What is presumably the last prominent royal wedding out of the House of Windsor until four-year-old Prince George ties the knot, the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry is a topic of intensive coverage for nearly every media outlet from news organizations like CNN to wedding-specific publications like Brides. But the coverage differs from publication to publication, each brand working to find an angle that sets them apart.
Unlike past royal weddings, even ones as recent as Prince William and Kate Middleton, media has never had more platforms, from special print editions to live social media posts. Instantaneous information sharing will surround this international event in a way that it never has before, and publications recognize the power of this new information-delivering, audience-engagement tool. The only caveat being, how can they leverage their many platform options to stand out among the hundreds of other brands that are competing for the same audience’s attention?
Standing out on newsstands
Town & Country, who dedicated almost its entire homepage to the royals, in addition to building a separate section called “The Royal Wedding,” is one of the several publications who decided that the royal wedding was a worthy topic for creating a special edition print issue. Partnering with Hearst Specials, the magazine set out to create not one, but two bookazines dedicated to the wedding and to the future princess.
“Successful collector’s editions require that the subject have some longevity on newsstand and the story of Markle is here to stay,” says Jacqueline Deval, VP, publisher of Hearst Books. She continues that in addition to having a long tail, other criteria behind selecting any given subject for a bookazine includes having a compelling narrative arc that appeals broadly to multiple demographics.
T&C’s first bookazine, “American Princess: Meghan Markle,” hit newsstands just over a month before the big day on April 12, with a cover price of $13.99. And while this special edition hit shelves first, it was a last minute addition to the brand’s coverage plan, which initially included only one special edition called “Royal Wedding,” also priced at $13.99, that is set to hit newsstands one week after the May 19 wedding.
Deval tells Folio: that the decision to include advertisers in special editions usually depends on timing. “Given the super-fast deadline on ‘American Princess,’ we decided instead to put our focus on leveraging the ‘Wedding’ bookazine, in which there is advertising,” she says. Yet deciding to not include advertising doesn’t limit the brand’s revenue stream. Newsstand sales alone can being in a few million per edition, depending on the sell-through rate.
Other glossies, like Vanity Fair and People, are also known for featuring the royals on their covers, if not producing special editions about the family.
“For the last 10 years, any time a member of the royal family was on the cover of Vanity Fair, the issue sold at least 20 percent more than the average issue in that particular year,” says Monica Ray, EVP of consumer marketing for Condé Nast.
Noticing a similar trend for their brand, People has featured the royals more than any other one subject in their history. “Princess Diana is actually the person that has been on the cover of People magazine the most,” says Susanne Mei, general manager of PeopleTV. “As of last year that was in fact true, so People’s readers and People’s reporters have always covered the royals in a pretty in-depth way.”
While print has driven revenue for a variety of brands, digital coverage has been a key player in grabbing views for the past month.
“April was our best month ever. Our comScore was 6.1 million, up 170 percent over the previous year,” says Elizabeth Angell, digital director of Town & Country. “Royals coverage accounts for about 40 percent of our traffic and is a huge part of that growth. Our readers have responded enthusiastically and it’s helped us to grow our audience on Facebook and Instagram considerably as well.”
For brands who find their audience, and thus themselves, entangled in the royal romance, providing a platform for their readers and viewers to watch the wedding live is a no-brainer for gaining more traction on the story. But with the availability of dozens of live streams on the internet and on television, finding a way to provide a unique take on the wedding is essential.
Meredith’s coverage of the live event will come through PeopleTV, an advertisement-supported free TV streaming service from People magazine, with collaboration from Martha Stewart Weddings. Leveraging People’s decades of royal family expertise to report from the ground at Windsor Castle, “the royals are really the sweet spot for the People brand, and they have been for a really long time,” Mei tells Folio:.
The collaboration with Martha Stewart Weddings comes during PeopleTV’s live coverage. Darcy Miller, editor-at-large of Weddings, will be serving as a correspondent and will provide another sort of expertise on the goings on of the wedding.
Beyond knowledgeable reporting, PeopleTV also integrated Meghan and Harry’s wedding into its newly-annual “Wedding Week,” a franchise it created last year as a cheerful take on the Discovery Channel’s widely-popular “Shark Week.” The week of programming in the past showed exclusive access to celebrity weddings as well as featured wedding-themed shows. This year, the week started out with the wedding of one of the Property Brothers before diving deep into the lead up and the livestream of the royal wedding.
Mei says that Wedding Week has been very popular with viewers and advertisers, alike. “There are some topics, like crime for example, that readers and viewers are interested in, but a lot of times advertisers don’t necessarily want their content associated with that,” she says. “But a wedding, and particularly a royal wedding, is a great opportunity with positive feelings and beautiful pictures and happy people and it’s really perfect content for the advertisers to align themselves with.”
Furthermore, using the royal wedding live stream as steady access to its audience, PeopleTV plans on integrating promos for other unique programming in hopes to bring viewers back after the wedding.
“If the traffic to People.com is any indication of what we can expect of PeopleTV’s coverage is that it’s going to be pretty high,” says Mei. And for those viewers without cable subscriptions, she hopes that after downloading the app, they will come back to find other original shows that are appealing to them.
Partnering with Condé Nast Entertainment, Brides is bringing in celebrity hosts and guests to a swanky suite in the Plaza Hotel in New York, and having an intimate viewing party, sponsored by brands that are familiar with wedding coverage. With only one reporter on the ground in London, the bridal publication is viewing the watch party as a way to pour over every detail of the wedding as it unfolds, from the dress designer to the food at the reception.
Unlike People, Brides’ expertise revolves around the wedding itself and will bring the conversation back to the elements of the wedding, as that is what appeals to their audience of primarily brides and grooms-to-be. “I think we have really great experts lined up,” says Gooder. “I feel like a lot of [brands] are streaming and commenting on this, but Brides has a level of expertise as it related to the actual wedding.”
Both PeopleTV and Brides are offering the only live video coverage of the event for both of their respective parent companies, Meredith Corp. and Condé Nast.
“Other brands here in the Condé Nast building are going to be sharing our stream,” says Gooder. “This content is of interest to their audience too. They’re covering it but perhaps not as deep as Brides, so they’ll be picking up our feeds.”
What follows the royal wedding?
After the last special wedding editions are on the newsstands and the features in next month’s issues have gone to print, how will publications supplement the influx of views they received over the past few months?
“Hopefully, they’ll have some children, and then there will be some good coverage there,” says Mei. “Obviously not quite the live event, but we’ve gotten a few special shows around the lives of William and Kate’s first two children.”
“It’s been seven years since Will and Kate and we were all thrilled when this happened, but it’s not like anyone was really waiting for it,” says Gooder. “There was always another wedding or another trend or something happening that we’re covering.”