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Business model innovation: how Burda does it, worldwide

As a qualified dive master who travels the world swimming with sharks, Frances Evans, director of international licensing and advertising at Burda International, knows all about managing stressful situations and navigating unchartered territory. 

Here, Evans tells FIPP contributor Jon Watkins about her role – and how Burda International is innovating to ensure the health of its magazine media brands in multiple markets around the world.

Evans will be one of more than 60 international speakers at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Canada from 13-15 October 2015, where she and her colleague Ian Levy, based in Brazil, will talk about Burda’s 360º innovation and approach to scaling their brands internationally. 

Attendees of the Worldwide Media Marketplace (taking place on 13 October ahead of the main Congress programme) will also have the opportunity to meet with Frances and her team one on one.

Final discounted registration for the Congress, saving you £200 on the standard rate, is available until 15 July, while discounts for delegations (5 or more people) are available on request (contact Claire Jones or Natalie Butcher for more).

Tell us about your background

My background is very much in company management, innovation and change management, licensing and strategic brand management. Over my 19-year career in magazine media I have spent a lot time in business development, international project management and transforming brands to 360-degree multi-channel business models. Prior to working at Burda International, I was with Marquard Media, where my roles included International Licensing Director and Managing Director of Marquard Media Hungary. I am also the spokesperson for the International Publishing Forum in the German Magazine Association (VDZ). 

What does your role at Burda entail day to day?

My job is quite complex and covers many different topics, so therefore pretty much every day brings something new. Obviously one part of my role is licensing. Most of the outbound licensing at Burda actually takes place within the Burda group as many of our products are published by our subsidiaries. Of course we do also have some brands, such as Burda Style and Saveurs, where we work also with third party licensees.  

At the same time, we also have a large amount of inbound licenses in our 20 markets, so we’ve centralized the contract and relationship management and I deal with that too. I work very closely with our teams and our many licensors, to support the cooperation and business development. Many of our local teams are quite new to licensing, so it makes good business sense to provide such support from HQ.  

A further element of my role is to develop international advertising relationships and improve the international sales revenues across the different markets. We have our own advertising team in Italy for luxury, fashion and interiors that reports to me, and we also work with BCN, Burda’s international sales network.

It sounds like your role has evolved a lot from the traditional licensing role?

That’s for sure! A lot of the work that I do today is based around innovation projects and change-management processes in our publishing, editorial and sales teams. So I work with our teams to develop 360-degree projects and innovative business models particularly for the luxury and fashion titles, the crafting, food and garden titles. 

We tend to work a lot on our international brands, which operate in multiple markets. Once we have developed successful cases we then do best-practice roll-outs in the other markets. These projects typically also involve change management processes and therefore much of my work centers on training and the development of knowledge and skills. 

I do also have a couple of other responsibilities. I look after the market-research program, which means making sure any research we do is strategically right and relevant to our business needs – and that also goes into the area of media planning and how we communicate our data to media agencies. 

Finally I also organise the business development workshops and our senior management meetings. This is of course also related to identifying changing business needs and providing essential knowledge to our teams to support business development. We use events and local meetings with the teams, as well as video or telephone conferences. 

Is the complexity and multi-faceted nature of your work a symbol of the industry we now operate in and the nature of modern-day media businesses? What does it tell us about our industry?

The complexity of the role is definitely defined by the nature of business and media consumption today. In fact, everyone at Burda International performs many varied functions, so in our team it’s not just my role that is complex.

Change is happening so fast and will only get faster going forward, so it is crucial to be able to recognise business context and innovation, then get hold of whatever or whoever you can to help you adapt the best practices as quickly as possible throughout the organisation. Speeding up innovation is only possible if you implement technology to make change easier. Plus, communication skills and networking are more important than ever.

Does the complexity of the market and the need to innovate quickly make us even more dependent on data?

Yes, absolutely. Obviously “data” is a broad subject and we use and need many different types of data in our business. Data is now the foundation of strategy planning, product conception and creation as well as successful marketing delivery. Understanding data in terms of search behaviour is invaluable for creating the right products and reduces the risk in development costs.

Research data is absolutely essential for our ability to maintain our advertising models. Data that media planners and buyers work with – and which we as media companies rely on for our revenues - doesn’t always cover the reach of our magazine media brands, which are consumed on so many platforms today. 

In the UK and the US, the 360-degree media planning projects are much more advanced than in most markets. That’s why we need to make sure that our markets – especially in Central and Eastern Europe – are also working to develop better media planning tools. 

We still have a big legacy print business and we have to look after that – and that means ensuring the data we are putting out to advertisers about our multi-platform consumers is as good and as relevant as possible. 

Do the verticals in which you operate mean you are less exposed to market forces than other businesses with print legacies?

