Thirty years ago, in those halcyon pre internet days when print was the only game in town, the first issue of what became Homebuilding & Renovating magazine was published. It was one of a number that arrived to exploit interest in renovating and doing up a property that later spawned a host of television programmes and more magazines to tie in with these shows.
Many of the publications have disappeared, but Homebuilding & Renovating, now published by Future, sails on. And it continues to fly the flag for print, to believe in print and to push what is possible with print.
Today the magazine, along with other Future titles, is produced at William Gibbons, as part of a group deal that nets the most effective page rates for the spread of magazines in Future’s stable.
But this does not mean that the magazine has to follow a corporate line. Homebuilding & Renovating, for example, has been the first Future magazine to adopt paper wrap for subscription copies.
This does not mean that the magazine ignores alternative media channels either, says Paul Newman, home interest brand director at Future. It launched its first exhibition two years into the magazine’s history and now has eight events around the country each year. There is a comprehensive website, social media, videos and online service to help readers find a plot to build their dream home on.
“But there’s an obligation to keep innovating in print,” says Newman. And this has meant a switch to paper this year for subscriber copies. “This will mean 200,000-250,000 fewer plastic bags a year will be needed,” he says.
“Publishing companies have tried to consolidate around a single partner wherever possible to achieve economies of scale, though this means achieving a simplistic process to keep the costs down. Some of the other printers can be quite inflexible.
“We were coming under pressure from a CSR point of view and William Gibbons did not have the technology installed for paper wrapping. That has changed and issues being mailed out are now using paper wrap.”
Discussions ahead of the move centred on the strength of the material, would it be strong enough to hold the inserts and supplements that piggy back with the magazine and would it be strong enough to survive the drop on to the doormat. “For readers this can become a more exciting packaging experience,” he adds. “But we cannot pass on the increase in the production costs to the readers via extra inserts: all this has to be weighed up.”
The wrap is printed in full colour, hinting at the contents inside for the estimated 25,000 monthly home delivered copies of the three titles in Future’s home interest group of magazines. The print extends to the inside of the carrier, with promotional messaging or advertising possible.
Newman is delighted with the impact. “We would like to extend newsstand packaging to this as well. We distribute a great quality of copies via newsstands at the moment and the bags that we use are recyclable, but it’s still a form of plastic.
“We don’t want to be writing about how people can build sustainable homes and then enveloping our magazine in plastic. People are getting really angry about this and we are receiving more and more letters from readers about this issue.”
For Homebuilding & Renovating there can be no going back, nor for Period Living and Real Homes. “We are the pioneers within Future,” says Newman.
This is not the first time that the title has pushed the envelope. “We tried regional print runs to allow local advertisers to reach their community, creating three split runs for Scotland and the north; the Midlands and the south east.
“We tried it for three or four months, but we decided not to continue after the trial period: the regional advertisers wanted to advertise in the full run. It was an interesting experiment and something we might look at again.
“That said we want to innovate around the print format as much as we can. We have to keep innovating and reinventing the format. Monocle has done this well.”
For the Future title, this means running different styles of cover, using die cutting, gatefolds or different colours. This used to be not much more than a PMS. When most titles will stick with four colour only HB&R can stand out. “We always try to use a special ink on the cover to make us a little different, perhaps with a fluorescent or mixing colours to made a stronger orange.
“We believe that a specialised magazine serving a readership with a specialist need that is not well serviced by online, and where there is a big advertising market for services as well, works.”
The magazine is about inspiring its readers, something which print is supremely good at, Newman says. “That inspiration for readers is central. We want people to see Homebuilding & Renovating as part of their home remodelling world – and print production is a big part of that.”
Paul Newman credits an obligation to keep print innovative as the reason behind the switch to paper wrapping for Homebuilding & Renovating's subscriber copies.