Matthew Drummond is the editor of The Australian Financial Review Magazine and Fin Magazine. He has been the editor of AFR Weekend and worked as the Financial Review’s European correspondent based in Paris. In 2008 he was a joint recipient of the Walkley Award for Business Journalism.
Joining the procession of beautifully produced titles is Fin Magazine, a publication inserted quarterly in leading business newspaper, The Australia Financial Review (AFR). Slick, stylish and a whole lot of fun, it’s a magazine that taps into the public’s desire to treat themselves after the dark days of the Covid pandemic.
“After years of not being able to do what you want to, there’s a sense people want to splash out a bit – something Fin is angled at,” says editor Matthew Drummond. “The fact that it’s part of Australia’s premium finance newspaper means the readership we are reaching are people who don’t shy away from luxury products and luxury pricing. It’s the sort of magazine that could only be launched when the pandemic was behind us.”
Focusing on luxury items – from watches and fashion to interior design and art – Fin has the sort of content lush print publications were made for. And AFR has left no stone unturned to make the latest addition to their stable a sumptuous read.
“There’s a visual language that’s quick to absorb when you page through magazines and you can’t skimp on how things look,” says Drummond. “You are drawn in by the photography, the creativity and beauty of the pages and that’s what causes you to read it.
“I know mentally how I feel reading a book or spending time with a quality print publication. People forget how heavily curated magazines and newspapers are as opposed to content determined by algorithms. We have all had the experience of going down a YouTube wormhole, wondering where we lost the last 30 minutes of our life, as opposed to reading a long-form article in the New Yorker magazine and feeling quite overwhelmed by the brilliance of it.”
Drummond’s enthusiasm for print is shared by luxury advertisers and those lining up to be featured in Fin and some of AFR’s other magazines.
“The fact that luxury advertisers, which are among the most brilliant companies in the world in terms of their ability to create products that are so desirable the price can be elastic, trust print and think of print as being powerful – that says a lot,” Drummond points out.
“Plus, look at the calibre of people we get for cover stories – CEOs and founders of tech businesses. They still like the idea of being in a print product because they know print means quality.”
“As more and more media consumption takes place online, the bar for what readers expect from a print magazine is continually being raised”
A change in tone
AFR has an impressive track record producing luxurious print magazines. It’s monthly publication, The Australian Financial Review Magazine – which is also edited by Drummond and combines gravitas and glamour in its coverage of business, politics, travel and leisure - has recorded two years of double-digit growth in print readership. In the last year alone, print readership is up by a remarkable 58 per cent to 452,000.
For Fin, AFR decided to go for a magazine that’s more visual and lighter in tone – an approach summed by the cover of the first issue which sees artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele wearing a Comme des Garcons skirt emerging from a 1960s ‘Futuro Pod’.
To test the waters and see if there was an appetite for a new quarterly glossy, AFR experiment during the pandemic. With regular quarterly publications Luxury and Sophisticated Traveller paused during Covid, AFR brought out glossy versions of weekly supplement Life & Leisure to test the waters.
“The pandemic gave us a chance to rethink what we want to do in the lifestyle space,” says Drummond. “With Fin we, for instance, take people into the home of someone who runs an art gallery and give them a real first look at an interior that’s not been styled by anyone and has never been photographed. While AFR Magazine is about success, Fin is about style, aesthetics and beauty.”
Using digital to boost print
To give Fin the best possible chance of success, AFR is using the same approach to promoting the title that’s helped to make AFR Magazine such a juggernaut. Just about all copy in Fin is available online on AFR.com in the lead-up to publication.
“The only thing we hold back is the cover story. We come out on a Friday – AFR Magazine and Fin – and from the Monday prior readers of AFR.com will start to see the articles from the magazines,” says Drummond.
“When they click on those articles it has the Financial Review Magazine masthead at the top and in the sell it says that it appears in the magazine in print. So, each article works as digital content marketing for the upcoming print edition. Our success in print readership is off the growing digital subscriber base of AFR.com coupled with the fact that we market the upcoming edition to those digital subscribers.”
A huge part of AFR’s success, both digital and print, has been down to extensive data analysis. “Part of the work we have been doing in building better data fluency inside our newsroom is looking at the traits of the stories that do better and what the trends are that make people want to read those stories,” adds Drummond.
“From the get-go Fin looked at subscriber data and did a big piece of analysis into the habits of readers who subscribe to AFR, at the traits of people who hang around and the people who leave us. We found that the more likely people are to read lifestyle content the more likely they stay as a subscriber.
“It’s counter intuitive because people come to us for political, business and finance news, but we found that if they have lifestyle content, they feel like they are getting more value for money. So, we have a business imperative in terms of our digital subscription play to create more lifestyle content, especially premium lifestyle content targeted to the AFR readership, which is why, even though this is a print magazine angled at picking up luxury advertising, it really slots into our digital subscriber agenda.”
By looking at subscriber data, AFR also ensures that its print publications really appeal to readers. “Newsrooms are increasingly interested in the actual hard knowledge of what our subscribers value and that is making our products, including our print products, better,” says Drummond.
“We are creating products that are more engaging to people because we are drawing upon that – as well as journalistic instinct - and increasingly chiselling our editorial strategy around what we know to be of value to our digital subscribers. So, a business like ours that’s linked to a very large subscriber base can put out ever better magazines.”
Writer: Pierre De Villiers