No, of course we are still exposed to market forces. We operate in 20 markets and every one of those markets is different. In Brazil, for example, we are effectively a start-up. We’re not a start-up in the sense that we don’t have much experience – we have a very experienced team – but we are a small company that is growing a 360-degree, multi-platform model from the beginning. But, we don’t have a legacy that we need to adapt.  

In other markets we are the number-one or number-two player. So there we have a lot of different market issues to deal with, from disruption, to economic crises or legal framework changes. 

However, operating in special interest verticals provides many opportunities to engage with consumers beyond print and online.  So while we cannot influence market forces this business provides new opportunities, which expands our knowledge and skill sets.

Do specialist titles, and the communities and audiences that come with those, make it easier to move to a 360-degree, multi-platform model though?

Specialist-interest titles definitely make it easier to transition because you know much more quickly what the consumer is doing and what they are searching for. Knowledgeable content teams and the use of data help us develop the right products in many different fields. There are also many easily identifiable touch points in the value chain. We implement 360° projects ourselves, together with partners and sometimes by acquiring related businesses. 

In the case of Burda Style this ranges from co-operations with fabric companies, e-learning business, travel companies to trade fair companies – wherever we find the right type of product to meet an unmet consumer need. Of course we are always striving to drive the business forward in an innovative way, because competition for the attention of both our enthusiast consumers and our advertisers is coming from everywhere these days – not just other publishers.

Given the global nature of the industry today and the rapid pace of change, are you seeing a shift in strategies for companies looking to expand or move into new markets? Are we seeing a shift around licensing and M&A activity, for example?

Absolutely. The licensing business is no longer growing the way it did in the early 2000s, mainly because of the way the business model works. Going forward, I believe you need to be thinking about licensing a whole business model rather than just a brand and print or online content. 

Burda Style is a great example of this. It is a special-interest, enthusiast brand and our business model includes many revenue streams beyond the printed magazine. These come from projects such as sewing school franchises, consumer trade fairs, sewing kits, digital bundles and an ecommerce site with over 3,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) including digital downloadable patterns and physical products. 

So, you can see this kind of model is much more complex than simply finding a partner to create a local language edition of a magazine. Our partners are attracted by the holistic business model and having access to the whole value chain.

Tell us about yourself and what motivates you outside of work…

I’m a fanatic diver. I have a dive master qualification, which is actually a professional level – (always good to have a plan b!) Diving has taken me all over the world, from the far reaches of Indonesia to the deep south of Sudan – as if I didn’t already travel enough with my job! My favourite dive site is in the Pacific, off the coast of Mexico, surrounded by giant mantas, schooling hammerhead sharks and dolphins.  

And are there skills and experiences you take from diving to help you in your work?

I do think that my diving experience can be related to work situations and I often try to use these skills when communicating with people and in terms of my thought and planning processes. Leading a dive team always starts with clear communication about the plan, the direction, potential hazards, the general environment, what equipment they should need and so there are definitely parallels with work. A detailed briefing can really help to avoid problems later. I find I often use diving analogies in my explanations.

What else would you want to share with delegates of the FIPP World Congress, who might meet you in Toronto later this year?

People who meet me will realise that I love magazine media. I have loved it from the very first day that I started working in publishing. I love the digital challenge and the innovations we are seeing around transformation. 

For me, this is a voyage of discovery and learning at a truly exciting time for our industry. I really believe magazine brands connect with consumers in a very special way and will retain their importance going forward.  

Therefore, as a business partner we want to ensure our licensees are well trained and geared up for the challenges ahead and that they are encouraged to innovate with our exciting brands. I’m really looking forward to meeting plenty of enthusiastic, innovative teams and hopefully growing our business in new markets! 

About the FIPP World Congress

The Congress takes place on 13-15 October in Toronto, Canada.

Programme, speakers and networking

The FIPP World Congress includes:

The Worldwide Media Marketplace (WMM) on 13 October

The main Congress speaker programme on 14 and 15 October, including the FIPP Mobile (14 October) and FIPP Innovation (15 October) stages. 

See the provisional programme and speakers so far confirmed here.

Social events

In addition to networking opportunity at WMM and during the normal Congress programme, there will be plenty of social opportunities at the FIPP World Congress with various social events on offer, including the Opening and Closing ceremonies and Congress Late

Delegates are also welcome to join us for a tour to the Niagara Falls on 16 October (note: this booking is separate from the normal Congress booking)

Read more about the social events here.

Registration options

All-inclusive tickets (giving access to WMM and the FIPP Congress, FIPP Mobile and FIPP Innovation stages);

Congress-only tickets (excludes WMM access); or 

WMM-only (access to WMM and FIPP Mobile programme)

To find out more and to register, click here (note: our final discounted offer, saving you £200 on all-inclusive tickets, is available until 15 July).

Special discounted rates are available for delegations (5 or more people). Contact Claire Jones and/or Natalie Butcher for more.

Read more

Click here for more FIPP World Congress speaker Q&As and other stories.

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