How GEO scales international content to local markets
GEO magazine's digital strategy could be a model for other publishers: Take one strong international brand, add a centralized technology platform, and scale it to local markets.
GEO is published in 21 countries by Gruner + Jahr of Hamburg, Germany. The monthly magazine focuses on in-depth journalism and photography (akin to National Geographic). Last year GEO's website rolled out localized versions to nine countries, including Spain, Finland, Russia and six Eastern European countries.
GEO licenses its brand (print and/or online) to local publishers for a fee. International content is centrally produced and provided to the local partners, who tailor the edition and add their own content. As André Möllersmann, head of international brands and licenses at G + J, said last year: “The result is a local magazine in local language with outstanding editorial quality and a local touch.”
As different models for localization emerge, GEO's strategy serves as an interesting example of how centralized technology enables a publisher to scale by providing locally filtered and community-driven international content. In a phone interview, Möllersmann talked about GEO's digital strategy.
Local content publishing is difficult to make profitable, so G + J decided to focus on centralizing it, he said. From Hamburg, the company develops and hosts all of the sites for partners in other countries. (Two countries also host on their own.) The company uses the open-source eZ Publish for content management.
Individual countries are in charge of their own editorial operations and advertising sales. The business model is mostly advertising-driven, in addition to some merchandise sales.
Each country has full responsibility for its editorial content, Möllersmann explained. Editors of the main brand select internationally relevant content to deliver to local editors. Translated international content usually makes up about 80% of the content and local content comprises about 20%.
“On the content side we're offering a package but the responsibility editorially lies with country,” he said.
User-generated content is also a part of the mix, easily integrated thanks to the photo-driven nature of GEO. Most of the markets feature a photo community where photographers, whether hobbyist or professional, can share photos.
GEO centralized platform model has been applied to other G + J brands ― most recently the lifestyle magazine GALA. The International Parenting Network, sprung from the parenting magazine ELTERN, has rolled out in nine countries on the centralized platform. The parenting content has especially proved successful in this model, Möllersmann said: In France, G + J's website Enfant.com had a traffic increase in 2009 of 254%.
G + J has also started dipping into mobile. The magazine currently offers one iPad app rather than different ones for each local site. The company's GEO Selection began as an English-language app but is now also available in German and soon Spanish. The company opted for an English-language version first to help expand its U.S. presence and because English-language apps have the largest reach, Möllersmann said.