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How publishers can work more effectively with luxury brands

Of all publishing niches, the one that was arguably slowest to embrace digital was the luxury sector. But print is still hugely important to aspirational brands.

Yet there are clear signs of digital innovation in the luxury sector courtesy of brands like Robb Report. Here the company's COO, Jeff Litvack, explains that although print is still pivotal to their strategy, video, especially live streaming, and VR could have significant appeal to luxury brands.

Jeff Litvack ()

How do you think the shift from print to digital has impacted on the relationships between publishing companies and luxury brands?

The shift has been slower than in other industries, as luxury brands and their audiences still greatly enjoy the print experience. You simply cannot replicate the vibrancy of the imagery and the storytelling that occurs within print for luxury brands fully on digital. That being said, digital offers up the opportunity to tell a story in a different way.

Digital gives publishers a better opportunity to engage our valued customers in more dynamic, and interactive ways. In that respect, digital is a real value proposition for luxury brands and as we as publishers, and as they embrace technology further, we will continue to offer more interesting and more immersive experiences. 

What examples can you give of publishers working effectively with luxury brands online now?

We recently completed a partnership with acclaimed luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe in which we brought together 11 examples of the rarest timepiece complication – the exquisite minute repeater, featured alongside Patek Philippe’s master watchmaker and the luxury brand’s US president Larry Pettinelli for a real-time, interactive webcast filmed live at Patek Philippe’s headquarters in New York City. This was a first for Patek Philippe, who had never brought a collection of timepieces to its community, live, via a digital platform. Not only were they able to offer their audience a new experience leveraging a Robb Report initiative – which we coined ‘First Look,’ they tapped into our audience driving additional traffic and traction. 

Furthermore, as the event was educational, and featured moderation from Robb Report’s Watch Editor, both brands were able to serve our respective audiences in a very unique way.

More broadly, we're working closely with luxury brands to execute using native, social and targeted amplification. These have become the new standard of excellence. Premium content is as important as ever, and as such, we’ve transitioned our approach to focus on branded content sponsorships that can be distributed across all channels, and can live as articles or video and can populate both our O&O channels as well as our many partners’ sites.   

Do you think print is still the premium media place for luxury brands?

Print is still an important channel for luxury brands. Year over year, we’ve had great success in print. While we want to be focused across a mix of platforms, we’ve also had a very strong year. Specifically, our recent 40th Anniversary October edition of Robb Report was up in paging +70 per cent.

We are able to reach different audiences in different ways across print, digital and mobile/social. And we can leverage the full arsenal and capabilities of those platforms to create more interesting experiences for our brand partners.  

How is video being made to work by high-end publishers who focus on luxury brands?

Online habits for luxury buyers are shifting away from the printed word and more towards content presented in a visual format that enables readers, and viewers to engage in the experience of luxury. We, as publishers, are being tasked with meeting these new interests in how one digests content, hence the rapid rise of video as the preferred format of telling a brand’s story. 

At Robb Report we have actively embraced Facebook Live, recently building out the platform with frequent ‘live’ sessions tailored to our Facebook community’s experiential interests and passions. We have expanded our focus on video and arsenal of video capture tools - leveraging drone footage at Robb Report events and we have future plans to incorporate VR. We are building out our video team and video capabilities into 2017, as we know this is an essential and trending platform, for both our audience and partners.  

Do you think we will see more luxury brands working with publishers on long-form content? How might this develop?

We’re certainly moving more towards brands in a consultative way through the creation of more branded and sponsored content. In some cases, that may be long-form, but more than 50% of our traffic is coming from mobile, which translates more into ‘snacking’ than long-form journalism. At Robb Report, our current focus is on building out experiences that fit within the mobile context.

Why do you think the email newsletter has become such an important tool to publishers once again? 

In this day and age where nearly 2/3 of all users get their news first from social media, having a more direct link with our readership is critical. Newsletters allow us to be in our readers’ inboxes every single day, at multiple times throughout the day. This strategy ensures our brand is constantly top of the mind, and we don’t have to rely on search or bookmarks - which people are no longer doing - to be a regular part of our readers’ lives. 

Additionally, with 80 per cent of all users checking their mobile device before leaving their homes each morning, an e-newsletter is the first, and guaranteed, touchpoint with our readers. 

How do you think the personalisation of content will develop in the future? Could you give me some practical examples of how this might work? 

Personalisation is about improving discovery. It’s driven by understanding the interests of our readers, and the interests of similar individuals that read our content. 

The focus will be on serving content in a way that increases click-through rates and engagement. In particular, deploying it - as we have at Robb Report within our newsletters - will be critical to publishers’ success. It will also mean the potential of unique and personalised home pages, content recommendations within articles based on preferences, and more.

In terms of practical examples, Robb Report covers everything from luxury cars to fine jewellery and high-end real estate. Over time, we can track what our readers are reading and refine what they receive in their inboxes each morning. If we find that one individual is really interested in our automotive content, we can tailor his or her newsletter to feature additional, and like-minded content. In time, we’ll go a step further, not just generalist automotive content, but niche content on collector cars, specific marques, in-car technology, and the like. 

The key to this will be having a strong content taxonomy, deploying technologies for the tagging of articles and tracking readership, and an algorithm for deciphering interests and the likelihood of interests in a similar type of article.  

Robb Report is a member of FIPP.

Many of the themes Jeff discusses in this article will feature prominently at the 2017 Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin. For more information and a pre-agenda booking rate that can save delegates 600 Euros, click here.

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