Kids - Magazines market remains healthy

In contrast to the declining teen market, sales figures for children's magazines are buoyant.

With the closure of titles such as Smash Hits and Sneak this year and falling circulations among the teen magazine titles, the impression has been that magazines are suffering as kids turn to the internet and their mobiles to keep themselves entertained.

However, research from Mintel's Children's Comics and Magazines report, published in August, paints a different picture. It shows that the children's comics and magazines market grew by 24% between 2001 and 2005, when it was worth £10m, and that 38% of children regularly read magazines and 25% read comics.

At the same time, the Mintel research shows how vulnerable the market is to changing trends. While there have been 32 new magazines added since 2004, there were also 27 closures.

It also shows that magazines targeting younger children had sales growth of 31% between 2003 and 2005 - ahead of the market average of 28% growth.

BBC MAGAZINES

Kids' magazines: include CBeebies Weekly (circ. 80,437), Doctor Who Adventures (circ. 77,852), Girl Talk (circ. 85,364), Girl Talk Extra (circ. 40,203),

Witch (circ. 64,045)

Media agency: PHD

Core audience: pre-school to 12-year-olds

Toni Round, joint-managing director of BBC Children's magazines, is celebrating the successful launch of two new titles into the pre-school and pre-teen markets, CBeebies Weekly and Doctor Who Adventures. "I'm delighted to say both have well exceeded their circulation expectations to post magnificent figures of 80,437 and 77,852 respectively," she says.

"The success of CBeebies Weekly has prompted spontaneous e-mails and letters from hundreds of satisfied parents who find the magazine's unique interactive features indispensable to their child's development."

BBC Magazines has launched a number of new-media properties in 2006, including a website for BBC Girl Talk magazine. The site includes a secret club page that members can only access with a password printed in the magazine, as well as puzzles, quizzes and competitions and material from back issues.

The BBC has also launched a digital edition of Top Of The Pops magazine, a website to coincide with the launch of CBeebies magazine and a newsletter for Doctor Who fans.

BBC Magazines remains the largest publisher of children's magazines, with titles including Witch, a tie-in with the Disney TV series showing on BBC TV, Fimbles and Teletubbies.

EGMONT

Kids' magazines: include Disney Princess (circ. 75,016), its biggest seller; Barbie and Hot Wheels for Mattel; and own brands Toxic, Go Girl and Daisy

Media agency: MindShare

Core audience: two to 12-year-old boys and girls

Dawn Cordy, director of Egmont magazines, describes the sector as "a truly interactive medium". She points out that, unlike books - or televisions and computers, for that matter - magazines can be handled by kids on their own, because they can be drawn on, played with and even ripped up without concern.

Egmont, the number two kids' magazine company and publisher of titles featuring Barbie and Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as Disney Princess magazine, recognises that digital investment is important.

"Yes, we have a digital vision that not only extends to our existing brands such as Toxic and Go Girl to an extra dimension, but also looks at creating new digital brands," says Cordy. "That's what we do from a magazine point of view - digital is no different."

She also says that, for an age group where media consumption is still decided by their care-givers, magazines are a medium parents and grandparents understand.

"Kids' choice of entertainment, activities and media is extraordinary today," says Cordy. "Because of this choice, media for kids is increasingly fragmented, sophisticated and highly competitive. We are all competing for kids' and parents' time."

REDAN PUBLISHING

Kids' magazines: Fun To Learn titles include biggest-seller FTL Friends (circ. 72,270), FTL Favourites (circ. 60,000), FTL The Wiggles magazine and FTL Barney magazine

Media agency: In-house

Core audience: FTL range is aimed at three to seven-year-olds; Junior is for four to nine-year-olds

Redan Publishing was founded specifically to publish pre-school magazines in 1991 by the managing director of Marvel Comics UK, Robert Sutherland, and two Marvel colleagues - former managing editor Jenny O'Connor and head of pre-school Diana Turner. All three are still involved in the company today.

Julie Jones, head of marketing at Redan, says: "In the pre-school market, magazines still rule as far as children and their parents are concerned. Parents know and trust magazines and their content, appreciating the fact that they can treat their children while knowing that they are also learning as they read a magazine.

"TV is loved by kids, but doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of parental approval as magazines, and at pre-school age children are only just becoming aware of the internet. They certainly don't have their own mobile phones."

Nonetheless, older readers of Redan's Junior range are beginning to "log on", with Junior currently working with a website for one of the characters in Sparkle World.

Bell argues that magazines remain a good medium for advertisers, because of the engagement children have with the titles.

"Advertorials in particular are effective at drawing in the child and keeping the attention for a period of time," she says. "Our research shows that pre-school magazines are very much a shared experience, so not only are the children responding to the advertisements, but the parents are as well."

ATTIC MEDIA

Kids' magazines: National Geographic Kids (sales target 70,000) Kick (circ. 67,095), Kraze Club (circ. 62,295)

Media agency: In-house

Core audience: six to 14-year-old boys and girls

National Geographic Kids has just been launched in the UK by Attic Media and the magazine's editor, Lauren Jarvis, is passionate about the medium. "It's not dying," she says, when asked about the wisdom of launching into the kids' magazine market.

She says that while some parents don't think kids get a lot out of magazines, her view is that they can actually be very valuable. "National Geographic Kids is a very different kind of magazine. It's a fun magazine, not only educational. We try to make sure that our readers have fun while they're learning," she says.

While the magazine is not ready to buck the trend of offering gifts as an incentive to lure in readers, Attic is maintaining the educational theme there, with gifts such as an animal card game and a glow-in-the-dark solar system.

It is also embracing new media with a dedicated website, ngkids.co.uk. The idea behind the site will be content that complements material in the magazine. It will also carry games. There are no plans for mobile at the moment.

Rosalind Matchett, advertising manager for National Geographic Kids, Kraze Club and Kick, says: "The great thing about magazines is the way they interact with the reader. And it's not just through display ads, but also with creative campaigns, competitions and so on. On television, the ad is on for 30 seconds and then it's gone."

She also says that magazines can be better than television for promoting products that are not as visually appealing as toys, such as books and computer games.

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