Partnerships are a hot topic in publishing. From the ad world’s Pangea Alliance to Twitter’s livestreaming partnership with Live Nation, companies with varying expertises are joining forces to drive innovation and, of course, revenue.

Obviously no stranger to the process, Hearst won the content publishing account for Jamie Oliver’s monthly magazine in July last year, and both organisations have taken a more collaborative approach to not just publishing the magazine, but managing the whole Jamie brand.

At the PPA Festival yesterday, Lisa Tookey, commercial director at Jamie Oliver Group and Jane Wolfson, the director of Hearst Made at Hearst Magazines UK took to the stage to answer questions about what has made the partnership so successful.

Know your strengths

One of the core reasons for the Jamie Oliver Group to choose Hearst as a partner was that they knew where their strengths were, and more importantly, where they needed help, as Tookey explained:

“We’re not absolute experts at doing everything. Publishing is a science, and you need to be part of a very big company with that experience to do be able to do it successfully. We looked to outsource to the best; to the company with the best portfolio and fit for our brand.

“Hearst can really help get that magazine out to more people through their existing extensive distribution networks.

“The core reason for us partnering with Hearst…is that they understand the beating heart of magazines…and do all the ancillary stuff around that which makes the magazine sing”

The benefits of any good partnership goes both ways, and this is no different in the partnership between the Jamie Oliver Group and Hearst. 

A consistent voice

One of the pitfalls of any partnership is maintaining consistency across a brand. Multiple teams working on a product can lead to differences in the look and feel across different touchpoints.

Hearst’s Wolfson believes that hot-desking between the offices has led to increased integration between the two teams, and strengthened the brand consistency.

“Jamie is still very involved with the actual editorial content. There’s lots of hot-desking, and from a commercial point of view, the team that work on the Food Tube come and work alongside our team. Editorially, there is a certain look and feel which we have to adhere to.”

Tookey agrees, explaining that the teams are in and out of each other’s offices “quite a lot”.

“The Hearst team are involved in our content planning sessions…if you ask the Jamie magazine team who they work for, they would say both Jamie Oliver and Hearst.”

But the two teams are not the only ones who get very involved with each other. Jamie Oliver himself is ‘incredibly involved’ according to Tookey:

“Jamie understands the heritage of the Hearst business and that they’re experts at the craft of creating magazines…he’ll be very involved in some things but have a lighter touch in others…he’s excited to have [the magazine] as part of his ecosystem.”

Oliver is also on board with social media, often stepping in himself to try out new features.

“Not many people can do Facebook live successfully…and Jamie’s really great at getting involved and pioneering those new social tools. Because it sits so close to him it works really well. There’s still that spontaneity; he talks about his family as well…he genuinely is really authentic”

“There’s a million different things that happen every single day, and for Jamie, the beauty of working with him is that we can pivot in a second. If he has a brilliant idea for a book or a show or something on social media…because he has the team around him to execute that, we can make it happen within the hour, or the next 60 seconds!”

Metrics for success

For both companies, there are deeper metrics to success than simple subscription figures. Wolfson is aware that the magazine itself stands alone as a strong product:

Jamie [magazine] in its own right has a 300,000-strong readership. As a brand, it’s such a great pull for advertisers that it doesn’t just have to rely on scale, although we can deliver additional scale through the rest of our brands – we account for £1 of every £2.62 spent on groceries. The ‘Jamie pull’, because of the brand that it is, fits in nicely with the rest of our network.”

Tookey believes that much of the partnership’s strength is measurable through the benefits Hearst can offer with its experience.

“There’s huge efficiency in working with a big brand like Hearst. They don’t just manage the magazine in terms of content and ad sales, they also manage the website and ad content creation just because they have the huge buying power, and the skillset they have behind that is enormously attractive to us.

“The measurement of success isn’t just on circulation; there are lots of other factors in play.”

What makes this partnership work?

This is more than a simple client-agency relationship, which is what the Jamie team previously had when it contracted out the magazine. Approaching the work as partners gives both sides a distinct advantage and rather than being a transaction, both sides are invested in the brand; a fact which is evident by the inter-team relationship.

The other factor which makes this successful is that the Jamie Oliver Group stands alone in the work that they do and the brand they carry. The magazine is a small part of a larger ‘Jamie ecosystem’, and like a good push-up bra, Hearst’s job is to enhance the brand.

This partnership has worked because Hearst have been able to provide the polish that the Jamie magazine needed with its network distribution knowledge and long experience in consumer publishing. Jamie magazine can stand alone, but to reach its full potential, it needs to sit on Hearst’s shoulders.