Media: Double Standards - Engaging with female readers on a deeper level

Two publishing directors on why readers of their monthly women's titles get not just a magazine, but a sex therapist, life coach and fashion expert all rolled into one.

JUSTINE SOUTHALL - PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, COSMOPOLITAN

- What differentiates your magazine from other women's glossies?

Cosmopolitan is the life, love, sex and relationships bible. This international magazine has been consistently successful in the UK for the past 36 years. We have the largest female readership of any newsstand monthly magazine (1.5 million), and 652,000 consumers don't read any other women's glossy. Our mantra, "Be the best you can be", is incredibly appealing and empowering. With this editorial platform comes an enormous amount of trust, which enables us to engage with readers on a deeper level.

- How do you keep on top in this tough market?

Teamwork and having really talented people. Focusing on our reader is the most important factor, and we constantly undertake research to make sure we're getting the magazine right. Finally, you have to have a laugh. The tougher it gets, the harder you work and the more you need to keep your team motivated. Magazines are emotional products that reflect as well as project.

- Do weeklies still pose a strong threat?

The National Magazine Company recently expanded its footprint in the weekly magazine market by acquiring the remaining 50 per cent of the ACP-NatMag interest in Best, Reveal and Real People. We're really pleased with the progress these titles have made during the past three years, and believe there is enough consumer demand for both monthlies and weeklies to co-exist.

- What has made your brand so durable?

Cosmo has always had a really intimate and trusting relationship with its reader. If you continually challenge the reader to be "the best they can be", this extends into all content areas - career, relationships, sex, fashion and beauty. It's about self-realisation and having a great time while doing it! We are about to launch a major piece of research that demonstrates how the relationship with a magazine affects the way in which advertising is received. It's understanding this dynamic that has made Cosmo so powerful for so long.

- What is your most exciting commercial deal to date?

Commercially, 2007/08 has been a very exciting year for Cosmopolitan. Key project partnerships have included Olay, L'Oreal Paris, Dorothy Perkins, Herbal Essences, Head & Shoulders, Revlon, Christian Dior and Clinique. Cosmopolitan.co.uk has been integral, and the commercial opportunities available since its relaunch are vast.

- Is the covermount frenzy on the slide?

We will continue to see magazines promoting their products in a range of ways, and, in our view, covermounts will still form part of this mix.

- What plans have you for your title going forward?

A lot of our energy is about maintaining the momentum we have built. Innovation is essential. For example, we are now selling Cosmopolitan travel-size via vending machines at the departure gates of leading UK airports.

- What do women want?

To be happy and to feel good about themselves. Cosmo is the magazine that helps them satisfy this desire in an engaging, empowering and utterly entertaining way.

SIMON KIPPEN - PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, GLAMOUR

- What differentiates your magazine from other women's glossies?

Everyone thinks that Glamour's size was the major point of difference when we launched in 2001. This was true to an extent, but our success has never been reliant on size - the magazine was skilfully edited and designed to appeal to a new readership of busy, high-spending women who wanted a great quality read, but in a more digestible format. Of course, Glamour's unique size has been copied by nearly all competing glossy monthlies, but the fact we are still number one by far does show size isn't everything.

- How do you keep on top in this tough market?

It's simply about offering the highest quality editorial mix, and delivering it consistently. Glamour very much fits into the ethos of Conde Nast - quality first in everything we do. We also have a tremendously professional circulation department that works tirelessly to ensure Glamour is highly visible on the newsstand with innovative and groundbreaking retail promotions.

- Do weeklies still pose a strong threat?

Anything that occupies the time, money or energy of our potential readers is a threat. Weeklies do fulfil a need in all of us, offering a snack in between meals with their more "tabloid"-style content. Glamour offers a richer and more enduring mix. For these reasons, Glamour has not been threatened by weeklies in the main. I would be interested to see how many weeklies are prospering in five years!

- What has made your brand so durable?

It is our inherent depth, quality and strength of editorial that really understands and communicates with our audience that has kept us ahead. That brand strength is ably demonstrated by the power and influence of the Women of the Year Awards. These awards, instigated just five years ago, quickly established themselves as a key fixture on the social calendar of international A-list celebrities, and attract considerable industry and media attention, attracting more than £2.5 million-worth of media coverage last year.

- What is your most exciting commercial deal to date?

All my deals with advertisers are exciting! I guess I am especially proud of our sponsorship deals with blue-chip companies on behalf of the Women of the Year Awards.

- Is the covermount frenzy on the slide?

Glamour never joined the covermount frenzy! We've only ever covermounted four issues a year, preferring the editorial strength of the magazine to be the main driver of newsstand sales. Having said that, I am full of admiration for a number of big beauty companies that are reducing their dependence on in-store offers to drive sales. Maybe magazine publishers will adopt this approach, recognising brand loyalty and quality of content is more important.

- What plans have you for your title going forward?

I'm not telling anybody! The only thing I will say is that both Jo Elvin [the editor of Glamour] and myself, along with our teams, will continue to attempt to innovate and to excite our 1.2 million readers every month.

- What do women want?

This is a question I ponder every morning as I wake, and go to sleep thinking about at night. I have been married very happily to my lovely and patient wife Sarah for more than 25 years, but I still don't know what women want.

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