Interview with Rob Koghee, Managing Partner and Co-founder of New Skool Media B.V.
When I sat down with New Skool Media Co-founder, Rob Koghee, to discuss how he has found success in the magazine publishing industry in 2017, I didn’t expect to learn so much about the production of jam. Find out how Rob, and his partner Cor Jan Willig, have extended the brands of their magazines with an entrepreneurial outlook and an audience-first approach.
Can you explain how New Skool got started?
Almost three years ago we purchased 19 titles from Sanoma (a media company in the Netherlands). We started the company physically in September of 2014 and then half a year ago we also purchased four titles from Relx, which included Elsevier magazine, our first weekly. We now have 27 magazine titles, and have grown from zero to 16 million euros turnover, with 240 employees within three years.
Did you expect this success three years ago?
We didn’t expect it. This question has been asked several times. We are just two guys that saw an opportunity. We never expected to do an act like this.
Why was Sanoma selling its titles?
The misconception was that Sanoma was at a loss and was selling its titles because they were not succeeding. In reality they were changing their strategic positioning, as a company, to be more aligned with their TV audience. After purchasing the titles from Sanoma we took the brands, employees and subscribers with us.
And where did you get the experience to run such a project?
I have been working my whole life in the publishing industry. I spent 17 years working for Voetbal International with a circulation at the time of 200,000 copies weekly. From there I moved to IDG, a global computer industry publishing company, where I also spent seven years as a Director. From there I started on my own with two small magazines. A few years later I met Cor Jan and we decided to go on this adventure...
What changes have you seen in the media industry during your time? Are there any game-changes that stand out in your mind?
The only fact in publishing is change. It’s continuously changing. During the 80’s and 90’s the industry was stable, then the internet came… The whole industry collapsed because the advertising revenue was taken by Google and Facebook etcetera, plus it was very easy for people to start their own publications (bloggers). Publishers had to reinvent themselves and think differently than how they used to.
What are the biggest challenges happening for media agencies and publishers right now?
We have the name New Skool Media because there is also old school media. In many media companies there are still a lot of old school people, who are very good at what they do, but are solely specialized in print. Online, including mobile, is a real challenge for them to adapt to professionally. Companies, like ours, need to work differently than how we did in the early 90’s.
For example, if you have a salesperson they not only need to sell one print page, but now must be able to explain lead generation, CPM and CPC. It’s a 180-degree change. That’s the challenge for old school companies.
Magazine salespeople now have to be able to explain lead generation, CPM and CPC. It’s a 180 degree change
How does New Skool Media adapt to this change?
Everyday in our organization we challenge people to change their mind-set and work differently than how they have in the past. They now need to know how to buy and analyze Google AdWords, how to present AdWords in a Google Analytics environment and how to adapt to changes in reader’s attitudes and expectations. This is a daily process for us.
You mentioned that the audience’s attitudes and expectations are changing. What specific changes do you see?
I told someone just this morning, ‘I am not a train traveller. However, if you travelled by train 20 years ago you would see people reading a book or a magazine or a newspaper. And now, I know for sure, if I look into a train everyone has an electronic device.’
The number of alternatives for media consumption have increased but the amount of free time has decreased. That’s a big problem for publishers today and the main problem of our industry.
How has New Skool adapted to the change in consumer consumption?
We have implemented numerous websites and are publishing to various channels online. We also have educational programs to teach employees new skills.
It is also important to talk about the strategy. We explain to our stakeholders what is on the horizon and that we are going to walk towards that goal together.
I wouldn’t say that we have become an online company, but more or less, that is the truth.
In our company we don’t talk about magazines, but we talk about brands
Can you provide an example of how you have implemented this strategy for one of your magazines?
In our company we don’t talk about magazines, but we talk about brands. Our best example of this is Delicious (magazine).
We have just announced that our Delicious food line, which includes coffee, tea, jam, and a variety of other food products will be available from August in the new Hudson Bay stores (in the Netherlands). From July 1st customers can also purchase Delicious tea, coffee and jam from one of the 650 Albert Heijn supermarkets, and very soon from Sligro (wholesale food company).
And this is very odd for a publishing company. We have not only had a movement from print to online media, but now from print to non-media.
We have a foodline! And even though it’s somewhat comparable to what other publishers are doing by extending their media offerings, with Delicious we have taken it one step further.
We asked ourselves the question, ‘What is normal for a print magazine such as Delicious? If we tell people how to cook and where to eat, why don’t we offer them good-quality food?’
