Affiliate marketing and the decline of print

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

A decline in ad revenue claims the UK's most popular men's lifestyle magazine.

Today we lost a free print titan in consumer publishing. After more than a decade in circulation, ShortList announced it would no longer be going to press.

As I write this, media group Johnston Press has also announced it intends to place itself into administration.

With around 20 jobs at risk, it's a sad day. I hope the ShortList team go on to find new ventures, as well as applaud their superb editorial and bid to shift perceptions of what it means to be a man in the 21st century.

The most popular men's lifestyle magazine in the UK cited declining advertising revenue and the rising cost of paper as catalysts behind its radical new restructure, with the publisher set to concentrate efforts around its female title Stylist as it rebrands as the ‘Stylist Group’.

Just last week, Sir Craig Oliver discussed the decline of print in a 360-degree media landscape during his keynote speech Cision's inaugural CommsCon. As Shortlist becomes the latest in a string of consumer titles to move online, it’s easy to conflate today's news with this continuing trend.

But the unexpected move is reflective of the men’s lifestyle sector more specifically. Despite having a higher circulation than its sister publication (502,667 vs 403,855), ShortList has half the affiliate marketing revenue of female-focused Stylist.

It speaks to consumer culture, with product marketing in men's print not producing the same results as in its female-orientated counterparts. Indeed, the ‘modern man’ is proving a hard nut to crack with other men’s titles, with popular men's glossy Esquire announcing a shorter print run earlier this week. Then there's the argument gendered magazines are outdated altogether, serving to exclude readers and reinforce lazy stereotypes.

But all is not lost for PRs lamenting over a carefully-crafted pitch gone to waste. In a statement, the publisher said it would continue to focus on product recommendations and generate profit from third-party marketing online.

As my favourite optimist in PR Rich Leigh explained on Twitter, this should be the focus for communications professionals.

The product marketing route creates opportunity for meaningful and long-term crossover partnerships across the consumer landscape. Expect tie-ups between travel, fashion and lifestyle brands that produce mutually-beneficial outcomes for those with shared values in the marketplace.

Want to share your thoughts on any of the above? I’m always interested to hear feedback on the blog so please get in touch via the comments section below, email me at clairesimpsonpr [at] outlook [dot] com or drop me a line on social media.

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© 2018 Claire Simpson​. 

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