Magazines: Sector stars

Men whose job it is to know pick out the leading lights of the consumer and customer sectors.

PAUL THOMAS ON CONSUMER MAGAZINES

In a nutshell: Magazines continually evolve and do new things. It's a vibrant, stable sector; there are loads of closures, but there are lots of launches too.

The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures were OK, but not great: real-life and celebrity titles performed pretty well, but this was down to a few really strong issues. If you look at the overall circulation, consumer magazines are not growing. Not in real terms. There are just more titles. This is good for advertisers as they have a more diverse product portfolio to choose from, but not great for publishers,who face more competition.

Top dog publisher: Everyone automatically plumps for Emap, but I'm not sure why. Look at what they haven't done. Heat was not a success from launch. New Woman is flagging. They closed Smash Hits and The Face. Lots of magazines have died under its parentage. For me, it's IPC. TV Easy grabbed a 200,000 circulation from nowhere. They were first into the lads' weekly market with Nuts. Pick Me Up's circulation has almost hit the 500,000 mark. But they've gone about it very quietly. Every Emap presentation you see is Emap this, Emap that. But because of the way IPC is structured, they don't talk about IPC. Perhaps branding is something they should work on.

Success story: Closer (Emap) and Reveal (ACP-Natmag). Reveal has the highest growth figure in a very busy market.

Flop: Two spring to mind. Maxim (oh dear, what happened there?) and She (was in trouble and, after a rejig, still hasn't turned the corner). Maxim is one of the world's biggest men's magazines. Why can't they get it right in the UK?

Dark horse: Probably OK!. It hasn't done much to warrant a 22 per cent ABC increase. So it's pretty much all on the back of Jordan's wedding. Who would have predicted that would have that much impact on the circulation? You knew it would pick up, but not by that much. Jordan reinvented herself through I'm a Celebrity ..., and it was a case of the right person at the right time in the right magazine.

Tip for next time: Love it!. The whole real-life market is growing, there's a huge marketing effort behind it and News Magazines has something to prove in the market. It's effectively its launch title and they won't let it fail, trust me.

Best launch: Tricky one. Was there really a great launch? I can't think of one. Ahem, Psychologies? There hasn't been a stonking, stonking launch for some time. Not like a Glamour. The best launch party was for the Harper's Bazaar rebrand. It was big and bold with plenty of celebs and strippers.

Best brand extension: FHM online is very good, although it's not new, obviously. Taking the product into a community-based position. It's exactly where you should be going with a brand like that.

Best cover: I would say probably when Vanity Fair stuck Jennifer Aniston on the cover. She talked about the whole Brad Pitt business, and it was immediately in all the newspapers. It'd be interesting to see how much the circulation picked up after that.

Best issue: OK! - the Jordan issue. It was just awesome. It wasn't the best-produced or best-written issue in the world but, from an advertiser's point of view, you'd be very, very happy.

- Paul Thomas is the investment director for non-TV buying at MindShare

ANDREW STEPHENS ON CUSTOMER MAGAZINES

In a nutshell: The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures are black-and-white evidence for just how important customer retention has become for advertisers: the top six titles in the UK are now customer mags. From Sky to Tesco, they are proving very good at delivering a richer customer experience, increasing average spend and pulling in third-party ad revenue. Could the likes of John Brown Citrus and Redwood be the future IPCs and Emaps of this world? What if, in a year or two, Tesco was to take on IPC weeklies with a weekly of its own - full of household offers, tips, quizzes and TV listings? FMCG advertisers would be strong-armed into using it, hurting ad and circulation revenues at the South Bank giants. As a consequence, IPC hits back with a promotional offensive that, in turn, sees Tesco delisting IPC titles from its stores.

Top dog publisher: Any publisher that can deliver the biggest-circulating title (Sky) and the most creative and on-brand title (Virgin Atlantic's Carlos) gets my nod. John Brown Citrus Publishing clearly understands the customer base of its client brands and how best to translate their core brand values into creative print solutions.

Success story: Carlos, from a purely creative perspective. But from a commercial one, I suspect Prudential Magazine could well deliver the greatest return. Any marketing invention that can create greater empathy and loyalty, and increase portfolio spend between a financial organisation and a "switch-happy empowered consumer", must be worth its weight in gold.

Flop: Although titles such as Debenhams Desire dropped 23 per cent period on period, I'd say the biggest flop, or the one with a most uncertain future, is the Homebase Ideas magazine, which witnessed a 10 per cent fall. As the retail DIY superstores continue to suffer from tightened consumer spending and a move to higher-quality goods, businesses such as Homebase and B&Q have more fundamental product-offering decisions to make. Once that's sorted, they can concentrate on their customer relationship marketing programmes again.

Dark horse: Prudential Magazine, for all the reasons previously given.

Tip for next time: Tesco takes over this world as it has every other one.

Best launch: Again, Prudential.

Best brand extension: If you've ever flown Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, there are many tangible differences, and some you just can't put your finger on - intangibles that just make Virgin Atlantic "feel" special. It's this subtle brand aura that John Brown's Carlos has so brilliantly captured in print. Carlos is an exceptional magazine worthy of a premium newsstand distribution strategy.

Best cover: If only Zoo or Nuts were customer magazines, it would be easy. Given that they're not, pick any Waitrose Food or Carlos covers.

Best issue: Bearing in mind the continued and progressive march of e-books and the like, James Flint's Master of the Storm from BMW Audio Books is a glimpse of what we might expect. While I don't necessarily rate the actual content and delivery platform, as stated in a previous piece for Campaign (Live Issue, 17 February), BMW should be applauded for this innovation in CRM and I'm sure many more brands will follow.

- Andrew Stephens is the founder of Goodstuff.

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