OPINION: IPC seizes the initiative with a cover-price ploy

For reasons best known to itself - surely not shareholder reaction - IPC appears determined to play down its decision last week (Campaign, 14 June) to cut the cover price on its two top women’s weeklies. We are told this is a promotion, and that talk of a ‘price war’ is wrong.

For reasons best known to itself - surely not shareholder reaction - IPC

appears determined to play down its decision last week (Campaign, 14

June) to cut the cover price on its two top women’s weeklies. We are

told this is a promotion, and that talk of a ‘price war’ is wrong.



IPC is perfectly entitled to say this but, one might guess, from where

its rivals stand, it looks pretty much like the equivalent of invading

Poland. However, perhaps the most surprising thing is not so much that

it has happened, but that it has taken so long for the magazine world to

follow the Sun and the Times. Whatever people may think of the News

International decision, it legitimised cover-price cutting as a market

share-enhancing tactic.



Nor can it be said, as its critics said of the Times, that there is any

danger of the price cut subverting brand values. Magazines such as Woman

and Woman’s Own are cheap and cheerful - and proud of it - and, given

that a typical reader is bombarded with cut-price supermarket offers,

there is no reason to think that they would respond in anything other

than a positive manner.



Cynics will say that the move is designed to shore up further bad news

on the ABCs, in which the whole sector took a hit last time round from

the launch of the National Lottery scratchcards. Yet market analysts say

the rot has been stopped and, as a group, the market is on the way back.

IPC’s move seems more like an offensive strike designed to grab more,

rather than a defensive one.



But perhaps the most significant long-term impact will be on the image

of IPC. Nicknamed the Ministry of Magazines for its lumbering and

bureaucratic approach, nothing seemed to have changed in the 80s when it

allowed the German publishers to park their tanks on its lawn without

even giving them a parking ticket.



This latest move, coupled with IPC’s success with the TV listings titles

and Loaded, suggests it is time for us to consign that image to the bin.



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