Last month, Mixmag Media acquired Kerrang! and The Face. Old fans dug out their original copies. Fresh-faced musos said, “What’s The Face?” while drinking something with electrolytes in it. The internet melted into a wet puddle of nostalgia-fuelled frenzy, basically.
Both magazines were massively influential, iconic brands in their heydays. But The Face has long since been dead, while Kerrang! has been edging closer to annihilation with each issue – circulation has dwindled by nearly eighty per cent in the last eleven years.
So this is a gargantuan gamble for Mixmag. But, for the publisher, this is more than a rose-tinted nostalgia trip. This is a sign of the times, a harbinger of something bigger.
Relaunches used to be seen as dirty cash-ins. No more. Brands, publishers and businesses are happy to raid the history books, to revive products that could now have a place in our lives.
Kerrang! is less a relaunch and more a rebrand, which is what it’s been in dire need of for a while. Its weekly news section is pipped to the post by online competitors, and Kerrang!’s online presence itself is thin on the ground.
And that itself is the crux of the matter: Kerrang!’s core audience is young adults. They can’t be bothered to wait and maybe don’t want to pay for content, on a weekly basis, that they can access for free elsewhere.
A brand name alone isn’t enough – sure, you can yap on about how great Woolworths’ pick ‘n’ mix was, but the retailer’s online relaunch was a failure because it didn’t offer anything new. Kerrang! may be the rock bible but some people think the Bible’s outdated.
Mixmag has got its work cut out, but the publisher’s delivered a winner before. It turned its own declining magazine into a dance music powerhouse, creating a multimedia, all-inclusive tribe where people could easily access and engage with content. From live streams and documentaries on its YouTube channel to club events and festivals, Mixmag established itself as a major player once again.
Applying a similar model to Kerrang!, Mixmag’s aim of creating the biggest online global rock fan community is well within reach. This is made all the more possible by Mixmag’s international editorial teams, who can be on the pulse with their news and features.
But as much as content is king, it’s no good if the audience just isn’t there. The vinyl resurgence, the shift from eBooks back to books and the success of The New European launch last year prove that tangible, physical products are still in-demand – they’re just catering to a more specialist market.
Because that’s what Kerrang! and The Face are: specialist titles. They offer expert insight and, by turning Kerrang! into a monthly, that insight can be developed into a fuller, sturdier product while still providing breaking news online. That said, the commercial model for print still has to work. It still needs to look great and provide carefully curated, exclusive content.
The Face is initially returning as an online entity, which makes perfect sense. A print comeback seems to be on the cards but hasn’t been confirmed, probably due to Mixmag testing the waters rather than dive-bombing straight away.
Online-first makes a lot of sense because, well, is there still an appetite for what The Face offers? Probably, but a thirteen-year absence requires a lot of planning – the online launch will truly gauge if The Face has been missed, if it has the potential to reach new readers, and if those clicks can translate to sustainable revenues.
And if people still care about The Face, there’s a massive opportunity for the brand to carve another slot into history.
If you look at what’s happening with Vice and LADbible right now, The Face has a genuine chance to become a media brand that’s all about authenticity, identity and community rather than simply readership, clicks and views.
That’s what The Face was. It was counter-culture turned into culture. It had its ear to the ground and its grill in front of everyone. If Mixmag can revive The Face with the same level of cool, the same edge but booted into 2017, it’ll do more than attract the ever-important millennials. It’ll draw in brands with big bucks in their pockets.
James Roles, Sales & Marketing Director at Five by Five