FEATURE - magazines

FEATURE - magazines

Inthe past few months, there has been a huge amount of innovation and investment within the magazine market, more than at any time in recent years. Hopefully this signals publishers' growing confidence that the downturn is coming to an end.

This month saw the launch of Star, Northern & Shell's new A5 OK/Glamour hybrid, and coming up we've got the men's weekly from Emap, various new food and teen titles and even a Songs of Praise magazine from the BBC.

And all this is on top of recent arrivals such as Sour Mash and Dare.

It therefore surprises me that some agencies are quick to criticise, disparage and be negative about new launches and relaunches. While reserving a healthy degree of cynicism and pragmatism, we should, on the whole, be positive, supporting and encouraging new ventures. There's no doubt that some publications will fail and fold - this is only to be expected. Occasionally, however, titles will surface that evolve and grow entire sectors.

Of any medium, magazines have a unique ability to connect with consumers in an intimate manner. Readers often view them tribally, providing a badge of membership to a certain lifestyle or community of interest.

They reflect social, technological and demographic trends in society and, as certain fashions wax and wane, new ones invariably emerge to take their place.

The best example of this is within the celebrity sector, where seven years ago two celebrity weeklies sold 600,000 copies each week and generated £700,000 in copy sales between them. Today, six titles shift 2.7 million a week, earning their publishers a handsome £4.2m in copy sales alone.

As a result, today it is possible to reach 29% of 18 to 34year-old women by using five celebrity titles for a relatively low capital cost - a prospect that would have been difficult to imagine seven years ago. Adding Richard Desmond's latest titles New! and Star would push coverage up still further.

An area to keep a close eye on in the coming months is the men's market, a sector that has been crying out for meaningful investment for a number of years.

The last set of ABC audits revealed it was selling 250,000 fewer copies than five years ago - a hefty 12% drop. There is essentially no other reason for this decline than a chronic lack of investment. Although there has been some tinkering with products and a handful of launches over this period, the main players are fairly homogenous at both ends of the market and haven't evolved much from where they were five years ago.

A key strength of magazines is that they can capture the prevailing zeitgeist and articulate it in a manner that finds strong resonance with people of a certain mindset. As with anything, kicking back and relaxing does nothing for your long-term prospects.

A culture of constant evolution is most visibly and positively applied at Emap, where its "winning, launching, reinventing" values permeate the organisation.

It is, therefore, gratifying to see Emap put significant resources behind the world's first lifestyle weekly for men, Project Tyson, which will no doubt jump-start the entire sector. IPC is already rumoured to be looking at something similar and other publishers and editors in the market will doubtless be watching closely to see how things pan out.

New launches are the lifeblood of the magazine industry.

Reinvigorating and creating new platforms by which advertisers can connect with consumers in their preferred environment is essential if the medium is to continue to retain it distinctiveness.

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