I’ve been a fan of the Lakeland brand for as long as I can remember. It started long ago, browsing my mum’s catalogues and pestering for ice lolly makers and now today, where it shows me an endless array of household items I never knew I needed until I see it on the pages of the latest issue. Constantly reacting to the latest British cooking fads (baking), cultural references (Dalek cupcakes) and inventions (poachies), the catalogue itself is a reminder that no kitchen stands still and no chef should stop researching.
The introduction of Lakeland’s digital magazine is particularly interesting in that it starts to challenge the traditional publishing landscape. It is essentially a quarterly food and drink magazine, distributed for free, in order to sell you their wares. However, it is a stunning, content rich, highly interactive magazine first and foremost and every time I read it, I feel inspired to cook some of the recipes, just as I do with my other food magazines. Oh, but I also spend an average of £35 each issue on Lakeland products.
Starting with an animated cover with sound I can turn on or off, the whole issue is designed specifically for iPad. The next page clearly shows, via an animated video, how to use the app, focusing on how every icon works: consistent and clear. The contents page outlines the recipe themes ahead, but I can also link to a recipe index for the issue to find the individual recipes I want.
Then the clever part begins. As I scroll into the first section, Barbecues, I get an animated title page (beautiful people barbecuing in the woods), some inspiring words and video about how my barbecues will never be the same again, followed by six sumptuous barbecue recipe cards, with high quality photography on the front and a flip to the recipe itself. The final page in the section provides me with all the tools required to cook the recipes that are available within the Lakeland catalogue and a direct link to the Lakeland site to purchase. Once I’ve added to my basket, I click ‘done’ and am back in the magazine.
This formula continues throughout the magazine across themes such as seafood, summer drinks, Mexican cuisine, home brewing, picnics, baking (of course) and features on ‘pick your own’ and ‘edible plants’. In total, there are 73 recipes plus a wine and beer making guide.
Attention has been paid to making the content rich, engaging and interactive, with pull up text features, panoramas, musical and animated section headers (the home brew one is particularly delightful), hotspots which reveal more information such as the guide to chillies and their relative heat, galleries to show more products, ‘how to’ videos and even free printable labels for your home brew bottles.
There are a few pages dedicated to advertising product ranges from the site which sit comfortably as ads and will at some point create another revenue stream for Lakeland, though I imagine currently just drive more sales on their site. As you’d expect, the ads are relevant and interactive with links direct to product purchase.
There is some room for improvement though. The bookmarking functionality links to entire sections rather than to individual recipes and in building up a recipe scrapbook, other food titles do this better. The volume has to be switched off every time I go into a page with sound, even when I’ve previously switched it off; potentially embarrassing on the tube or train. The store description massively undersells the fact that this is a free magazine with over 75 recipes which feels like a missed opportunity to drive downloads and some of the issue covers in the library fail to tell me about the content inside. It’s also a challenge when product lines are sold out or discontinued. I don’t mind that it’s not available on my iPhone (I wouldn’t use that device in my kitchen) or that it’s only available in portrait, that’s how I prop my tablet in my kitchen to cook from.
I think the main takeaway here for traditional publishers, is this new commercial publishing model. Digital creation and distribution flattens the playing field so much that any company with quality content and an existing audience can enter the magazine market and exploit new commercial models, even if they have not, to date, been seen as a publisher. There is a wealth of research which extols the propensity of tablet owners to purchase online. Tablet penetration is growing. Ecommerce companies have always been smarter than traditional publishers at understanding consumer behaviour, gathering data and utilising it.
Lakeland’s success feels like an aligning of stars which might bring some interesting new players into the market, providing high quality free magazines and lifting the bar of interactivity amongst some of the more traditional players. It feels like good news for consumers.
Lakeland Magazine can be downloaded from the App Store.