Kids supplement - Publishers innovate to keep up with the times

With distractions like the web, publishers have had to arrest the trend of decreasing sales in the sector. So, what do they do to keep advertisers? Adam Woods reports.

TOP OF THE POPS, BBC MAGAZINES

Alfie Lewis, publisher

"The circulations of all magazines in the teenage market are in decline. At the same time, there aren't many markets where you would be selling 140,000 a fortnight and carrying really great advertising and be depressed about it. It's just that we remember when we sold 500,000.

"When the time comes to negotiate rates, then clearly, if the circulation is down, there will be a negotiation to be had, but agencies do still see the value of the audience and do see the volume. The magazine is passed around the bedroom and the playground, and if you imagine three or four girls flipping through the magazine together, their frame of mind is one of heightened excitement. For any advertiser who has got a message to communicate to that audience, it is a powerful moment."

Vicky Fraser, media buyer/planner, MediaCom

"Whether we would use the teen magazines depends on who the artist is and what we are trying to achieve. For something like Girls Aloud, obviously they (magazines) are key, but a lot of our artists at the moment are going co-op, so singles' budgets are decreasing. "It is a tricky one, because that market is suffering, just because there are not many pop acts out there at the moment, but Top of the Pops, Smash Hits!, Sneak and those kind are the best."

BARBIE, EGMONT

Sam Vernon, group advertising manager

"One of the issues we have across the industry in kids' mags is that there isn't much quantitative research. But while there isn't any tracking research, in terms of the value of our audience, we do a tremendous amount of qualitative research.

"Barbie's core readership is girls aged four to seven and, as with a lot of the other younger titles, children often read with their mums and dads - meaning advertisers are potentially getting two audiences.

"FMCG and toy brands still see TV as the way forward. But, while TV obviously has a job, press is capable of giving more detail.

"In terms of advertising, it's games, some fashion, some retailers. We have a lot of direct-response advertisers, and one of them is in every issue of every single magazine. They don't tell us what responses they get, but clearly it is working or they wouldn't be spending that type of money."

Gemma Bourne, press buyer, Starcom

"With something like Barbie, you have got the heritage and popularity of the brand, which is important. We have to do a lot of research into the titles we go into, because the market is so fickle. Barbie is audited, which helps, as the hardest thing is finding titles we know we can get the readers with."

TV HITS!, ESSENTIAL

Lucy West, advertising manager

"TV Hits! has a higher proportion of boy issues than any of the other pop mags, and we have more male readers than Smash Hits! or Top of the Pops, but we have just redesigned so now it is slightly girlier. Obviously, music, games and DVDs work well on the advertising front, but it is also great for the early beauty messages and the lifestyle stuff - anything that teen girls are interested in. The government use us a lot for safe-sex messages and anti-drug messages.

"The thing about teen mags is there's a personal relationship between the mag and the reader. Other types of media tend to catch teenagers when they are doing something else. Magazines catch them when they are in their bedrooms alone, and they talk to them about things they certainly wouldn't talk to their parents about."

Catherine Pronzato, media manager, Carat

"The teen market has been declining over the years, and I think the gap between young teens and young women is closing. I worry that the teen sector it is going to sustain itself. People have been quick to say the gap is closing and they are jumping straight to OK! or Cosmo Girl!, but I think the children are still there - they just want to be instantly entertained, and a monthly mag doesn't hit the spot quite as much as going on a band's website and communicating with them yourself."

SUGAR, HACHETTE FILIPACCHI

Tony Long, director of sales

"Over the past few years, the teen market has eroded in its total size - you have only got to look at the demise of J17 and 19, and we closed ElleGirl.

"It is a difficult market because of the way in which teenagers are changing, but between Sugar and Bliss and Cosmo Girl!, there is something in the region of 750,000 copies sold a month, so that is still a sizeable magazine audience. There's not many sectors that are selling that many magazines in total.

"I think it is a mistake for advertisers to neglect the teen market, because there is a real opportunity to get a brand into teenagers' portfolio of preferred brands."

Stephanie Jackson, media manager, MediaCom

"I use Sugar and Bliss quite a lot, but it is a hard sector, because nowadays I think kids are reading upwards. Heat, for example, and all the women's weeklies, they are getting a lot younger, and maybe there is not that much difference between the attitude of someone who reads Heat and a 14 or 15-year-old."

