As print journalism struggles, two YouTubers are selling their own-brand magazines on newsstands
- The coronavirus crisis has hit print journalism hard: Advertisers are cutting back their spending and readers are spending more time online.
- Enders Analysis predicts magazine and newspaper publishers in the UK will lose between 20% and 25% of their revenue over the next year.
- Two young YouTubers, aged 8 and 12, are bucking the trend. They have released their own magazines onto newsstands, and they're selling tends of thousands of copies.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
The coronavirus has devastated the print advertising industry and pushed readers online - Enders Analysis forecasted in May that UK magazine and print industry would lose between 20% and 25% of its revenue over the following 12 months (the figure included revenue from live events, content marketing, and other streams).
But while many publications struggle to stay afloat, a few are showing signs of life, notably two magazines from a duo of preternaturally peppy YouTubers, aged just 12 and 8.
The management team behind Tiana Wilson, a 12-year-old British YouTuber who is one of the most followed video-makers in the UK, launched a one-off magazine onto shelves in late June. Totally Hearts by Tiana promises readers "squad pranks," "BFF craft," and "epic puzzles" on its front cover, and personalised photo frames into which they can slot their own snaps.
It's a one-woman show: Wilson appears on the cover four times, as well as in cartoon form in the top-right corner promising an "exclusive discount inside."
Six in 10 copies of the magazines stocked in U.K. supermarket Asda - which is also the exclusive physical outlet for other Wilson merchandise such as bedsheets and shoes -were sold in the first week as Wilson's young fans rushed out to buy it.
- The magazine is published by Kennedy Publishing, which prints magazines tied to intellectual property popular with kids such as Barney the Dinosaur, Barbie and wrestling company WWE. It has been in the works since 2018, said Ian Shepherd, one of the team supporting Wilson's branding worldwide. He's founder of The Social Store, which works with influencers to sell branded goods.
"Magazines are a really interesting category," he told Business Insider. "While they're declining, most age groups, certainly kids, rely on magazines for things to do."
Enders Analysis data show U.K. consumer magazine sales dropped from 1.2 billion in 2005 to 481 million in 2018 - a 60% decline. But for a digital influencer, having a print magazine carries a lot of cachet. "It's great from a business-to-business context," Shepherd said. "When I'm talking to ASDA and Tesco, there aren't any other UK influencer brands that have a magazine."
The UK magazine launch,, followed a similar model to that of a popular US YouTuber: Ryan Kaji, the eight-year-old behind the $26 million (R434 million) a year Ryan's World YouTube channel, which is more popular with kids than Mickey Mouse. His team launched Ryan's World Magazine into the UK in 2019. It was one of 80 product licences that pocket.watch, the firm managing Kaji's public persona, offered at the time.
"We expect the magazine to continue for several years"
The magazine's first issue sold 49,000 copies. The second sold 52,000, outstripping the 51,675 average sales of the two official Disney magazines sold in the UK, Disney Playtime and Disney Stars, according to data from ABC, the auditor of UK media circulation.
Despite the pandemic, sales of Ryan's World have held up, Greg Hayes, vice president of games and publishing at pocket.watch, told Business Insider. "In 2020, we were fortunate that several of the major distribution channels were through essential businesses, like supermarkets and gas stations, so we've been able to reach Ryan's audience in a physical format through the pandemic."
Pocket.watch targeted UK readers first because of a long history of popular kids' magazines in the country - 30% of children aged three to 18 read magazines, according to data from The Insights People - and chose the medium because it reflects the comic book characters and designs that pepper Kaji's YouTube videos.
"Ryan's World fits very naturally with what makes kids magazines entertaining and engaging," Hayes said. "Magazines offer a quick and affordable way to emulate many of Ryan's adventures and experiments without risk of messing up the house.
"The physicality of the medium, the crinkling of the paper, folding and colouring, are in alignment with the hands-on, DIY ethos of Ryan's World. So, it was no surprise that his audience would respond to a classic magazine format."
It also helps that kids don't understand the cultural baggage of a lagging magazine industry, he added. "The demand for this kind of tactile engagement never went away and we saw that bringing timely content from kids' favourite creators could make magazines relevant again to Generation Alpha."
Hayes believes the magazine has a long future. "With the strong demand we are seeing, we expect the magazine to continue for several years," he said. "We are exploring other geographic markets to export and repeat the success we found in the U.K."
Shepard, of The Social Store, hopes the same for Totally Hearts by Tiana. "It's a trial at the moment, but it definitely is a great case study to say, how does it translate to the digital influencer?" he said. "I think there could be more in the future. It depends on the success."
Hayes thinks the case has already been proven: The success of Ryan's World shows "strong evidence of the relevance of digital content in traditional print formats will be something that the market will take note of," he said. Those taking note include people within his own company. "You can expect some announcements of new magazines from pocket.watch in the near future."
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