OPINION: Question time with ... Jane Sproul - The publisher of Parkhill’s Aura is clear about what middle-aged babes want

No less than seven magazines are due to launch this year, all aimed directly or indirectly at women aged thirtysomething and older. But don’t mention the ’o’ word to Jane Sproul, publisher of Parkhill Publishing’s Aura, a magazine that is targeting 35-plus women and is set to hit the newsstands at the end of March.

No less than seven magazines are due to launch this year, all aimed

directly or indirectly at women aged thirtysomething and older. But

don’t mention the ’o’ word to Jane Sproul, publisher of Parkhill

Publishing’s Aura, a magazine that is targeting 35-plus women and is set

to hit the newsstands at the end of March.



’Aura is not for women who want to stay young - we are young,’ Sproul

insists. ’Women don’t just vanish off the horizon at 35 to a life of

cake baking and looking after ageing parents. Women are less defined by

age these days and are consumed with their careers. We call them

middle-aged babes around here.’



Targeting this increasingly affluent group - which is expected to number

17 million within five years - might seem like a no-brainer and long

overdue.



’But to be honest, it ain’t sexy,’ Sproul confides. ’When you talk to

the 25-year-old boys at agencies about 35-plus women, they look at you

blankly. They identify these women with their mothers.’



She is having more success convincing clients, many of whom are in the

target age group. The typical Aura reader is expected to be a

metropolitan dweller in her late thirties or forties. She is an

intelligent career woman, is married with children and has a sense of

humour. At the moment, the prospective Aura reader is likely to be

dipping into a range of magazines, ranging from the Sunday supplements

and Hello! to Vanity Fair, House & Garden and Conde Nast Traveller.



The magazine promises to be a ’solutions guide to life’ for busy

women.



’It will feature things like how to pull off a dinner party on a

Wednesday night, get the children sorted out, and fashion ideas for the

grown-up woman who hasn’t the time to stay on top of trends,’ says

Sproul.



The magazine will be more mature in tone than Emap’s Red, whose typical

reader is aged 29. ’We make no apologies for being older,’ says

Sproul.



’We won’t be alienating women in their forties by trying to make them

seem younger than they really are.’



Sex and relationships will feature, but it won’t be the

Cosmopolitan-type ’how to achieve 50 orgasms’ stuff. ’These women are

out of that and, if they’re not, then good luck to them,’ sighs Sproul,

perhaps wistfully.



The print run for the first edition is 235,000 and advertisers are being

guaranteed sales of 130,000.



And as if life wasn’t tough enough with seven new titles searching for

advertising, the May edition of Vogue is taking money out of the market

by carrying a 68-page bound-on supplement tailored to thirtysomething

women.



Aside from launching Aura into such a crowded market, Sproul is also

trying to ensure the success of Wedding Day, which made its debut in

November.



Sales for the second issue are estimated at 30,000. At launch, Sproul

was looking for 45,000, but she now concedes she may have been too

bullish.



On top of all this, Sproul tries to find time for a home life in

Wandsworth with her husband (who works at Lowe Howard-Spink) and

two-year-old daughter, Phoebe.



After the launch of Aura, she hopes things will calm down for a

while.



However, Sproul’s boss, Eve Pollard - who has ambitions to launch six

magazines in three years - may have other ideas.





Sproul on the competition



After openly announcing its intention to launch Aura, Parkhill has been

forced to look on nervously as competing publishers followed with plans

of their own. ’We were the first to stick our necks out and it stirred

up the market,’ says Sproul, ’but we won’t make the mistake of

publicising our ideas again.’



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