digital tools such as motion graphics and interactive data tools. A big part of the challenge is creating a culture and environment that will allow the editorial team to be more innovative and experimental.
On the new editorial strategy
Our editorial strategy is really, really simple: To generate and deliver high value, exclusive Middle East business intelligence that makes our subscribers use MEED every day, throughout the day.