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City AM launches membership club with 60 partner brands and sponsor content to appear in newspaper

City AM club

City AM has launched a membership scheme for London professionals that will see content about partner companies appear in the paper and its magazine.

The free business newspaper’s membership programme City AM Club will be open to 5,000 people and set members back £240 a year.

It offers members-only events and discounts on luxury goods, food and drink from 60 partner companies including Virgin Active, The Ned hotel and the Royal Berkshire Shooting School.

City AM chief operating officer Harry Owen told Press Gazette the paper has been working on the project for a year.

Asked if the membership scheme was set up in response to pressures on advertising revenue seen across the industry, Owen said: “Last year we had a great year on ad revenue and saw our print [revenue] go up year-on-year.

“It wasn’t necessarily anything to do with that. But this is a deliberate piece of diversification.”

He later added: “The club is not a reaction to declining revenues. It is a genuine play to engage our audience and have a deeper relationship with them, not a different way of making money.”

Other free titles have increasingly faced financial difficulties, with magazines NME and Shortlist both closing in print last year.

With this in mind, Owen said he had heard nothing from advertisers to raise any similar worries at City AM, adding: “In all honesty, no. Not from our perspective, and this isn’t me just talking good game.”

He added: “There’s still a space for display [advertising] when it comes to brand building, big announcements, driving recognition but I do find myself sitting with clients who specifically say I would like to meet your audience face-to-face.”

When people sign up for the club information is gathered on their likes and dislikes which will be used to create events targeted at specific groups, Owen explained.

Partner companies of the club will also be profiled in the newspaper and the bi-monthly magazine as part of the deal.

A City AM Club sponsored content page in yesterday’s paper profiled M Restaurant, one of the scheme’s partners. Today’s paper features no City AM Club partner content, only several adverts for the scheme.

Owen said this brand content was “not simply puff pieces” and would “particularly” appear in the 100-page City AM magazine.

The title’s bi-monthly magazine launched last year and covers lifestyle, food, drink, travel and property.

In terms of City AM Club editorial content, Owen said: “It is inherently in our interests as City AM Club and therefore City AM to talk about our partners, but of course we’re doing so in the context of the club, not necessarily them as a brand in their own standing.

“It’s a proper partnership approach to that and our editorial integrity has always been really strong.

“These are not simply puff pieces. We want to find out more about the brands that are part of the club.”

City AM editor Christian May touted the club’s launch in an interview with Press Gazette last year, saying a “crude look at the numbers suggests it will be eminently worthwhile”.

Handed out around London, the City AM newspaper has a distribution of 86,073 copies per issue, according to the latest ABC figures.

City AM said its typical readers are professionals with an average salary of £87,000.

Picture: City AM Club

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