For GOLF Magazine And Golf.com, Pivot To Lifestyle And Service Focus Plays Well – Forbes


The new and improved GOLF Magazine is both bigger in size and content. The brand continues to … [+] enhance both its print publication and its Golf.com website.

GOLF Magazine

The past several months have been pretty big for GOLF.

Not simply the game, mind you, but the brand and its various media properties — from the relaunched website, Golf.com, to a reinvigorated magazine that starting in July will have even more content (much of it service and lifestyle-based) and an upgraded look and feel.

Without a single PGA TOUR event being played, May marked as the second-highest month ever in terms of overall and unique visits to Golf.com, behind only April of last year, when Tiger Woods seized a spotlight that shone far beyond golf by winning the Masters for his first major championship title in almost 11 years. Amid the pandemic, the website had a 42% year-over-year surge in May visits, over 1.6 million more than the previous year. For the team at GOLF, the past several months in particular have been validating, a bright spot during otherwise dark times.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, GOLF magazine and Golf.com had made a concerted and dramatic pivot. Instead of focusing primarily on news and what’s going on in professional golf world, the company embraced the lifestyle and passion of the game, doubling down on the service, utility, education and entertainment that golf provides as one of the nation’s leading participation sports.

“Nobody is fortunate at all during these times, but that strategy has really proven itself while the tour had been shut down,” said GOLF CEO Jason Adel. “For us, that sort of proves the point that there’s a niche in the market that we’re trying to represent. This message of quality, this message of embracing the game of golf, there’s an appetite for that with consumers.”

The changes started soon after Howard Milstein bought GOLF magazine and its website in early 2018. In addition to being a real estate mogul and the chairman, president and CEO of New York Private Bank & Trust, Milstein is invested in golf, perhaps most notably having helped Jack Nicklaus more than double the value of his business after becoming co-chairman of Nicklaus Co. in 2007. Going against the grain in the publishing world, Milstein invested significantly in the magazine, sending a message that print remains a strong, reliable, engaging resource for golfers. As a result, Adel notes the brand is now “light years ahead” and much different than it was under the previous guidance of Time Inc. and Meredith Corp
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“We have a leader now who’s invested in golf in a variety of ways,” Adel says of Milstein, whose 8AM Golf holding company includes a suite of brands such as True Spec, Miura and Club Conex in addition to the Nicklaus Companies, GOLF and Golf.com. “It allows us to think a whole lot differently about how a media brand operates and presents itself within the construct of a larger golf organization, not just within the construct of a larger media organization.”

The repositioning has certainly served GOLF magazine and Golf.com well recently. May in particular was telling.

“We definitely learned a lot about what golfers want,” said Ashley Mayo, the Head of Brand for 8AM Golf and Editorial Director for Golf.com. “What they want is a mix of things, but really guidance and help – in terms of instruction, what to wear, how to work out, how to prepare for an important round, what bets to play on the course. All those things that you want when you talk to a friend or when you’re talking to somebody who really knows their stuff.

“Certainly, before Howard’s investment, the role of Golf.com played was very much as a news site,” Mayo added. “It still is, but now it’s so much more. It offers a more complete view of the game.”

Golf.com website

The new-look Golf.com website.

Golf.com

Last year’s changes to the magazine included making it almost 20% bigger – in both physical size and content. Starting with this July’s issue, there will be even more enhancements, including upgraded coverstock and increased amount of edit.

“People who started reading magazines back in the day picked it up for a reason. That was because there was this special, tangible, keepsake nature to reading a magazine,” Adel says. “It felt special when you were able to sit back, relax and kind of lose yourself in the pages or the stories that magazines told. They’ve essentially lost all of that ‘specialness.’ They’ve commoditized and cheapened themselves to the point where, in a lot of people’s eyes, they’re throwaways. ‘I got all of this information online; I don’t need it.’ What we’ve done with the magazine is reinvigorated that feeling of specialness with the publication.”

With the continued success at Golf.com, the magazine will actually reduce its frequency, going from an 11-issue cycle to eight issues. There will be a monthly cadence in the buildup to the golf season, with single-month issues in March, April, May and June. Each will be themed around a topic: equipment in March, the Masters Tournament in April, travel in May and the U.S. Open in June. The rest of the year will feature double issues (July-August, September-October, November-December and January-February), with each focusing on a particular theme such as instruction or fitness.  

“We’re creating keepsake-type products that can stick with you for longer periods of times,” Adel said.

On the website side, another key change is improved engagement that helps drive consumers further down the proverbial funnel. Golfers aren’t just being told how to better enjoy the game or what the best products are, they’re able to communicate and transact through a new, more efficient pro shop commerce product. The early returns in that evolution have been encouraging, with ecommerce orders up 109% month-over-month in April.

“Lo and behold, people do purchase things that Golf.com recommends and that’s been really fun to see,” Mayo says.

“We’re not just listening to what the audience wants and reacting to that, but also surprising them — you haven’t really told us that you want this, but here you go,” she adds. “It’s not like people said they wanted a magazine that was heavier, thicker and more premium feeling, but once we supplied them with that the feedback has been tremendous. I have no doubt this next iteration of change will do the same thing.”

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