CAMPAIGN REPORT ON TOP EUROPEAN NEWSPAPERS: Can newspapers win women over? Sport and news traditionally hook men, but to attract and keep the loyalty of women readers, newspapers need to work harder on other strategies. Richard Cook reports

Newspapers have always had to fight harder for female attention than for men. Wherever you look across Europe the story is the same. It's a phenomenon that has recently been addressed by a number of publishers - with varying degrees of success.

Newspapers have always had to fight harder for female attention than for men. Wherever you look across Europe the story is the same. It's a phenomenon that has recently been addressed by a number of publishers - with varying degrees of success.

The individual markets may differ in the scale of the problem but the picture is repeated. Newspapers in all European markets find it increasingly difficult to win new women readers and they are finding it tougher to hang on to the women readers they already have.

In Italy, for instance, according to research by Zenith Media Italia, female readership of newspapers, already low, has fallen from 32.3 per cent of the total just four years ago to less than 30 per cent today.

And the loss can be directly attributed to the demise in the crucial mid-aged readers - the 35- to 54-year-olds - that has fallen most dramatically.

And this despite the fact that all the main titles, La Repubblica, La Stampa and Il Messaggero chief among them, now publish dedicated women's weekly sections or standalone supplements.

'Even the introduction of female magazines by most of the leading titles has not caused any increase in female readership,' confirms the Zenith media director Pietro Rossi.

In Germany, media planners trying to reach a discrete female audience are increasingly turning to the free papers, whose profile of women readers is significantly higher even than the relatively high 53 per cent claimed by female friendly titles like the Berliner Kurier or the BZ. The downside is that the age profile of free newspaper readers is significantly higher than those of the paid-for titles.

'Where newspapers have been relatively more successful at attracting women readers is either in countries like Germany, where the regional news culture is strong and there is a strong tradition of women newspaper readership,' explains Nick Mawditt, international director at Initiative Media Futures, 'or else in markets where there has not been a strong tradition in women's magazines. Scandinavia is the classic case here. The fact is that most newspaper supplements aimed at women aren't as good as the magazines, and that is part of the reason they are finding it so difficult to attract readers.

'Women are much more subtle and sophisticated consumers of media than men in many regards. Sport and news are fantastic vehicles for attracting a male audience, but women are more discerning because they have to be.

Typically they are juggling more things in their life than men and have less time to read. That's why they are attracted to the sorts of media - like glossy magazines and TV - which are more of a leisure consumption.'

But individual newspapers have not accepted overall decline in female readership as an inevitability and have instead adopted an impressive range of tactics and techniques to strike back, as their own individual experiences and opportunities dictate.

Take Sweden for example. One of the more successful attempts to target women readers has come from the Swedish daily Aftenbladet, which launched a women's supplement called Kvinna back in 1992 and has worked hard to see this grow to become one of the most important of its kind in Europe.

It now claims over 800,000 weekly readers and has increased its circulation by more than 10,000 in its first full year of operation.

'The section has a vision,' explains its editor Monica Gunne, 'which is nothing less than to make Sweden a better place for women to live in.

When we launched we were making an important political point and making sure women were represented, but we have grown to be more than just a token women's section.'

There are now daily Kvinna pages in the newspaper and a dedicated section of the Aftenbladet website, which attracts more than 300,000 women a month for a mixture of daily news, discussion groups and links to other web services dedicated to women, such as women.com.

The story is mixed in France. Aside from listings magazines the French press has fared worse than other markets at launching any successful supplements - let alone the complicated and editorially sophisticated additions that might be able to attract a discerning female readership.

The decision of the high-profile daily Liberation to launch a Saturday magazine with a feminine emphasis in 1994 was an ignominious failure, lasting just five months, while France's best-known title, Le Monde, has never dared launch a supplement. Although significant inroads have been made, largely through the efforts of the newspaper and magazine publishers Hersant and Hachette.

Hersant, which publishes the conservative daily Le Figaro and the tabloid evening title France Soir, brought out the women's lifestyle and fashion glossy Madame Figaro in 1980. It quickly became the most successful newspaper supplement in France and is now regarded more as a standalone magazine than a supplement - by both readers and advertisers. It claims audited circulations comfortably in excess of half a million compared to the daily average of around 320,000 recorded by the newspaper itself.

This long-term success has been shared more recently by the women's weekly magazine, Femina Hebdo, launched by the Hachette publishing giant three years ago. The title was first distributed as a supplement in the daily La Provence and the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche and then two years ago its distribution was increased to take in other important regional dailies such as L'Alsace, La Montagne and the Courier Picard. Hachette says readership of the title now tops two million and believes the magazine could ultimately go on to distribute as many as the TV listings guides and compete for advertising expenditure with a fragmenting TV marketplace.

In the UK the drive to target female readers, long led by the Daily Mail, has seen fresh initiatives this year from other papers.

The sectional approach pioneered by the Daily Mail has long been copied by other UK titles, but the competition from another quarter has now intensified.

The Mirror introduced a 44-page weekly glossy magazine called M last year, backed by an impressive pounds 1.5 million TV campaign and designed to take the fight for women's readership, and specifically younger women's readership, to the mid-market. 'It's so difficult in the UK because of the strength of the women's magazine market, but this looks like a pretty successful offering by the Mirror,' says Initiative's Mawditt.

The Financial Times relaunched its glossy female-oriented monthly title , How To Spend It, last year, with a new softer design and a new editor, Gillian de Bono, whose background included stints in women's magazines.

In addition, more How To Spend It pages were incorporated into the daily paper during the week, focusing on traditionally female interest subjects like fashion, cooking and jewellery.

