Almost eight months into Daryl Fielding’s new role as commercial director of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, the adland veteran has unveiled her first major commercial initiative. In a tie-up with energy drink Red Bull, the publisher is set to launch a glossy, monthly lifestyle magazine targeted at male readers (MW last week).
If you believe the sell, the Red Bull-branded title, The Red Bulletin – An Almost Independent Magazine, will give “The Independent reader wings”. But using the drinks brand’s well-worn tagline, the publisher also hopes the launch will supply it with a much-needed lift if it is to have any success staving off declines in advertising revenue, circulation and readership.
According to the latest National Readership Survey released this month, The Independent Magazine, The Information and Save & Spend all experienced year-on-year falls of between 20 and 27%. Judging by its performance in the supplements market, it must prove to advertisers that it does have a magazine worth reading.
The Red Bulletin, which will be inserted into the paper’s Saturday edition each month from January, is being positioned as a premium lifestyle magazine focusing on sports, music, arts, culture and nightlife. Fielding says it will be a cross between GQ and National Geographic “with a big dose of cool”.
Arena BLM head of press Jo Blake says there is a good fit between Red Bull as an “outdoorsy, lifestyle” brand and the readers of the newspaper.
“Readers of The Independent perform pretty well against certain lifestyle statements, such as holidays off the beaten track and winter sports, for example. If this offers readers something different with their newspaper then it’s an added bonus,” Blake says.
The magazine will be created by Red Bull’s own editorial teams based in Vienna and London, with advertising to be sold by The Independent.
While Red Bull has commissioned the publisher to be its distributor, Fielding says it considers the magazine as a joint venture and expects to attract advertisers with a strong affiliation to sports.
Universal McCann managing partner Dan Pimm says observers are hoping it will give the publisher the boost it needs in revenue terms. Its success would give The Independent a much-needed shot in the arm as it works through a £10m cost cutting programme.
“It’s good for the readers, but I think it will struggle to attract advertisers. Because there’s already so much choice in the market it will need to be a really revolutionary magazine and it’s a difficult market as it is,” he says.
Parent companyThe papers also battle constant speculation that they will eventually be forced to fold or be put up for sale, with Denis O’Brien, the second largest shareholder of its parent company, the Independent News & Media, often vocal that he believes the loss-making newspapers should be sold.
But Fielding, who joined in April after leaving her position as managing partner at Ogilvy Advertising, scoffs at continued talk of any closures and maintains that she is in it for the long haul.
“There is no intention of closing the title. Such talk is from our biggest commercial competitor, The Guardian, and it is prone to publishing wild speculation about our future. Why wouldn’t it?”Regardless, many observers believe that performance next year is critical if the publisher is to quash any talk of its demise.