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A reinvigorated Tatler celebrates circulation success

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British high society and culture magazine Tatler has undergone some dramatic changes over the past year, driven by changes in the leadership team. With the wealthiest readership of all Conde Nast’s publications, the ‘toff bible’ has a unique set of challenges to maintain growth, and ensure they’re reaching the right audience online.

The changes have paid off, with an increase in the magazine’s circulation, and also online where digital revenues have almost doubled since 2017.

This week, Media Voices caught up with Tatler’s Publishing Director Kate Slesinger, who has overseen Tatler and Vanity Fair for just over two years. With over 25 years working on various Conde titles, including House & Garden and Conde Nast Traveller, she has seen her role evolve from obsessing daily about print to dealing with all forms of revenue coming in on the magazine.

Celebrating circulation growth

Over the past year, Tatler has had a circulation boost, with total print and digital circulation up 1.3% year on year to over 79,000. Slesinger credits much of this to Richard Dennen, who came in as editor in 2018 and almost instantly made changes to the contributors, the site and the magazine itself.

What really stood out with the new Tatler was the change in covers. “The covers are bold, they’re celebrities, they’re recognisable, they’re really beautiful covers that are resting on newsstands,” Slesinger explained. “That is the first thing that Richard when he came on board wanted to see changes in that area, and he succeeded.”

For newsstand copies, covers are a vital way of enticing new readers. “A lot of it is based on the cover,” said Slesinger. “If they like the experience, then they will repeat buy. But to get new users to the brand, we’ve had to really make a sea change to the covers.”

Inside the covers, Dennen pushed for higher quality longform writing, and what Slesinger calls ‘mind candy’ snackable content to freshen up the blend of content in the magazine. 

A 1.3% circulation increase certainly isn’t a headline-maker, but in today’s environment, any increase is something to hang onto and celebrate.

Reaching the younger elite

The Tatler audience is certainly wealthy, but its age targeting is a difficult one to pin down. “It was ingrained in me from the moment I started that the Tatler audience was from nine to 99,” said Slesinger. “That’s quite a spread.”

“We get those school kids because we do a fantastic schools guide. They want to see their schools in it. They want to see their parties, their friends, they look online.

“But we also get their grandparents, so it is probably a three-generational spread.”

The average age of the title’s readers is women in their early to mid 40’s, and the publisher is conscious that they need to keep the pipeline fresh by attracting younger readers.

Slesinger admits that making Tatler feel relevant to the younger elite is far from straightforward. “Keeping the younger generation engaged and interested…is a constant challenge, and a constant job of reassessment, and looking at the platforms that we have available,” she said. “Online, that’s where everyone goes for instant fixes. And you’ve got to get your online looking good.”

While Dennen was preparing his first print issue, he gave the site a ‘real shake up’. “The design is better, the functionality is better, the content is updated and replenished twice daily,” explained Slesinger. “There’s just so much on it, and that has been the key to keeping the young interested.”

Dennen himself said in an interview with WDD last year that he saw himself as editing two different publications. “One is this beautiful print edition that sits around for a month, and the other is this very buzzy, bright, stylish website that’s much more fast paced,” he said. “It can grow to be a mix of high-society-meets-E-Entertainment, that’s where we can go with online.”

The refresh has paid off, with the site now pulling in over 400,000 unique users a month. It has also managed to retain its core London demographic online, with 39% of readers based in the capital and the South East.

More impressively, digital revenue for the title is up 34% compared to 2018, and almost double that of 2017.

Across print, online and social, Tatler pulls in an estimated 1.2 million readers a month, with the bulk of that coming from their social platforms. It’s something Slesinger and her team have worked hard on improving, and she acknowledges that it’s vital to know how your audience is consuming their media.

“We know that [Tatler readers] are very active on their phones. We know that the first thing they check in the morning is the website…they want to know what’s happened this morning,” she said.

The publisher has also recently launched the Tatler Address Book – an online digital listings site with everything from botox clinics to Michelin-starred restaurants and retreats. Like a high-end (digital) yellow pages, Tatler readers can look up the closest salons, restaurants and more, all with the trusted Tatler recommendation.

With their audience spending £1.9 billion on beauty and haircare each year, the Address Book is a savvy move to own the relationship between their readers and the places they spend their money.

Keeping ahead of the game

The final strand of Tatler’s enduring appeal is the ‘raft of supplements’ the title produces, from cosmetic surgery to schools, watches, weddings, travel and spas. There are even two dedicated supplements to the Gym Awards and Beauty Awards. “All these things that are relevant to the under 30’s, and stuff that they need to know about,” said Slesinger.

The supplements are also lucrative. 75% of Tatler’s readers own high-end watches or jewellery, and spend over £1.7 billion on such items each year. 97% consider themselves as ‘luxury travellers’, taking on average 7 trips abroad each year. Almost all of them own designer fashion. So it’s easy to see why dedicated supplements appeal to high-end advertisers, when they reach an audience with such spending power behind them.

Slesinger’s challenge for Tatler now is keeping ahead of the game, and looking for every angle on bringing in revenue. “I think you’ve got to just take risks,” she said. “You can’t just fall back on what has always been.”

“The steps that we are taking are really around the area of innovation. But also, if something isn’t working, just park it,” she said, referring to a podcast series Tatler tried late last year which didn’t gain as much traction as they’d hoped.

Instead, video is an area the team are looking at. “We did a fantastic one with Chopard last year with Sabine Getty dressed in couture, just 10 minutes, but it was so watchable and so fun,” Slesinger highlighted.

“It had massive engagement online, and lots of click throughs for Chopard, which was great. So I want to do more of that.”

“I just think that we have to permanently be at that forefront of moving forward.”