Podcast interview with Mark Allen

Nov 05, 2020

In a wide ranging interview in the InPublishing podcast, Group Chairman Mark Allen spoke with Ciar Byrne about the company's continued upward trajectory saying we are only “halfway up the mountain”.

You can listen to this in-depth discussion, recorded on October 13th 2020, by clicking here. Over more than 40 minutes Mark reveals:

  • Why the group prepared three budget plans at the start of the pandemic (“the good, the bad and the ugly”)
  • Why “cash is king” at the moment, the joys of a diverse portfolio
  • How to successfully integrate new acquisitions
  • How the publishing industry “vastly under prices magazines”
  • How he’s personally spent much of lockdown writing a novel, the title of which was decided by polling one hundred people

With the company's turnover increasing from £16m in 2013 to £43m in 2018, Ciar was keen to to get Mark's thoughts on what the secret to this success has been. Mark revealed the following five key factors:

  1. The right culture: according to Mark, there’s little red tape and no “stultifying corporate ethos” but rather an emphasis on flexibility, agility, speed and a “can-do, participatory culture”.
  2. An empowered workforce: their approach is particularly evident in their handling of incoming staff from acquired titles, who often arrive demotivated and feeling unloved; MAG soon gets to work, getting them writing mission statements, presenting on away-days, and formulating action plans.
  3. A diverse portfolio: MAG’s brands are spread across twelve different market sectors. The creation of this portfolio, primarily through acquisition, was against the prevailing orthodoxy of the time which held that publishers should focus on developing deep expertise in a limited number of markets, but it has stood them in good stead, never more so than now.
  4. A mixed revenue model: Mark is not an evangelist for any one revenue stream. So… print is far from dead but digital’s great too; subs revenues (currently 26% of group revenues) are growing but advertising in their niche markets has a strong future too, as do events, currently virtual but soon to re-emerge as hybrid events in a post-Covid world. Money’s money.
  5. Employing talented people and treating them well. Mark has much praise for his “superb and focused team” and their “incredible creativity and ingenuity”.

Listen to the full interview now