Case study: Time Out secures freedom of the city

Kaper was called in to promote Time Out's shift to a free magazine after 44 years.

Take a look at this: Famous London lookalikes read the debut free issue of Time Out at a bus stop
Take a look at this: Famous London lookalikes read the debut free issue of Time Out at a bus stop
Campaign    Take Me, I’m Yours: Time Out London Goes Free
Client           Time Out
PR team       Kaper
Timescale     August-November 2012
Budget         £30,000

After 44 years as a paid-for title, Time Out moved to a free distribution model in September 2012. Time Out had seen a decline in readership figures since a peak in the 1990s. Following investment from Oakley Capital, Time Out had invested heavily in its website, mobile and tablet offerings. The final step in its transformation to a modern, multi-platform media product would be to radically change the magazine distribution. Time Out had to ensure its core readers stayed loyal, while engaging a whole new generation of socially active Londoners

  • To show the media and advertising communities that Time Out is an innovative, growing business
  • To excite a new generation of Londoners, proving again why Time Out is the best, most inspirational source of event and entertainment news
  • To showcase Time Out as a multi-platform publisher

Strategy and plan
Kaper devised a three-step strategy to secure quality press coverage with a depth of messaging that communicated the changes at Time Out. Firstly, it announced that Time Out was to become a free title to trade and business media with a series of exclusives and interviews with editor Tim Arthur and project director Greg Miall. Then it placed opinion pieces and features in the run-up to launch.
On the day itself, the team used renowned lookalike photographer Alison Jackson to create a set of photographs of iconic Londoners reading Time Out on London transport.

Measurement and evaluation
Kaper achieved 224 pieces of traditional coverage. All of it was positive and 63 per cent of it included the advertiser message: free Time Out London will achieve six times the reach of the paid-for title.
Of the coverage achieved, ten pieces of national print coverage were secured in titles including The Times, Financial Times and The Guardian. The story was also covered in 21 pieces of broadcast coverage, including five on ITV London Today and London Tonight, as well as three on BBC Radio 4.

Time Out exceeded its distribution target of 300,000 weekly copies within six weeks of going free, with the most recent weekly distribution at 305,530 (ABC, February 2013). Engagement and use of Time Out has risen by 30 per cent (tracked via CBS Outdoor’s panel, compared with YouGov tracking in 2011/12). Time Out’s pagination rose by 20 per cent by the end of the second month as a direct result of increased advertiser interest. Since going free, Time Out has retained more than 90 per cent of the subscribers who pay to have it delivered by post and iis now gaining a growing mail-order audience, with up to 200 new subscriptions each week. In addition, 57 per cent of Time Out readers are now going out more ‘as a direct result of reading Time Out’, according to the CBS Outdoor panel.

Second Opinion

Nick Clark, MD, Consolidated PR

Time Out’s long overdue strategic play has been a success, thanks in no small part to Kaper. That said, the new product is concise, short and sharp, and less of a chore to navigate. Previously, by the time you had found something in it to do, you did not have the energy to go out.

With London’s populace largely tooled up with mobile internet to solve their ‘what to do today’ musings, the magazine’s team had to revamp the product fast or risk it becoming irrelevant. Kaper’s professional gimmick-free approach ensured the project was a success.

Shifting six times as many copies (notwithstanding they are free) in such a short time period represented real success. For me, the killer metric was that demand for advertising and pagination increased by 20 per cent during month two. This showed the message – that the audience had increased sixfold – had got through loud and clear.

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