How does the homes magazine sector survive?

The UK's love affair with beautiful houses is far from over, as shown by the healthy homes magazine sector, according to experts from two leading titles.

MacKenzie-Price, Crewe
MacKenzie-Price, Crewe

ISOBEL MCKENZIE-PRICE - editorial director, Ideal Home and Housetohome.co.uk, IPC Media

- What's fuelling magazine sales in the sector, given that people aren't moving and a house purchase is often a catalyst for buying homes mags?

People may not be moving, but their love affair with their homes definitely isn't over - arguably, it's even more passionate than before. There has been a dramatic 180-degree shift in attitudes - home renovation isn't about sweating your property assets in a constant "buy/sell/trade-up" cycle any more. Now it's about creating a comfort zone where you can escape from the world and enjoy quality downtime. There's massive growth in entertaining at home, too, so being able to impress your guests is essential - everyone wants to create a home with the "wow" factor. That's where we come in - there's a fine line between "wow, that's amazing!" and "what were they thinking?!". When people are spending precious cash to personalise their space, they want to get it right, and they look to trusted heritage brands such as Ideal Home to show them how to do it professionally.

- Are there any other trends that you have noticed among your readers?

There has been a big swing away from impulse shopping to considered purchase. Increasingly, consumers want style with staying power, not a cheap-and-cheerful quick fix. They will think about buying something for a lot longer to be sure they really want it before they commit. This is partly about being careful with money, but there's also an undercurrent of environmental concern - they'd rather buy once and buy well. They do want deals, though, even when they're buying quality brands; getting a discount has become the default position.

- How attractive are readers of homes magazines to advertisers?

They are very attractive, which is why advertising revenue remains strong in homes titles. Our readers tend to be women aged 35-plus, with a high level of disposable income, and many readers in Southbank's homes portfolio own their home outright. Our internal consumer research consistently demonstrates the high level of interest and engagement that homes readers have with advertising across our print and digital brands.

- How else do you connect with these readers?

IPC's home brands are multimedia properties. Our web network, Housetohome.co.uk, has almost one million unique users and incorporates all seven of our homes magazines, so we have an unmatchable content offering. Consumers can connect with us via mobile, social media including Facebook and Twitter, and our newsletters. Plus, we have a strong presence at the Ideal Home Show.

- What further innovations are you planning on your title?

We've just had our first Homes Fashion Week. It's a multi-platform event that brings all our brands together to celebrate the best in British interior design. The October issue of Ideal Home has a double format - 50 per cent regular issue, 50 per cent home fashion issue - to celebrate this inaugural event. Advertisers have really supported this and supplied some gorgeous creative that enhances the whole - I think they can see how exciting this initiative could be for the whole industry.

- What do you think is going to happen to the sector next?

The lack of opportunity for younger buyers to get on the property ladder is fuelling a boom in people renting for longer. It's opened up a whole new sector, which has allowed us to launch our new title, Style At Home. It's perfect for novice DIYers and young homemakers who don't yet have the budget for investment buys.

SUE CREWE - editor, House & Garden, Conde Nast

- What's fuelling magazine sales in the sector, given that people aren't moving and a house purchase is often a catalyst for buying homes mags?

The home interest sector is arguably less affected than others by the encroachment of the economic downturn or the possibilities of online research and retail. Reaching, as we do, an ultra net worth readership (even those who aren't currently buying a second or third house), we are read by those who are reconfiguring or extending their existing properties and redesigning their gardens. House & Garden readers are five times more likely to own a £1 million-plus home than the readers of other home interest titles. Whether moving or improving their existing homes, the demand remains constant for authoritative insight and inspiration - the market shows Brits remain very much in love with their homes. And there is also the view that, in an economic climate such as the one we're experiencing, the home becomes increasingly important to people.

- Are there any other trends that you have noticed among your readers?

The House & Garden audience is increasingly considering the long term in their purchases. For example, they are commissioning one-off pieces of art, furniture and lighting installations with an eye towards investment. Our readers recognise that money spent on their houses adds value; they're not looking for budget solutions. The House & Garden brand provides a credible, genuine benchmark of taste, thereby giving them conviction to follow their own compass in an increasingly diverse design landscape.

- How attractive are readers of homes magazines to advertisers?

Of our 638,000 readers (National Readership Survey, January-June 2011), 41 per cent fall into the AB demographic - the most desirable to advertisers. This equates to more AB readers than the three leading social women's lifestyle titles combined. So House & Garden is a powerful tool for advertisers wanting to reach this demographic. Their interest, while primarily focused on inspiring houses and gardens, extends to international travel, wine and food, lifestyle and luxury shopping.

- How else do you connect with these readers?

Our primary connection with readers is through the printed page, but we have also reached out to them via other media platforms that include an iPad version, a blog and Twitter. We also run two consumer fairs (The Spirit of Christmas and The Spirit of Summer), numerous popular reader events offering access to industry experts, as well as panels and interactive editorial forums.

- What further innovations are you planning on your title?

After a hugely successful launch of a cover-mounted Designers At Home CD-Rom, we will be building on this project in 2012. And the December issue sees the launch of an additional supplement, Gourmet, which will extend our acclaimed calendar of supplements, in an area where we know our audience are particularly passionate and hungry for editorial.

- What do you think is going to happen to the sector next?

Our sector needs to become adept at using online as a useful complement to our magazines rather than viewing it as a potential rival. It should be viewed simply as another "route to read". We are currently working on accessible projects in this area.

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