The magazine brands fuelling Australia’s obsession with homes

By tapping into Australia’s love of property and providing a host of unique opportunities for advertisers, homes magazine brands are building a sustainable future, writes Magazine Networks’ Brooke Hemphill

With one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world, it’s no surprise Australian magazine brands in the homes category bat above their weight. It’s a fitting analogy given Claire Bradley, associate publisher of Homes at NewsLifeMedia, calls property “our national sport”.

Claire Bradley is the associate publisher of Homes at NewsLifeMedia

According to the editors of titles in the space, at any point in time Australian homeowners are either renovating or planning a renovation. “They’re researching and they’re doing. Then they’re re-doing. They’re upsizing and they’re downsizing. We’re the bible to all of those processes,” says Lisa Green, editor-in-chief of Australian House & Garden.

From Australian House & Garden, Belle and Real Living, which are published by Bauer Media, to NewsLifeMedia’s Inside Out and Vogue Living, Pacific’s Better Homes & Gardens and Home Beautiful, there’s plenty of inspiration for people planning to update their personal spaces.

Sarah Burman, editor of Home Beautiful, says her title’s point of difference is in the name. “We’re about home. Other magazines in the category are about houses. We’re about creating a place where you want to be, where your friends and family want to come, a place that’s just for you.”

Home Beautiful editor Sarah Burman

Elsewhere across the landscape, with its focus on architecture, Bauer’s Belle appeals to a more niche audience, Real Living targets a younger, urban reader, while Better Homes & Gardens has a much more practical bent offering step-by-step how-to guides.

While the offerings have their own unique personalities, the sense of place remains a constant across the publications and is a major selling point for advertisers.

Julia Zaetta, editor of Better Homes and Gardens, says, “Homes are where everything that matters happens. It’s where you rest. It’s where you build your relationships. It’s where you bring up your children. Your home is where you want the people who matter to you. It’s where you go when you want to seek refuge from the outside world. Why wouldn’t you want to be in that space if you were an advertiser?”

Better Homes and Gardens editor Julia Zaetta

Engaged audiences

As readers turn to the trusted brands in the homes category for advice and inspiration, advertisers find a receptive audience as well.

In the case of Home Beautiful, for instance, readers spend around $10.3 million on furniture a month, $4 million on homewares and $35 million on electrical goods. Burman says: “We’re getting them in their research phase and that’s so important to anyone who’s trying to sell anything, from a fridge to a brand new home.”

This opportunity extends well beyond retail brands to life decisions opening up the space to any number of products including loan and mortgage providers. Bradley says: “When homeowners are making big renovation decisions, they’re also making other large lifestyle choices, so it’s important for advertisers to be a part of those conversations.”

The other factor homes titles have going for them is the amount of time readers spend with the brands. For example, Lisa Green says: “It’s not uncommon to hear readers spending two and a half hours a month with the magazine in their hands. It’s a pretty strong number.” This figure is a hefty increase on Magazine Networks research, which shows on average readers spend 1 hour and 17 minutes with a print magazine.

Zaetta says print offers readers something they can’t find online. She says: “When you go online, you’re looking for something specific. When you go to a magazine, you’re given a whole breadth of other ideas you didn’t even know you wanted. You’ll go looking for kitchens and you’ll find a million kitchens, but you’ll learn how to cook lemonade scones as well.”

The multiplatform experience

Digital is providing a number of unique opportunities for homes titles to extend their reach and widen audiences. Case in point is Home Beautiful’s multiplatform video project House to Home Beautiful, which has seen interior stylist Aimee and her builder husband Frank transform a house into their home. This project went some way to driving the 131% increase in traffic to the Home Beautiful website last year and the additional 1 million Facebook followers the brand has acquired during that period.

Despite the massive reader engagement with print, Green and the team at Australian House & Garden also think well beyond the page when it comes to content. She says, “We don’t just commission a print story now without thinking of the wider applications. We’re always looking with a 360˚ view at any piece of content and how we can make more of that across all of the platforms.”

Bauer has taken a unique approach to digital with content from all of the titles in the category falling under the Homes to Love umbrella. Fiorella Di Santo, Bauer Media’s General Manager Publishing – Fashion, Luxury, Food and Home, says the platform is a visual feast. She says: “What Homes to Love does is give you the ability to navigate the different types of magazines and the content they offer. There is lots of great video because video is important to this category and there are lots of galleries.”

Homes titles also connect seamlessly to more traditional mediums, in particular, television. Programs such as The Block are helping to drive readership while they provide talent that traverses all mediums.

Better Homes and Gardens is a prime example of a brand extending across channels. Editor-in-chief Zaetta says the magazine and the TV program it spawned work hand-in-hand. She says: “The magazine is our instruction booklet for all of the television segments. If they make something, cook something or plant something, we’re the backup to show you how to do it again. We call ourselves practical information with visual indulgence.”

Emerging homes trends

The same digital developments that are transforming the way readers consume content are changing the homes around them. Of all the trends the editors of Australia’s homes titles are seeing, the connected home is one of the most exciting.

Australian House & Garden has partnered with Mirvac for the My Ideal House project, which sees a tech-enabled sustainable home being built including sun and wind sensors to set blinds to open or close at a certain light level, or in response to changing weather conditions.

Home Beautiful’s Burman says of the trend: “The smart home idea is about how technology is changing your home: how you live in it and how you kit out your spaces to make your life easier.”

On a more practical level, the real estate market has led to an increased population of renters. For a title such as Home Beautiful with a readership skewing slightly older, a shift could be on the cards as millennials come of age. Burman says, “We’re still figuring out what effect that is going to have and how our readership is going to change when we are speaking to, potentially, a generation of renters as opposed to homeowners.”

Better Homes & Gardens is only too happy to help renters spruce up their homes. Zaetta says: “You can make your rental place as much a home as something you own. We’re highlighting that more in our titles, showing renters all the things they can do with their homes.”

The housing affordability crisis has also seen the rise of multigenerational homes, which has led to homes titles striving to innovate smaller spaces. Green says, “It plays into the whole share economy. People are looking for ways they can actually make more money out of their homes. I think the era of McMansions is coming to an end. People are more conscious of the size of houses, which is important for long-term sustainability.”

Whether they’re renting or sharing with extended families, it seems the love Australians have for their homes isn’t going anywhere, which suggests a sustainable future for homes titles. But it’s not just about renovating. Burman says: “Renovating is a means to an end. At the end of the day, it’s all about life ROI. People are investing in their homes so that they can live a better life. For us, that means creating a place that they want to be.”

Bradley adds: “We love helping our audiences harness the passion they have for their homes and give them all the inspiration and tools they need to achieve their dream properties.”


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