It’s a very logical step from a brand point-of-view. We have a strong cooking brand, customers trust our brand, we always judge food and recipes, so why don’t we offer the best food products to our customers?
We look at our strong media brands and work out what we can do with them next.
New Skool's Delicious magazine
How did you even get started with the whole production of food products?
That’s a very simple story. We don’t like to reinvent the wheel. We do know how to make one pot of jam. We have culinary experts who can make jam, but 70,000 jars of jam? Well that’s a different story.
We have a joint venture partner. We take care of the taste, branding, packaging design, marketing and press. Our partner takes care of the manufacturing, production and selling to retailers. The balance is good because our partner is doing the things that he/she is good at (manufacturing and selling products), and we know good food.
Is extending brands through other offerings the best approach for magazines to remain successful in the future?
Yes of course. Look into what your readers want.
It’s what we did with Delicious. If you like to cook, you like good food as well. It sounds simple but provide your target group with what they want.
I would lie if I said it was extensive marketing research. It’s a group of 5-10 people that oversee the brand and they said, ‘Hey, it’s 2017. What is happening in the world?’
We like to dream. If we get to the stage that we have 30 product groups, what’s stopping us from having our own Delicious store? Look at what’s happening in the world and then give it a try!
The Delicious food line that is now available in over 650 stores
Do you believe other publishers are thinking in this way?
No. They are not. We think it has something to do with entrepreneurship. We are the founders of this company and we are the owners. When you are an entrepreneur you say, ‘Why don’t we try this or why not try that?’
It also has to do with how a company is structured. Other publishers just have employees but we are the owners. They don’t feel ownership and if you have an odd idea, in most companies, you will be told to stick with what you know. It is another mind-set.
We have done things in the past that are not a success, of course, but we try it. If it is a success we continue, and if not, we try something else.
Did anyone tell you that you were out of your mind when you said that you were going to make jam?
No. But there were a lot of people in the media industry that said, ‘Wow, I never thought of that!’ We always reply with, ‘Why not?’
Do you think that general interest magazines are dying?
I believe that because the diversity of the internet is so big, the content in general interest magazines is not unique anymore. If you can find content everywhere for free, then why would you pay for it?
For example, if you are a sailing person, and your hobby and passion is sailing, you are not going to get rid of this. People are not able to find this depth of information for free on the internet.
That is why we purchased the special interest magazines from Sanoma. We are focused on special interest. We believe in people’s hobbies and passions. If you like to make your own clothing, you cannot find very specific information online. It’s not on there. So, you need a special interest magazine to fulfil your hobby.
Do you think that magazines will still exist in 20 years' time?
Yes. There is a demand for special interest magazines, and for those areas magazines will continue to exist.
Don’t underestimate professional content. Making content is a sport and professional content provides details not otherwise available. We are not afraid that others are taking our jobs. Bloggers (for example) are more like role models rather than content writers.
Do you reuse your content?
We reuse our content in books, publishing on demand, on the internet, and on mobile.
If we know (for example) that a subscriber is interested in cooking fish, in particular cod, then we can provide that subscriber with 15 other cod recipes for free on their mobile device. But you have to organise your content that way in the first place, in your Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, just to be able to make the content available for reuse.
And that’s the problem. Almost no one here, in the Netherlands, has taxonomy or metadata applied to their content. Editorial teams and publishers do not understand the value of taxonomy and metadata. You can put your content in InDesign, but to get the words or images out of a publication, you must manually tear your content apart. You should think about that first.
If publishers and editors use WoodWing’s Enterprise and Elvis how it should be used, it is very easy to reuse all of your content. Elsevier, upstairs, are reusing their content effectively but they are one of the exceptions.
And lastly, what advice would you give to other media agencies, publishers or brands?
To think differently. The publishing world has changed, so adapt. Adapt fast.
New Skool Media is one of the largest multimedia publishers in the Netherlands. Founded in 2014 by Cor Jan Willig and Rob Koghee, the portfolio currently consists of 23 nationally known titles including: Delicious, Fiets, Knipmode, Truckstar, Columbus Travel and Kijk en Vorsten. New Skool Media serve their customers and partners through their platforms and media offerings including print, online, mobile, events and e-commerce products. In addition, New Skool Media also develops new innovative formats around its brands.
New Skool Media is a client of Graphit, a leading WoodWing partner based in the Netherlands.
If you would like to learn more about solution to help you efficiently organize and reuse your content, contact WoodWing Software.