MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON: WOMEN’S MAGAZINES - Targeting women over 30 will prove a publishing challenge/The latest titles to try may have trouble defining their niche, Alasdair Reid writes

Why all this sudden interest in women over 30? Women over 30 as glossy magazine readers, that is. Until 1998, She had this supposedly unfashionable market pretty much to itself. Then came Red, which fulfilled Emap’s cautious expectations but didn’t exactly spark a gold rush. Now two new glossy titles are on the way - Aura from Parkhill Publications, which launches in April; and a direct rival - codenamed Project Florence - which Gruner & Jahr plans to roll out in May. Existing titles for mature female readers, including Woman & Home, Woman’s Journal and Good Housekeeping, are trying to reinvent themselves.

Why all this sudden interest in women over 30? Women over 30 as

glossy magazine readers, that is. Until 1998, She had this supposedly

unfashionable market pretty much to itself. Then came Red, which

fulfilled Emap’s cautious expectations but didn’t exactly spark a gold

rush. Now two new glossy titles are on the way - Aura from Parkhill

Publications, which launches in April; and a direct rival - codenamed

Project Florence - which Gruner & Jahr plans to roll out in May.

Existing titles for mature female readers, including Woman & Home,

Woman’s Journal and Good Housekeeping, are trying to reinvent

themselves.



What’s going on? Eve Pollard, the founder of Parkhill, says she has

every right to feel flattered about recent developments. Aura, she

maintains, is set to define a new market sector. She states: ’There

wasn’t so much interest until it got around that we were doing it. It’s

something I wanted to do because I’m a magazineoholic. I dip in and out

of many titles but there’s nothing absolutely right for old birds like

me. It has to be a good idea because we are the fastest-growing sector

of the population.



From an advertising point of view, there is a huge amount of disposable

income out there and it’s possible to persuade us to make ’now or never’

purchases.’



Granted, the readership potential is there. The fact that this

demographic group has massive amounts of disposable income is also

beyond dispute.



But advertisers have known about this for years and they remain flatly

unenthusiastic about reaching older consumers. Other media find it

almost impossible to capitalise on their older audiences.



Are things really changing? Laura James, the head of press at New PHD,

says that if publishers get it right, the rewards could be substantial

in advertising terms. A whole range of advertisers - from car to finance

clients - are waking up to how important this demographic group is. But

getting it right - producing an appropriate editorial product - isn’t

going to be easy, James predicts.



She adds: ’Suddenly this is the fashionable magazine market to be in,

but the problem for publishers is that women in their 30s aren’t united

by similar lifestyles. In your 20s you are almost bound to have all

those ’firsts’ - first job, first serious relationship and so on. But if

you are 38, you could be single, divorced, no kids, massive disposable

income; or be married with four kids and lumbered with a huge mortgage.

To cover that with one magazine must appear daunting. It will be

interesting to see what they come up with.’



Caroline Simpson, the head of press at Zenith Media, is optimistic.



She states: ’The real key for these particular launches is to recognise

the issue of time famine. For the multi-roled, thirtysomething woman,

titles which address this issue in an informative, entertaining way will

score a direct hit.’



Other observers say they have seen work in progress on a couple of

proposed titles and have been less than impressed. A senior agency

source adds: ’An initial presentation I saw was, quite frankly,

appalling. I know that it is not easy to find broad common ground for

30-year-old women, but it’s not impossible. It’s already been done by

some of the weekend newspaper supplements.’



Pollard admits that both tone and content will be hard to get right.



But she is adamant that you can reach older readers without being

patronising on the one hand or dull and worthy on the other.



She adds: ’The Aura reader will be working. She’ll be keeping up. She’ll

be making her own rules. As women grow older, their roles within

families become more complex and it often falls to them to keep

far-flung bits of families together. We will be addressing that sort of

area but we will be very aware that just because you are a woman, it

doesn’t mean you can’t be interested in other things. We know we won’t

please everyone all of the time. I think the readers will have a great

deal to say on how the magazine develops.’



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