Magazines are looking to prove their power as an advertising medium in the face of sharp falls in circulation and ad revenues over recent years. The PPA, the trade body for the UK magazine sector, is stepping up its efforts to demonstrate their effectiveness and has launched a body to promote the medium to advertisers.
The new entity has positive news for brands. More than three million magazines are sold each day in the UK and nearly 80 per cent of the population read one each year, according to data from NRS Padd.
Part of the strength of magazines lies in their ability to engage – people connect with them as if they were close and trusted friends and tend to believe recommendations from their favourite titles. They see the publications as helping them fulfil their passions in life – from joining the gym to having adventure holidays.
The PPA’s analysis of 77 brand advertising case studies shows that magazine advertising provides a return on investment 11 per cent higher than TV and 22 per cent higher than online.
Some print advertising categories still rely heavily on magazines, including the lucrative luxury, fashion and beauty sectors; others, it has to be said, are being lured elsewhere – to competitors old and new.
Magazines’ declining advertising revenues tell their own story. According to Group M, consumer titles have dropped from £691 million in 2006 to an estimated £397 million in 2014. Business magazines, meanwhile, have fallen from £863 million to £206 million.
One criticism is that the public spend less time reading magazines compared with other media – notably TV, radio and social. Yet people are fully engaged by print magazines when not dividing their time with other media.
Some within the industry and beyond believe publishers have been slow to adapt to the digital world and are missing a trick by failing to promote iPad editions or truly monetise online and mobile content.
So, as the PPA charts its new course, do magazines remain a powerful medium for advertisers?
YES Barry McIlheney, chief executive, PPA; ex-editor of Smash Hits and Empire
"More than 20 million magazines find their way to UK consumers every week. They provoke deep engagement with their loyal readers who embrace advertising as part of the offering, sparking incredible levels of effectiveness."
YES Steve Goodman, head of print trading, Group M
"The combined power of magazines is still fundamental. They are central to how clients can get their messages delivered. The nature of magazines is that they create environments very conducive to promoting the message."
YES Emma Park, account director, the7stars
"Magazines in isolation are not as powerful as they were five years ago, but those that have developed a ‘brand’ are. Ones with a compelling digital presence will continue to gain momentum and be a powerful ally to the target audiences."
YES Rob Lynam, head of display, MEC
"Magazines are an incredibly powerful medium but operating in an environment more competitive than ever before. Total circulation may be declining but, in terms of the power and quality of the content, they are just as good as before."