The future of High Life North: why being data-led is a gift
Our founder shares the things she's learned on the High Life North journey. Including the importance of having a niche and the opportunities that digital publishing brings to benefit our community.
Well, this is the conclusion of our Billboard Interviews series – where we spoke to each of the incredible women who took part in our billboard campaign last month.
The biggest marketing campaign we’ve done to date for High Life North, it was pretty amazing (and a little scary, as someone who is very reticent about pushing myself out there). And I have to say it was very successful for us. Within the two-week period it was running, the advert ran over 200,000 times across two Newcastle City Centre billboards, resulting in a 26% increase in our traffic and over 500 new subscribers.
So what’s next? I thought I’d use this interview to share six key insights into my thinking behind High Life North – where it is now and what our community can expect moving forward. Because we’ve got big plans and in this increasingly digital age, the sky is our limit.
1. Having a niche is important
High Life North is a magazine dedicated to celebrating the North East and the women who make it. Does that mean we provide a platform for women who are doing great things in the North East? Yes it does.
Does it mean we curate our content to provide useful information and entertainment for women living in the region? Yes, it does.
And we sometimes get a bit of stick for that. Some men tell me they like reading our what’s on, new openings and things to do, and it shouldn’t just be penned as a magazine aimed at women. Some people believe that nothing should be targeted at a specific gender and everything should be aimed at everyone.
But I disagree. Having a niche builds a tribe of like-minded people. To me, trying to be something for everyone dilutes purpose and in return, dilutes quality. We work extremely hard to build a community of readers who like exactly what we do. It means we can hone our offering to do more of what they like. We know them inside out and in return, provide them with a publication they enjoy engaging with. And that feels great.
2. We focus on doing one thing well, and for us, that’s being purely digital
The publishing industry is one that has seen a rapid slide into the digital space in recent years. The digital publishing market is expected to grow by $65.31 billion globally between 2021-2025, with an annual growth rate of 12.66%.
As a start-up niche publication like High Life North you could take that two ways. One could be – what’s the point? Publishing houses with much bigger budgets will plough everything into online content and marketing, so why even bother?
But the key here comes back to the importance of niche. We choose to look at it as a positive trend. We all know people are consuming more and more content online, so let’s make that content something they can only get on High Life North. Let’s make it relevant, real, interesting, and what our readers want.
3. Team is everything
I’ve been lucky enough to build up a team of five women who are 100% aligned with what we’re trying to achieve. (I realise Chris Owens also features in this photo but it’s the best team photo we have!)
Our writers understand the importance of search engine optimised (SEO) articles so people can find what we’re writing about on Google. Our sales team understand that it’s only worth selling to advertisers who will genuinely resonate with our audience and we can work with to provide unique content. And our digital executive works tirelessly to ensure our content looks great, is easy to digest on a digital platform, and is seen by as many people as possible.
My job? Trying to learn how to run a business (I’m still baffled by the accountancy side but thankfully BluSky are helping me with that), focusing on community-building, constantly analysing our data and planning our growth across the region.
4. Being data-led is a gift
And it’s ALL about our readers.
We all know that for High Life North to exist we need to work with advertisers. I’d love to be able to do everything for free but that’s not how life works.
But what I can safely say is we do it in the most organic, beneficial way possible for both our readers and our advertisers. We’d never have a pay wall or subscription model and we don’t use banner adverts because we want the user-experience for our readers to be as easy and enjoyable as possible. When we work with advertisers, we can use our data to analyse what worked, and tweak it if we need to.
In actual fact, our advertisers provide great, engaging and useful content for our readers. We work with advertisers to help them optimise their offering to our readers, so they don’t feel like they’re being sold to. For example we help holiday-lets advertise their last minute availability – it’s great for readers to find out what’s available all in one place, and helps the advertiser fill lets that would otherwise have been sat empty. It’s win-win.
We’ve found a way to make it work. It takes effort, but it’s so worth it.
5. Digital doesn’t mean a lack of community, in fact it’s the opposite
If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that digital is actually a way of staying more connected, not less.
Digital is a great way to build a community, engage regularly with a community and bring together like-minded people in an easy and accessible way.
That’s what we’re really focusing on next. Bringing our readers (and advertisers) together more in person to build lasting relationships based on shared interests and outlooks.
6. Print will live
Just one final point. I know I’ve banged on about the importance of digital and how great it is – I really believe in that and it’s the path we’ve chosen. But I’m not beating down our fellow print media.
Print will live – especially independent print publications that aren’t taken over by large publishing houses and lose their focus on quality content. The print publications in our region all have their own audiences too. Some people like the escapism of print and will continue to read them.
We’re just different that’s all – and I think being able to offer something different just enriches our region and provides more opportunities and choice to the people living in it, which can only be a good thing.
So thank you to all of our readers, advertisers and supporters for helping High Life North get this far. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
A personal goal for me in the coming year is to get myself out there more, as I’m terrible at it! So I hope to see and meet more of you in the coming months.
As I always say, we’re always looking for feedback so email me anytime at email@example.com.