Young women in Britain today are sophisticated and savvy. I see it every day in the Glamour office, surrounded as I am by smart colleagues who demand and deliver quality in everything they do, while making discerning and considered choices.
Thinking back to the male centrefolds and "the passion package" - or sexual content - that were so popular when I was publisher at Cosmopolitan in the 90s, life felt simpler and there were fewer media options vying for the reader's time and attention. So how much have these readers evolved in terms of their behaviour and attitudes, and how do the magazine brands of today cut through the noise to connect with them?
Like most of us in 2010, when Glamour last researched "the 21st-century woman", she appeared to think (and hope) that the recession was something inconvenient that would soon disappear. As a result, her behaviour, attitude and media consumption had not changed significantly from 2006, when we first carried out this research (pre-recession and pre-digital revolution equalled fun, frivolous spending, debt and few worries).
However, the realisation that the recession wasn't a minor blip soon sunk in. Fast-forward to 2012 and we have caught up with our 21st-century woman again to see how she's coping. We wanted to examine modern women's attitudes and behaviours today: the places they shop, the people they connect with and, crucially, how they consume media.
Working with YouGov, our poll of almost 4,000 females aged 16-40 focused on readers of at least one of the following magazine brands, in print or online: Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Look and Grazia.
It transpires that women today are in fact coping pretty well amid the recessionary gloom. They are getting on with their lives, embracing the digital revolution and, reassuringly, are more financially savvy than ever.
When it comes to media consumption, today's consumer is more thoughtful. Yes, some women are buying fewer things - but they want to buy better and smarter. It's all about quality, not quantity.
And the good news for magazine publishers is, despite the fact that the 21st-century woman has had her life transformed by technology, her favourite way to consume magazine content remains in print, with digital playing an "as well as", albeit important, role.
Women think that magazine websites are becoming more user-friendly and, generally, glossier. They don't believe these websites will replace print magazines any time soon - rather, the more, the merrier. There's no doubt that print and online serve separate beneficial and complementary purposes, which is a great and growing opportunity for magazine publishers.
1. Ninety-seven per cent of the women polled read print magazines. Seventy-nine per cent are visiting magazine websites (more than a fifth doing so every other day) and more than half have accessed digital replica editions, with 42 per cent using magazine apps. Twenty-eight per cent follow magazines on Facebook or Twitter, often on a daily basis.
2. On average, the 21st-century woman has downloaded 34 apps to her smartphone or tablet computer and recognises that while she rarely uses most of them, the ones she "loves" are addictive. Twenty-five per cent download magazine apps because doing so is more convenient than buying the print edition in-store, and 58 per cent like the idea of being able to access mobile content on their smartphone (as the London Underground rolls out broadband access, publishers need to be mobile-optimised to have the greatest connection with readers).
3. Pre-purchase research is a big part of the 21st-century woman's life, and the internet and magazines are an integral part of this. Sixty-nine per cent review products online before they buy, with 64 per cent bookmarking them. The vast majority read glossy magazines, and 55 per cent are still tearing features out of them.
4. Attitudes to money have changed. Eighty-eight per cent of women want financial independence, and 74 per cent now worry about their finances - and because of this have become savvier. Forty-four per cent are in debt, down from 54 per cent in 2006.
Simon Kippin is the publishing director of Glamour
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- Advertising works for this audience. Almost three-quarters of those polled agreed that ads inform them about new products. And although most women said the impact of print advertising is stronger than that of web ads, two-thirds revealed that the internet has introduced them to new brands and 41 per cent said the quality of online advertising has improved.
- On social media, what friends say to each other about brands matters more than following brands directly. Beyond friends, the greatest influence on people is likely to be a magazine or website - so don't spend too much time and effort on social media brand pages.
- The 21st-century woman is more frugal, but still gets a kick out of spending on herself. Seventy per cent still buy designer fashion and 83 per cent buy premium beauty products - both down only 1 per cent from 2010.
- In tough times, it's hugely important to be relevant to your consumer. Monthly magazines have the strongest sway over today's women, being 50 per cent more influential than weekly magazines, TV and magazine websites, and almost three times more powerful than free magazines or newspaper supplements.
- Trust is enormously important. Communication from a trusted source - a friend or a magazine editor, or a brand you love and admire - has the power to shift opinion. Glossy monthlies are considered the most trustworthy source of information and are considered 78 per cent more inspiring than any other medium. This trust has to be nurtured and protected.
- Magazine groups on social networks are almost twice as influential as brand groups - perhaps not a great surprise as the reader has a trusting relationship with her favourite magazines.