New Idea EIC Louisa Hatfield on how the Pac Mag weekly is adopting to digital

We speak to New Idea editor-in-chief Louisa Hatfield as she takes the role permanently

By Sally Rawsthorne

Following a successful year as acting editor-in-chief while incumbent Kim Wilson was on maternity leave, Louisa Hatfield has been announced as the permanent editor-in-chief at Pacific Magazines’ New Idea after Wilson decided not to return to the title.

As you might expect, going from acting editor-in-chief to editor-in-chief has meant Hatfield isn’t anticipating too much change in the role. “It’s just about carrying on as normal, we’re just putting our heads down and getting on with it. It’s good to be in a permanent role though, and knowing that I will continue on here,” she told Mediaweek last week after her permanent appointment was announced.

Hatfield has big plans for the title, she said. “We have lots of plans! We’ve been making them all the time in the past year too, and just moving it forward. But lately we’ve been doing even more forward planning across both editorial and digital. There are a lot of exciting things that are happening, most of which I can’t really share yet – we don’t want our rivals to know.

“But the big move for all of us in print media is to make sure that we’re across all platforms. It really helps that I was in television before this gig, I think. We’re all in on digital, particularly mobile first. We now have a total audience of 4.4 million people, which is pretty huge! That digital audience is a big focus for us, and we’re making sure that we’re relevant across all platforms,” she continued.

Hatfiled said that New Idea doesn’t have a specialised digital team – rather, the entire editorial staff works across both print and the digital platforms. “Our team works on digital and print within each of the editorial verticals. We do have a digital team at Pacific who guide us through that, but basically the goal over the next year to two years is that every member of the New Idea team will be able to do digital on many levels, as well as print. That will be everything from being able to edit videos to filming videos to social. Everyone does social media now, and we’re investing in that to the point that we now have someone who is tasked with being the New Idea Twitter person overnight to interact with the television shows. It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist or a sub or a writer, the whole team is involved and we all take turns at doing Facebook and social. We have certain key people who work across the social platforms and are leaders in Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, but essentially the entire team is involved. We’re upgrading the teams’ skillsets, they’re going to do courses to learn and everyone is very excited. It’s a whole new world. You can’t just be a print journalist any more.”

Hatfield noted that in an increasingly digitised world, the team at New Idea looks beyond the traditional measures of circulation and readership. “According to a recent Facebook survey for Online Circle Digital, we sit in the Top 20 most engaged brands in Australia on Facebook – we were the only magazine brand to make it in there. Our social media engagement is always the best, and we’re very proud of that. We don’t just look at circulation and readership, we also look at our digital audiences. At the same time, we are always striving to improve our circ and readership figures,” she added.

New Idea is Australia’s sixth most-read magazine, with a readership figure of 1,814,000 in the March emma data. While still an impressive figure, it represents a 9.80% drop in readership from over two million at March 2014. The circulation figures collected by the Audited Media Association of Australia tell a similar story – the latest data shows a weekly circulation of 267, 588 which is a 5.18% YOY drop. Still, Hatfield said she remains confident in New Idea and what the future holds for it. “I don’t get depressed by the doom and gloom merchants who talk about print. There are a lot of products out there that started in a digital place that would love a print edition. There have been some examples of people who started on the digital platform and then topped up their brand with a print extension. The print copy is still where you get tactile engagement,” she said.

Her long-held belief in the power of print was recently reiterated by some New Idea research, she added. “We’ve just done some focus groups, and we have some really great learnings out of that. One of the big things that we found is that there’s still a lot of brand love for New Idea and a lot of brand respect for the magazine because of the many pillars that it has.

“What was really interesting is that a lot of women – mothers in particular – are investing in themselves now. Maybe five or 10 years ago they were saying that they’re time poor and they wouldn’t stop to buy a magazine. There was a real change around that. They were saying [in this round of focus groups] that they would make time for themselves, and buying a magazine is their treat for time out. They didn’t have any guilt about it – they really feel like they deserve it. For them, the print experience – sitting down with a magazine – represents relaxation and escape, it’s a real time out. Whereas they were talking about Facebook and Twitter and experiencing New Idea on digital, that process to them online was much more fast-paced. It was more about catching up and getting on top of things – it feels a bit more like work. But when it comes to New Idea in the print version, that was when they were kicking back and relaxing. Digital is just so massive – with a reach of 4.4 million, we’re a huge brand,” Hatfield said.

When we asked Hatfield what the future looked like for New Idea, she suggested that a combination of print and online would sustain the Pacific Magazines weekly for years to come. “It’s absolutely a combination of both print and digital platforms. For every one copy that you lose at the newsstand, you have tens of thousands of people on digital. It’s important to be a good brand, and as long as that brand is strong and growing stronger then it’s a good place to be. I wouldn’t have come back to print if I didn’t believe in it. I spent the last three years in television and it was fantastic and full on. I learnt lots of things there that I’ll bring back to magazines.

[blockquote style=”3″]CV: Louisa Hatfield
Before joining New Idea as Wilson’s maternity leave replacement, Hatfield had worked at a number of Australia’s and the UK’s biggest media brands. “I did three years as the EP of Mornings with Sonia [Kruger] and David [Campbell], and previously Kerri-Anne [Kennerley]. Prior to that, I was at News where I revamped the Sunday magazine and before that I was at ACP across their weekly titles. Before that, it was Fleet Street and The Sydney Morning Herald – I’m British, so I started there and when I first came to Australia I was at Fairfax. I’ve done lots of different things, and I’m always learning.”[/blockquote]

>> Lifestyle pillars key to New Idea

When we asked what differentiated New Idea from its rivals, Hatfield suggested it was the mix of content verticals that keeps its readers coming back. “At New Idea, we do lifestyle, fashion, beauty and health and of course celebrities and real life. Celebrities is our core pillar, along with food which is a real driver of purchase. Those are our two most important components, and that’s not going to change any time soon. But all those other elements are why people come to New Idea as a magazine rather than some of those other celebrities magazines, because we do offer those important, extra key lifestyle pillars. That’s a real driver of purchase as well, that we do have travel and fashion and psychic and puzzles.”

>> What’s next for Kim Wilson?

The former editor-in-chief of New Idea Kim Wilson has been on maternity leave and she told Mediaweek it seemed like a good time to move on leaving the team in Hatfield’s capable hands.

Wilson has been studying for a Masters in International Law and is due back in Australia later in 2015. In the UK Wilson has also been keeping abreast of the changing media landscape and hearing about the changing business models at everything from The Economist and the BBC through to Vice News and Vox.com.

“I think the industry has exciting things ahead, particularly in digital. I’m keen to be part of it all,” she said.

New Idea has 529,00 Facebook fans, while the magazine’s Twitter presence is also impressive – the weekly title has 17,900 followers. On Instagram, 14,500 people follow the mag.

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