Media: Double Standards - 'Bringing more readers, advertising - and profit'

Two senior industry figures explain why the crowded women's weekly market is bucking the trend of other magazine sectors and going from strength to strength.

COLIN MORRISON CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ACP-NATMAG

- What impact will the recently relaunched First have on the women's weekly market?

Possibly not much. As an impressive magazine pioneer, Emap deserves respect. But everyone is allowed to fail, and I don't think the relaunched First is any more likely to succeed than before.

- How do you feel more established titles aimed at women in their 30s and 40s will respond?

The weekly market requires constant innovation - and competitive paranoia. First itself may not keep many editors awake, but there will be plenty of other magazines (existing and prospective) to keep us all on the edge.

- What's the most exciting opportunity you have created for advertisers this year?

The quick-turnaround weekly frequency has so much to offer mass-market advertisers, even those who have traditionally preferred broadcast and national press. Our magazines Best, Reveal and Real People have been growing market shares with reverse flip covers, sponsorship, promotions, short lead-times - and just plain leaps in readership.

- How would you describe the health of the women's weekly market at newsstands, and is ad revenue in the sector growing?

Women's weeklies are now selling some ten million magazines every week, and up to one-third of these women are weekly-only buyers. For many young women, weekly magazines are the only print media. And weeklies are gaining ad market share. So this is one healthy magazine market.

- It seems a complex, crowded sector with many titles fighting for space. Do you think there will be titles closing because of this?

Any competitive market is "complex" and "crowded". Targeting is vital. There will always be losers as well as winners. Ultimately, only the best and most innovative will prosper. But weekly magazines have fantastic appeal - and much further to go.

- What are you doing to create online products for women?

Many magazine sites cement strong reader relationships and extend the brand, but don't actually move the needle much. Among the best sites for women now, though, must be NatMags' relaunched Handbag.com - supported by magazines, but not constrained by a print brand.

- Is celebrity content the best way to bring in readers?

You have to focus very clearly: either the untouchable, way-out-there glitterati; or the closer-to-home role models from soaps and TV. Some magazines do better with one, some with the other, and some thrive with no celebs at all.

- Do reader research studies/focus groups ever surprise you, or do they confirm what you know already?

Nobody ever launched a successful magazine without gut feel and instinct. But research can give you insight, fresh ideas and help develop your thoughts. Focus groups can prompt new thinking. But publishers (or politicians) who depend on focus groups will go mad and/or bust.

- What's the best thing about working in magazines at the moment?

This 21st-century explosion in great new weeklies bringing in more readers, more advertising - and more profit. Forecasts of the death of the magazine help energise those of us who know this is the medium which will wrap itself round the future.

DAVID DAVIES MANAGING DIRECTOR, EMAP ELAN

- What impact will the recently relaunched First have on the women's weekly market?

Grazia has successfully found a new generation of sophisticated women who want a fast-paced and stylish weekly magazine and brought premium advertisers into the weekly market in significant numbers. We think Grazia is only the start and that stylish weekly lifestyle titles are going to be a defining trend in the women's market. So this month we have changed More's frequency from fortnightly to weekly to deliver a faster lifestyle magazine for women in their 20s. The relaunch of First aims to do the same for women in their late 30s and 40s.

- How do you feel more established titles aimed at women in their 30s and 40s will respond?

It is hard to imagine there isn't a monthly women's title currently trying to summon up the courage to think about going weekly. Likewise, it is possible that we will see a rash of weeklies redesigning in an attempt to go upmarket.

- What's the most exciting opportunity you have created for advertisers this year?

In More, Grazia and First, we are creating a weekly glossy portfolio that can deliver targeted lifestyle audiences on a weekly frequency. In France and Italy, this has long been the most exciting part of the women's magazine market, and it is very exciting bringing this philosophy to the UK market.

- How would you describe the health of the women's weekly market at newsstands, and is ad revenue in the sector growing?

The market appears to be segmenting into three sectors - celebrity weekly, traditional women's weeklies and the emergent weekly glossies. Growth is coming from the stronger celebrity titles - Heat, Closer and OK!. The weekly glossies are growing the market significantly, and IPC's launch of Look as a celebrity and high-street fashion hybrid appears to have got off to a good start. The traditional women's weekly market, however, looks tough.

- It seems a complex, crowded sector with many titles fighting for space. Do you think there will be titles closing because of this?

It may be very competitive, but the women's weekly magazine landscape is extremely vibrant and dynamic. The celebrity market alone has been frequently delivering four million copy sales a week over the summer. There may be some casualties over time, but we are just as likely to see more launches.

- What are you doing to create online products for women?

Closeronline; Closerdiets and Heatworld are good starting points.

- Is celebrity content the best way to bring in readers?

Grazia does very well with its shoe specials.

- Do reader research studies/focus groups ever surprise you, or do they confirm what you know already?

I wish I had enough conviction to say it's the latter and never go to a focus group again.

- What's the best thing about working in magazines at the moment?

It's all about the magazines themselves. And there isn't a more exciting weekly portfolio anywhere than Heat, Closer, Grazia, More and First.

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