Founder of Trends Magazine and inaugural winner of Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998, an award he now judges.
The concept behind Trends has its origins back in the 1970s when David Johnson joined journalist and broadcaster Gordon Dryden at Radio Pacific, the pioneering talkback radio station in Auckland. The success of the project led to the formation of a business, which continues and is involved in all types of media and TV businesses.
The concept behind Trends has its origins back in the 1970s when David Johnson joined journalist and broadcaster Gordon Dryden at Radio Pacific, the pioneering talkback radio station in Auckland. One of the projects the pair initiated was the Radio Pacific Newspaper which packaged radio and print exposure to create a more effective sell. The success of the project led to the formation of the Dryden Johnson Group, which continued this dual media approach by combining national daily newspaper and radio placements.
One of the group’s early clients was the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association (NKBA) who wanted a campaign to promote its members by illustrating the new colours, fashions and styles an NKBA member could offer a homeowner. That proved difficult to do in the black and white newspapers of the day, so the project evolved into a colour insert. The other innovative approach was to treat all the content for the insert as informational articles, rather than brand advertisements or brochure material. The ‘brochure’ looked so good, it soon became apparent that, by giving it a masthead and a cover price, it could sell as a book instead of being given away as a brochure. So the prototype version of Trends was produced – and that first edition sold so well, it ended up in third place on New Zealand’s top selling book list that year! In 1987, David Johnson bought out Gordon Dryden’s share of the company. Gordon has subsequently had major publishing, broadcasting and lecturing successes in the field of education.
The success of the first Kitchen and Bathroom books led to more titles covering other aspects of home design – Interiors, New Homes and Renovations. The next logical step was to unify these separate titles under one masthead. So the Trends brand and Trends Publishing were born. In 1990, the company began an expansion programme, taking the concept that had started in New Zealand and duplicating it first in Australia and then Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. This led to the launch of a US version of Kitchen Trends in 1997. After 18 months in the market, the publication had attracted the attention of Time Warner and a distribution partnership was set up. As part of this arrangement, Trends met the request of Time Warner for more titles in the series by including Home & Architectural Trends, Bathroom Trends, and Home & Living Trends. Remodelling Trends was launched in 2004.
At about the same time as the company first entered the US market, Trends also launched the trendsideas.com website, to extend the media it was able to offer to clients. Trendsideas.com has become a key component of the company’s multimedia strategy. Created as a portal for the home and commercial design consumer and professional, it offers a searchable database of all the content from Trends publications, together with additional information.
The latest media to be added to the Trends stable is TrendsTV. The video production facility originally started up to produce short segments of streaming video to play on Trendsideas.com. The success of the product led to TrendsTV expanding to create offline video for showroom display and training purposes, and, more recently, to the production of a TrendsTV programme for distribution on DVD with the books. The ultimate vision for TrendsTV is to have its own internet broadcast channel.
The original Dryden Johnson concept has come full circle. Clients are again offered the benefits and economies of promoting their products in more than one media at the same time – print, internet and video. This continues to drive the strategy through which Trends is building its future business. At the same time, Trends is working with publishers and other media companies to extend the Trends brand into even more countries … and even more media, as and when they arrive.
David Johnson says he can pick an entrepreneur in three minutes flat. Where others might dismiss striving entrepreneurs as “bullshitters”, he instinctively recognises the eternal optimism of someone with big, bold, determined but as yet unfulfilled dreams. “What they’re saying is what they’re dreaming.”
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