The more popular route than an expensive new product launch has been to appeal to women readers through the same sort of price-led promotions long favoured by the glossy women's mags themselves. The Telegraph launched a six-month promotion in July this year aimed at 25- to 45-year-old women.

This 'more for me' campaign offered discounts on skincare, travel, fashion, interiors and beauty products in exactly the same fashion as conventional consumer magazines.

According to the paper's marketing director Mark Dixon: 'Offering good discounts on established brands - and the Telegraph's promotion offers discounts of around 20 per cent - is the way forward for us. As opposed to the conventional promotions which were more appealing to male readers such as limited opportunities to win things.'

By extending the campaign over six months, readership retention levels have improved. The Telegraph currently has a 56 per cent male readership compared to a 58 per cent male readership in the previous year.

By contrast the Daily Mail, the UK paper traditionally marketed at women readers, has a readership split about equally between the sexes. Indeed the Daily Mail practically invented the idea of marketing to female readers.

The 70s ads with the famous 'Every woman needs her Daily Mail' did much to position the title as the favourite with women readers. Today 49 per cent of Daily Mail women readers have full or part-time jobs, but the slightly worrying thing is that the average age of Daily Mail women readers is now 50.

Executive managing editor Robin Esser told the last World Association of Newspapers meeting devoted to the subject of women newspaper readership that Associated actually dated the resurgence of the paper as a mid-market leader to its 70s decision to create an upmarket tabloid that targeted women.

'The idea,' he explained, 'was to create an up-market, tabloid-sized paper that targeted women, knowing all too well that, if they got it right, it would appeal to men as well. But the fact is that what the Daily Mail has done in attracting the female audience, more and more publishers will have to do, as the competition from other media - especially from the electronic ones - hots up.'

This is the great imponderable. In the United States, women are the fastest-growing group of internet users according to research by the website women.com.

In Europe, women already make up 40 per cent of internet users and are the fastest growing demographic group using the web. Newspapers haven't been slow to capitalise on the advantages the net offers in the race to target editorial more effectively, but for years the concern was that the on-line versions would cannibalise the printed paper. In fact, the best available evidence suggests that internet usage has a more direct effect on TV viewing than newspaper readership.

The major InternetTrak survey commissioned jointly by Yahoo!, Ziff Davies and Dell, suggested that although time spent watching TV decreases by up to 10 per cent when the internet is introduced into a media consumption pattern, time spent reading newspapers actually increases by 1 per cent.

Certainly the Daily Mail seems to have decided to hold firm to its strategy of following the female market online as well as in print. It has withdrawn from its male-oriented websites, such as soccernet, to concentrate on its two web projects aimed at women: the CharlotteStreet.com portal and the clothes e-tailer Zoom.co.uk.

'One of the key strengths of our group is its strong affinity with women and, in particular, women in the UK's middle market,' explains Martin Dunn, editor-in-chief of Associated New Media. One of the most successful newspaper publishers remains confident of its heritage. And it doesn't sound like it is prepared to give up on its strategy of focusing on its heartland of women readers - whether online or in the 'old' printed media.



NEWSPAPER READERSHIP: EUROPEAN MARKETS, WOMEN vs ALL ADULTS

FRANCE: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

Le Monde                         896        2,030           44

Le Parisien                      745        1,681           44

Journal du Dimanche              628        1,282           49

Le Figaro                        594        1,380           43

L''Equipe                         465        2,522           18

Liberation                       389          954           41

France Soir                      335          674           50

Les Echos                        298          754           40

La Croix                         178          320           56

La Tribune                       157          468           34

GERMANY: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

Bild                           4,580       11,330           40

Suddeutsche Zeitung              490        1,090           45

BZ                               330          630           52

Frankfurter Allgemeine           320          830           39

Zeitung Express                  300          700           43

Frankfurter Rundschau            210          480           44

Die Abendzeitung                 200          410           49

Berliner Kurier                  190          360           53

Die Welt                         190          530           36

t z                              120          250           48

ITALY: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

La Repubblica                  1,051        2,681           39

La Stampa                        674        1,673           40

Il Messaggero                    551        1,426           39

Il Resto del Carlino             443        1,149           39

Il Sole 24 Ore                   437        1,413           31

La Gazzetta dello Sport          371        3,359           11

Il Gazzettino                    291          769           40

Il Giornale                      287          839           38

Il Mattino                       266          900           29

Corriere dello                   255        1,760           15

Sport-Stadio

NETHERLANDS: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

De Telegraaf                     987        2,277           43

Algemeen Dagblad                 419        1,050           40

De Volkskrant                    310          724           43

Dagblad De Limburger             187          412           45

NRC Handelsblad                  177          451           39

De Twentse Courant               162          338           48

Tubantia Haagsche Courant        156          312           50

Eindhovens Dagblad               150          318           47

Leeuwarder Courant               137          270           51

Rotterdams Dagblad               119          276           43

SPAIN: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

El PaIs                          597        1,499           40

ABC                              362          873           42

Marca                            352        2,376           15

El Mundo                         320          907           35

El Periodico de Catalunya        289          765           38

El Correo Espanol                273          625           44

La Voz de Galicia                192          506           38

El Diario Vasco                  155          338           46

Heraldo de Aragon                124          313           40

Levante                          118          338           35

UK: Average Issue Readership 000s

Newspapers                     Women       Adults      Women %

Sun                            4,026        9,603           42

Mirror                         2,727        6,033           45

Daily Mail                     2,669        5,493           49

Daily Express                  1,101        2,437           45

Daily Telegraph                1,023        2,314           44

Times                            722        1,699           43

Daily Record                     779        1,671           47

Daily Star                       395        1,372           29

Guardian                         414        1,047           40

London Evening Standard          425        1,041           41

All Sources - National Readership Surveys 2000





Topics

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content