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Katriina Kaarre, Publishing Director, Octavamedia, Finland, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “This Situation Will Change Things For Good.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 21, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (19)

“This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home.” … Katriina Kaarre

 “Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.” … Katriina Kaarre (On the relevancy of magazines)

A leading player among Finnish magazine publishers, Otavamedia Ltd. is part of the Otava Group and publishes a total of 25 magazines in Finland and more than 30 websites. Katriina Kaarre is publishing director for the company and is dealing with the pandemic much like her American counterparts, as best she can.

I reached out to Katriina recently and asked her about this “new normal” the magazine and magazine media industry are having to adjust to for now: working from home, social distancing and anticipating a truly uncertain future. Katriina is staying positive and said, “Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.”

Indeed, quality content is always needed, especially through times such as today.

So, now the 19th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Katriina Kaarre, publishing director, Octavamedia.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Octavamedia is operating during this pandemic: Otavamedia has been doing fairly well through this so far. However, our print media sales are down and anticipated to drop even more toward the end of the year; online is doing a lot better (but will not be enough to cover for the print loss). We thought that single copy sales would take a stronger blow but they haven’t (since people go to grocery stores less frequently). By far our biggest sales channel, subscription sales, is down by five percent.

On how easy, hard, or disruptive the move to working from home was: Luckily, we renewed the tech when moving to our new offices the end of February and all the connections have worked well. The move from office to homes has been easier than expected (so many Finns are introverts anyhow). For people with small kids at home, it has been a lot harder.

On the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, events, etc.: There has not been any changes to frequencies of publications so far. Also, we print almost all of our magazines in Finland, so we haven’t had problems on that front either. Events have been cancelled, so we’re expecting big losses of sales in that. The year’s biggest event called “Housing Fair” is still in the works, but the prospect is that it will at least be moved to a later date or cancelled.

On whether she ever imagined she would be working during a pandemic: There had been a few stories about the next possible pandemic in the past years, but we never imagined anything on this scope. Finland has basically had the same problems that other countries have had: insufficient resources to test the virus, the lack of respirator masks and scarcity of respirators. Finland is coping rather well with the situation, all in all, and the percentage of people deceased is still quite moderate.

On what message she is communicating with her employees, clients and readers during these uncertain times: This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home.

On what makes magazines and magazine media relevant today: Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.

On any additional words of wisdom: Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.

On what keeps her up at night: The economical state of Finland and the world, the speed with how fast it is getting worse. At least we can comfort our readers and give them advice on how to get through these crazy times.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katriina Kaarre, publishing director, Octavamedia.

Samir Husni: How is Octavamedia in Finland operating during this pandemic?

Katriina Kaarre: Otavamedia has been doing fairly well through this so far. However, our print media sales are down and anticipated to drop even more toward the end of the year; online is doing a lot better (but will not be enough to cover for the print loss). We thought that single copy sales would take a stronger blow but they haven’t (since people go to grocery stores less frequently). By far our biggest sales channel, subscription sales, is down by five percent. Since nobody knows how long the situation will last, we’re making estimations every month of the whole.  All this means is that we will not able to make the budget for this year and have had to cut some costs.

However, we are not cutting development cost of the digital, which has been on a significant rise, both in media sales and in subscription sales.

The staff of Otavamedia is of course worried about the situation, but are working conscientiously, getting the work done as well as possible.

Samir Husni: How easy, hard, or disruptive was the move to working from home?

Katriina Kaarre: Luckily, we renewed the tech when moving to our new offices the end of February and all the connections have worked well. The move from office to homes has been easier than expected (so many Finns are introverts anyhow). For people with small kids at home, it has been a lot harder. Also, developing things (bouncing ideas, testing reactions etc.) hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting better at it.

 Samir Husni: What has been the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, events, etc.?

Katriina Kaarre: There has not been any changes to frequencies of publications so far. Also, we print almost all of our magazines in Finland, so we haven’t had problems on that front either. Events have been cancelled, so we’re expecting big losses of sales in that. The year’s biggest event called “Housing Fair” is still in the works, but the prospect is that it will at least be moved to a later date or cancelled.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic? And can you ever be prepared for something like this?

Katriina Kaarre: There had been a few stories about the next possible pandemic in the past years, but we never imagined anything on this scope. Finland has basically had the same problems that other countries have had: insufficient resources to test the virus, the lack of respirator masks and scarcity of respirators. Finland is coping rather well with the situation, all in all, and the percentage of people deceased is still quite moderate. People gathering together is strictly forbidden, but people can move outdoors quite freely (in a party of only a few people).

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees, clients and readers during these uncertain times?

Katriina Kaarre: This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home. Besides corona stories (which do still really well on the web), do-it yourself, gardening, grilling, knitting tips are well read now. Also, we’re constantly developing new native concepts for advertisers that adapt to the current situation. Print advertisers are particularly cautious and we’re expecting at least a 30-50 percent drop by the end of the year. Digital sales and single copy sales are doing okay (people have time to read) so far.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

Katriina Kaarre: Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Katriina Kaarre: Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.

Samir Husni: And my typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Katriina Kaarre: The economical state of Finland and the world, the speed with how fast it is getting worse. At least we can comfort our readers and give them advice on how to get through these crazy times.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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