Publishing Case: Tech Radar
Tech Radar, the UK’s leading technology review website, is increasingly competing internationally for audiences with the likes of CNET and other US competitors.
The most recent figures at the time of writing (January 2014) estimated that Tech Radar, which is part of Future Publishing's portfolio, had 20m unique users a month, with a rapidly growing following of 8m unique users in the US and a rising number in Australia.
The site promises a take no prisoners approach to testing (see iPad water experiment below) and assessing technology from tablets and game consoles to smartphones and accessories.
It is unashamedly geeky in tone and it aims to reach an audience typically already disposed to buy an item but looking for a credible opinion as to which brand and model to select. It has also spawned a spin-off brand, Tech Radar Pro, for the business technology sector.
This editorial philosophy is in keeping with Future’s overall strategy of developing magazines and websites around communities of fans sharing their passion in music, technology, games, photography, sport, crafts, women’s creativity and digital creative.
It has also reflected the overall drive of the company to grow the digital base of its business across all its areas of interest.
Future won all three top UK Digital Publisher of the Year awards in 2013, the first company ever to take every top industry honour, underlining its leadership position. These awards include the Association of Online Publishing and PPA Digital Publisher of the Year titles and the BMA Media Company of the Year.
Future has also invested in tablet publishing. Its digital publishing platform, FutureFolio, powers its portfolio of immersive interactive apps for tablet and smartphone devices. The company sold five million digital editions in the last year.
Like many magazine publishers, Future has been fighting declines in the circulation of its print titles, and trying to find audiences and advertisers using a variety of digital and other new ventures.
In the most recent company results, which covered the year to September 30, 2013, Mark Wood, Future's Chief Executive, said: "Our digital revenue growth accelerated, with a 38% increase year-on-year, and we passed an important transition point with more than half our advertising revenues now digital.
“We have made real progress in reshaping the Future business, diversifying our digital revenues, making our US operations profitable and building global digital brands.”
Tech Radar is also part of a different approach to content which Future is taking.
Arguably, Photography Week – which won the PPA’s Innovation award – is one of the most high profile instances of this approach.
After launching in September 2012 as an iPad-only title, Photography Week racked up 100,000 downloads, achieved 80,000 Facebook likes, sold nearly 20,000 subscriptions and was crowned Digital Innovation of the Year at the 2013 PPA Awards.
The publisher took a novel position to designing and commissioning content for the new title. The cover is a result of a weekly Facebook challenge and everything from page count to navigation has been driven by knowledge of how tablets are used rather than by any legacy traditions from the print side of the operation.
An iPhone edition was also treated as completely stand alone from the iPad platform with its own needs and style features.
The publisher is still trading in a difficult environment. In the year to September 30, 2013, normalised pre-tax profits (namely, taking out the impact of activities closed during the year and including those started during the period to ascertain a more realistic ongoing financial position) were £1.9m. Although this is an improvement from the previous year's £2.7m loss, this suggest there is plenty of upside as well as challenges in its digital future.