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Sue Holt, Managing Director, ITP Consumer, ITP Live and ITP Gaming (United Arab Emirates) To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We Can Get Through This And Will.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 24, 2020

Sue Holt

Publishing During A Pandemic (23)

“People want and need information and entertainment from trusted sources. Magazines and credible journalism have made magazine media arguably more relevant in the current landscape.” … Sue Holt

“Initially we struggled with this as there is a fine line between us still wanting to do business and generate revenue, but also being sympathetic to our clients who have been deeply impacted. We learned very quickly which clients wanted to discuss creative ways to still operate and promote themselves during this time, and which ones didn’t want to have a discussion now, and which ones are still planning for an upturn in Q4-2020.” … Sue Holt

Magazines fall under the umbrella of “Credible Journalism” very easily. Just ask Sue Holt Managing Director of ITP Media Group (ITP), the Middle East’s largest publisher of international multi-platform magazine brands. She manages a team of over 250+ editorial, digital, advertising, marketing and event team members including Time Out Dubai, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, GQ Middle East, ArabianBusiness.com, Condé Nast Traveler and Cosmopolitan ME. During this pandemic, Sue says that credible journalism is more important than ever.

“People want and need information and entertainment from trusted sources. Magazines and credible journalism have made magazine media arguably more relevant in the current landscape.”

I reached out to Sue recently to ask her how the company and she and her team were operating during these uncertain times. She answered that while ITP had reduced its hours, they were still producing quality content and hosting many important and innovative digital content with relevance to the world we live in today.

And now the 23rd Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Sue Holt, Managing Director, ITP Consumer, ITP Live and ITP Gaming (UAE).

But first the sound-bites:

On how ITP Consumer (UAE) is operating during the pandemic: ITP has reduced its working hours to 3 days a week or 25 hours per week across shifts for editors/digital content team. This was in order that we could ensure no losses and our teams would receive some pay at least. We have also deployed our events team (as there are no events expected until September 2020) and they are learning new skills such as digital marketing, content creation, research etc.

On how easy, hard or disruptive the move to working from home was: Easy in terms of most things can now be done digitally such as meetings, co-ordination of schedules etc. Difficult regarding content creation and keeping the content fresh and exciting.

On the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, events, etc. of the company: We have cancelled all of our events until September 2020 and now reformatting these as online conferences, forums etc. We have reduced the print cycle of most of our print publications as the print distribution and printing has been effected with printers closed for now in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We have also offered ‘at home’ subscriptions so people still receive the physical magazines.

On whether she had ever thought of working during something like a pandemic and if she thinks someone could prepare for something like it: No. I’m not sure what we could’ve done to be prepared aside from arranging the tech side for more flexibility working from home. This was, however, done quite quickly (2-3 days and the whole company of 500 people had it set up).

On what message she is communicating with her readers during these uncertain times: To our readers we just want to say that we have one of the largest business magazine news-sites in the region – ArabianBusiness.com – and we are ensuring that we are correctly and responsibly reporting the Covid-19 facts and how they relate to the region, plus what other businesses are doing to get through this. From other magazines, such as women’s lifestyle, we are hosting digital retreats with relevant subjects, such as mental health, wellness and cooking. Positive messages and how we are all in this together are particularly important.

On what makes magazine media relevant today: People want and need information and entertainment from trusted sources. Magazines and credible journalism have made magazine media arguably more relevant in the current landscape.

On any additional words of wisdom: As an industry we may be suffering due to the loss in advertising revenue but this is short term and the increased digital readership and engagement is something we should be extremely proud of and focus on the retention of once we come out of this.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing. We can get through this and will.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sue Holt, managing director, ITP Consumer, ITP Live and ITP Gaming.

Sue Holt

Samir Husni: How is ITP Consumer, United Arab Emirates operating during the pandemic?

Sue Holt: ITP has reduced its working hours to 3 days a week or 25 hours per week across shifts for editors/digital content team. This was in order that we could ensure no losses and our teams would receive some pay at least.

We have also deployed our events team (as there are no events expected until September 2020) and they are learning new skills such as digital marketing, content creation, research etc.

Everyone is mainly working from home, however on occasion our production managers or photography team will go into the office with government passes for exceptions.

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

Sue Holt: Easy in terms of most things can now be done digitally such as meetings, co-ordination of schedules etc. Difficult regarding content creation and keeping the content fresh and exciting. Obviously, also pages such as photoshoots with models etc. are proving challenging operationally.

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

Sue Holt: We have cancelled all of our events until September 2020 and now reformatting these as online conferences, forums etc. We have reduced the print cycle of most of our print publications as the print distribution and printing has been effected with printers closed for now in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We have also offered ‘at home’ subscriptions so people still receive the physical magazines.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic and do you think anyone could ever prepare for something like this?

Sue Holt: No. I’m not sure what we could’ve done to be prepared aside from arranging the tech side for more flexibility working from home. This was, however, done quite quickly (2-3 days and the whole company of 500 people had it set up).

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

Sue Holt: To our readers we just want to say that we have one of the largest business magazine news-sites in the region – ArabianBusiness.com – and we are ensuring that we are correctly and responsibly reporting the Covid-19 facts and how they relate to the region, plus what other businesses are doing to get through this. From other magazines, such as women’s lifestyle, we are hosting digital retreats with relevant subjects, such as mental health, wellness and cooking. Positive messages and how we are all in this together are particularly important.

To our advertisers, initially we struggled with this as there is a fine line between us still wanting to do business and generate revenue, but also being sympathetic to our clients who have been deeply impacted. We learned very quickly which clients wanted to discuss creative ways to still operate and promote themselves during this time, and which ones didn’t want to have a discussion now, and which ones are still planning for an upturn in Q4-2020.

And to our staff, we are in constant communication with our teams and are trying to keep them motivated during this time. We have organized a ‘Creative Challenge’ across all the offices (UAE, Saudi, U.K., India, Qatar, LA) where people work with people they don’t normally work with to generate interesting creative commercial solutions for now and post-crisis with prizes such as free Deliveroo, online supermarket shopping vouchers etc. This is something we had always spoken about but never had time for previously and has been well received as an initiative.

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

Sue Holt: People want and need information and entertainment from trusted sources. Magazines and credible journalism have made magazine media arguably more relevant in the current landscape.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Sue Holt: As an industry we may be suffering due to the loss in advertising revenue but this is short term and the increased digital readership and engagement is something we should be extremely proud of and focus on the retention of once we come out of this. In the Gulf region we are also heavily reliant on advertising / sponsorship revenue – we need to diversify our business and this situation has now made this a bigger priority.

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

Sue Holt: Nothing. We can get through this and will.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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