Partners on equal terms
New year, new scope.
An interview with Thomas Zeller, director at Publishing Services, and Stephan Puma, CEO at burnthebunny, about the concept of TOP FAIR’s new online magazine.
: Many congratulations on the success of the TOP FAIR online magazine. Since the start of this year, there is now, in addition to the print edition and the e-magazine, a TOP FAIR online platform. Where does the difference lie and what’s new about it?
Thomas Zeller: Thank you, I’m glad you like it. And I’ll be more than happy straight away to share the plaudits with Herr Puma, who was responsible for the implementation of our initial idea of the online magazine. The TOP FAIR online magazine is the turbo version of our magazine: it’s faster and there’s more to it! Naturally, as in the print edition, we report there on news and trends from the consumer goods industry in a contemporary and clear manner: with succinct texts, fascinating content, accurate information and, above all, powerful images. But we do so now on a more regular basis – all year round, in fact. The print edition is, as you know, available exclusively during the trade fair to which it is devoted, and then only at the exhibition centre itself. Admittedly the TOP FAIR e-magazine can be read any time in digital format, but its contents remain unchanged until the following trade fair when the next issue of the magazine comes out. With the online magazine, on the other hand, we are more closely involved and deeply committed because, as well as the latest news, we are conducting interviews and providing insights into the industries in question both before and after their respective fairs – not to mention, through our exclusive Spotlights rubric, showing the faces of their key players.
: So, as well as a new look, new content will be appearing henceforth on a regular basis. But let’s take a step back. TOP FAIR is the official trade fair magazine of Messe Frankfurt, and trade fairs are events of limited duration, so an online magazine that reports on them continuously – all year round, in fact – seems something of a paradox. How did you hit upon the idea?
Thomas Zeller: TOP FAIR had a web site that was – let me put it this way – getting on in years, and it was time for something new, modern and structured. Hardly sounds a very exciting subject for an interview, does it? We could make things more spectacular, though, by imputing the idea to divine intervention, as God – through the medium of the Vatican – did, in fact, have a hand in it. In the search for inspiration, I found myself one day on the web site of the Vatican – specifically, the “Vatican News” section – and found myself thinking: “If the church is sufficiently au fait with the internet, and sufficiently in tune with the times, to provide information on its projects and activities not just on Sundays but virtually every day of the week, why couldn’t a trade fair magazine do the same?” It doesn’t always require some quantum leap of the imagination or even divine inspiration to come up with a new idea. Sometimes it’s enough to keep turning familiar notions over in your head, forming ever new configurations from their disparate parts, for them to coalesce then suddenly into something coherent and original. Normal thought processes. Nothing supernatural.
: Mister Puma, was it immediately obvious to you, back in September 2019 when Herr Zeller first put the concept to you, what direction the online magazine should take? Apart from a few stipulations regarding content and design, you had a free hand, didn’t you, in its conception and development?
Stephan Puma: The detour via the Vatican may have struck me as a little odd but I understood very quickly where the journey ought to take us. It was Mister Zeller’s wish to transform the existing TOP FAIR web site – or rather, the existing repository of blog entries that passed for one – into a fully-fledged online magazine. What was of crucial importance here was to give the TOP FAIR online magazine a new structure that was as reader friendly as possible and followed the content. ‘Content first’, then, was the watchword. It was certainly an advantage, too, that we’d been able at burnthebunny to accompany the design relaunch of the print edition of TOP FAIR and the e-magazine in 2018, so we were already thoroughly familiar with the magazine and its orientation, and were able to lay the foundations in terms of design and structure for its media transformation with a certain celerity. So the TOP FAIR online magazine was born, above all, out of shared experience and is something of which everyone involved can feel proud. Sacred or profane, the seed has taken root, so it’s with both feet on the ground that we need to cultivate it.
: Since you hit the bull’s-eye – in the sense of meeting perfectly Mister Zeller’s expectations – with the very first edition, which was online in a matter of weeks, you two must have a perfect understanding – or was it just luck?
Stephan Puma: There have been many inventions, admittedly, that came about by chance; but in the creation of the TOP FAIR online magazine, luck played no part whatsoever. It took creative minds on both sides, a few brainstorming sessions and the regular exchange of ideas. With the rest we could safely dispense – including a return trip to the Vatican…
: The TOP FAIR online magazine is now part of the world wide web, so the emphasis switches to maintaining focus. What kind of networking and marketing strategies do you have?
Thomas Zeller: The social media hold some, but not all, of the keys to success. Naturally it’s clear to us that every online magazine needs a certain amount of time to generate momentum. It may be several months before we have a loyal readership. In the meantime, we’ll just carry on uploading a steady stream of new content – without neglecting our social media presence. After all, we will only win new readers by proving that we are a reliable source of information that is updated regularly. So you are right, the motto is “remain focussed”. I’d go one step further, though, and say that it’s not enough to remain focussed; we must also remain open to subsequent modifications. Once we’ve convinced regular readers of the print edition as to the merits of the all-year-round online edition, and built up and become better acquainted with a wider – and, in particular, an international – readership, we may even expand our content to include video or audio. Or perhaps include articles by guest contributors with something important to say. As you can see, we’re not short of ideas.