New managing director starts at nextmedia as founders step back

• Group continues to thrive with print remaining key part of business model

Earlier this year, Mediaweek reported that the co-founder and CEO of nextmedia, David Gardiner, was stepping aside to be executive chairman of the thriving publishing house.

Taking over as head of day-to-day operations was Hamish Bayliss, who just this month started in his new role as managing director.

Gardiner co-founded nextmedia with commercial director Bruce Duncan and the backing of Wolseley Private Equity. The founders subsequently sold to German publisher Forum Media Group, but they both remain part of the business.

Bayliss has been with the publisher for more than 10 years  and was formerly national advertising manager for Inside Sport at the title’s previous owner Horwitz Publishing.

Early in 2008, Duncan and Gardiner bought Horwitz, and Bayliss’s role developed from there into the head of sports sales. “I was then looking after Inside Sport plus Golf Australia, Inside Cricket, Tracks, Australian Mountain Bike and Four Four Two,” Bayliss told Mediaweek.

“The company later acquired Chevron Publishing and its titles Australian Muscle Car, Bathurst magazine and Old Bike were added to the sports division.”

Bruce Duncan and David Gardiner

Bayliss was later appointed group advertising director across the nextmedia consumer portfolio. He also added the title of associate publisher of the sports division.

From July 1 this year he became the group’s managing director.

After working on a pure print publishing model, Bayliss has experienced the dramatic changes in the sector, as magazines became multiplatform content offerings. “We have evolved significantly in the last decade,” Bayliss agreed. “When I arrived in publishing it was all about print and selling pages in a magazine. Now it is also selling advertising opportunities online, social posts and native content. The offer is now multiple touchpoints for clients. Readers are demanding that as well. They don’t want to be just consuming a magazine – they also want an EDM weekly, interaction on social and brand extensions, which might be a consumer event.

“The beauty about this business is that it has evolved so much in the past decade to adapt to the market. One of the great things that Bruce and David did was when they acquired Haymarket, with CRN and iTnews it gave nextmedia exposure to the B2B sector. We have been able to adopt some of those business initiatives for our consumer titles.”

That means for example things like events for brands Prevention and Gardening Australia. “We also involve our clients in those events too, which has become very important for the brands.”

The women’s lifestyle division at nextmedia is one of the key drivers for the group, explained Bayliss. “We signed a licence with the ABC for Gardening Australia close to three years ago and that has been a great relationship.”

nextmedia founders Gardiner (left) and Duncan (right) handover to Bayliss

Bayliss and co-founder Bruce Duncan told Mediaweek that nextmedia is now able to call itself Australia’s #1 in IT news with CRN/iTnews brands and is also the #1 kids publisher after picking up Total Girl and K-Zone from Pacific a couple of years ago to add to the children’s portfolio.

nextmedia looks like it had a “shopping spree” over the years, acquiring titles from both major publishers and small single-title operators. “We have worked out we have done over 30 brand acquisitions,” said Duncan of the journey over the decade to build the group’s portfolio. “We have acquired titles from what was then ACP Publishing, Pacific, News Corp Australia in addition to many independent publishers.

“We also have great licensing arrangements with companies like Haymarket, Future, Dennis Publishing, Healthy Food Guide in New Zealand and Rodale, which became Hearst for Prevention. They are all consumer-based titles in other markets that we are able to get good content from.”

As the key to the success of the nextmedia business model, Duncan said: “We have been able to produce quality content with a cost base relative to the revenue streams that are declining. It means you carefully structure what you are doing relative to those revenue streams.”

Bayliss: “We have proven we can do it by working smarter. Staff are key and we are lucky to have terrific staff who are happy to have diverse multiplatform roles rather than being pigeonholed into one thing.”

While circulations of print titles are down generally, the specialist titles hold their numbers relative to the general market. Retail print prices across the portfolio generally range from $7 through to $10 and retail sales account for close to 70% of total print circulations.

nextmedia runs its own subscription business – mymagazines.com.au

Many of the nextmedia brands have long histories, none perhaps more remarkable than Tracks, “the surfing bible”, which turns 50 in 2019. “That is a huge milestone for us,” said Bayliss.

Duncan: “Look at the evolution of that brand. It started as a newspaper, then became a magazine, then a periodical and a website with a newsletter and an event. It’s been a fascinating journey.”

TV Soap has been publishing since 1984 with a couple of stops along the way and the title is still being published fortnightly.

Inside Sport is 25 years old, Golf Australia is in its 30s.

As to future market rationalisation, Bayliss said: “I think we will see that in the next three years… and I think we need to. That could also offer nextmedia further opportunities. One of our strategies is to continue to acquire more brands and more businesses.

“There has been rationalisation at each stage of the supply chain – both in printing and distribution. There is no reason why there should not be more consolidation at publisher level.

“The magazine market is about being flexible and grabbing opportunities. Publishing is also about risk. You have to be prepared to take some risk – if you are risk averse you don’t survive in publishing.”

Top photo: Hamish Bayliss

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