TOXIC, EGMONT

Helen Stables, publisher

"I think magazines play a complementary role to TV. Magazines are very much a lean-forward medium and TV is very-much a lean-back medium. TV happens and then it's gone, but children buy a magazine and read it, then they read it again, then they pick it up later and read a different bit. Children become very involved in magazines, and when we research with them they get terribly excited - they want to do stuff, they want to write on the pages. But they are discerning - Toxic is for boys who are aged seven to 12, so if they think something is babyish, they will tell you that.

"We recommend advertisers make it as visual as possible. The best thing is when there is something to do on the ad. I think the more creative-thinking advertisers are looking to have lots of media platforms for their message, and because magazine advertising is relatively inexpensive, that drives people. Plus, the response rates are good."

Gemma Bourne, press buyer, Starcom

"I work on the Nintendo account, so in terms of our target audience, we go for kids and gamers. With title selection, the kids' market is a tricky one to go into because you have got a wealth of unaudited titles. Toxic is audited, which makes our job so much easier, because we have something to base our buying decision on."

GAMESMASTER, FUTURE PUBLISHING

Scott Longstaff, head of creative sales

"All of Future's games magazines are bought largely by teen boys, because they make up the staple of the UK gaming market. GamesMaster is one of the only magazines in our portfolio where we know exactly who is reading. It is probably the youngest mainstream games magazine we have got - the average reader is aged 15-and-a-half.

"As far as our recent research project Games Buzz tells us, the largest group of video gamers (37%) are under the age of 15. There is a massive market there and GamesMaster is integral to that."

Martin Jones, managing director, MJ Media

"Games magazines are part of the media mix, and it is very difficult to attribute results to any individual part, but mags are essential. Young girls' magazines have had a difficult year or two, but it is still a very large sector. For young boys, the magazine sector is virtually non-existent.

"Outside GamesMaster and one or two other gaming titles, you have got Shoot, and then you run out of options very quickly. Girls read more, while boys are more interested in playing video games, and when they are not they tend to be out causing mischief and playing football."

TOYBOX, BBC MAGAZINES

Ali Teeman, advertisement director, youth and children's magazines

"We have 18 magazines and 10 for pre-schoolers, but Toybox is our biggest title. All of our pre-school magazines are designed for parent-child interaction, because children of that age can't read. Before, there was the preconception (among advertisers) that these magazines were just given to children to read themselves, but we have had some fantastic response from our Meet The Parents research. The research shows we reach 4.5 million adults every month, and at a unique moment when they are engaged with their children.

"The research also tells us that those adults are not just parents - they are carers in general. With the whole family structure changing, children are interacting with more people on a daily basis."

Catherine Pronzato, media manager, Carat

"I'm interested in how the BBC is selling the idea that pre-school titles are read by kids with their parents. These magazines are so interactive now that they require adult supervision, so it is a vehicle for us to hit the parents and the children at a lower capital cost. Also, with parenting titles you are mainly targeting new mums, but with kids' titles you are hitting the hard-to-reach mum who has had kids and is probably not reading about how to change a nappy anymore."

BLISS, EMAP

Jo Fraser, advertising director

"In terms of advertising in our market, we get the core things. Cosmetics and toiletries are always going to be around because, in that business, it is all about getting loyalty from a young age. Along with the likes of Sugar and Cosmo Girl!, Bliss has really grown the amount of advertising we are getting from premium cosmetics as well. They are realising that if you are talking to 14 and 15-year-olds, these are girls who actually want to be 18, 19, 20 years old - it is really aspirational.

"Last year, there was a piece in a number of newspapers asking whether it was right to be targeting cosmetics and young girls, but there hasn't been any drop-off as a result. But it is getting tougher to get advertisers in, because they are getting nervous about the markets - they see falling circulations, they see titles folding and they don't want to advertise their brands in a fickle market. For us, as a market, we are trying to go out there and promote. It's a competitive market, but it is still huge."

Stephanie Jackson, media manager, MediaCom

"Sugar is still the largest magazine in its market, though Bliss is hot on its tail. Editorially, there isn't a huge amount of difference between Sugar and Bliss, to be completely honest. They are both quite girly. The difference is that Bliss probably has a little bit less entertainment than Sugar, but that is about it, really."

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