John Mullins, CEO of Zahra Media Group, talks about our win at the Irish Magazine Awards 2018 for our outstanding year in Irish publishing.
What does winning ‘Publisher of the Year’ mean? First a little context…
In 1439 Johannes Gutenberg invented the modern printing press and the mass consumer book industry was born. And when the first general interest magazine “the Gentleman’s Magazine” was published in London in 1731, the mass consumer magazine business model was born.
For 290 years this model has been simple, easily understood and magical. Publishers created credible, purposeful content and put it on paper – this content attracted readers who paid for the privilege to read it – and readers attracted brands who paid for the privilege of the introduction. These revenues paid for editors, journalists, designers, photographers and production costs, and so it went on, and on, in a perfectly profitable circle.
It was into this world, that Zahra Publishing was born when it launched Easy Food Magazine in 2003. We created purposeful food content – interested readers bought our magazine and advertisers paid to have their story told. Oh the joy, the simplicity and predictability! Alas, the recession of 2008 masked the technological disruption that was creeping up on all publishers, and suddenly, overnight, it seemed that everyone had become a publisher…even brands.
For those who ignored this new reality the end was nigh, but for the rest we needed to adapt, embrace, reassess, diversify, and develop a ‘create once, publish everywhere’ business model. And so, the multi-platform approach to publishing content was born.
Most publishers made mistakes along the digital way. Our new consumers were trained to expect everything for free and were led to believe that all content was equal. But in reality it is neither equal, nor free.
When we rediscovered and refocussed on the essence of what we do brilliantly, our new business model started to evolve. We are content creators and are very good at it. Our advertisers make products and are very good at it, and our readers are discerning consumers of purposeful content and very good at it. So how could we make this work in a profitable and sustainable way?
We decided that if everyone (including brands) is a publisher, then let’s stop competing with them and let’s start creating content for all these new publishers. Content creation is in our DNA and we do it every day – so we started doing it for all our partner brands, so they could be the best publishers they needed to be.
This gives them the time to focus on what they do brilliantly, while we help them tell their brand stories which can be distributed and amplified through our own or their own channels – and so, a new magic circle has formed.
In the 15 years since the launch of Zahra Media Group we have never lost the passion for creating and publishing great content. Our team is primarily made up of content creators and 100% are creative, passionate, motivated people who love what we do, and it shows.
Is this the new magic circle that will last another 290 years? I don’t know. But I do believe that if you keep your content purposeful that they will keep coming back. All that has changed is how they get there.