FORUM: Is German supremacy in women’s weeklies over? - The demise last week of Enjoy! magazine has raised a number of questions. Is this the end of German domination in UK magazine publishing? Has IPC rediscovered an absolute ascendancy in its mar

The problem with Enjoy! was that no-one did. Enjoy it, that is.

The problem with Enjoy! was that no-one did. Enjoy it, that is.



When it was put out of its misery last week, it was believed to be

selling only 120,000. When it was launched by Bauer last September, the

print run was around 1.5 million. It was some credibility gap.



It is the first German failure since Gruner and Jahr led a publishing

invasion more than ten years ago with the launch of Prima. G&J proved

the once-mighty IPC could be challenged on its own turf and Bauer was a

big participant in the invasion’s second wave. Despite the bad news, its

stable still includes Bella, Take A Break, TV Quick and That’s Life.



Somewhere along the way, the UK market started to believe the Germans

were invincible. Teutonic cliches were trotted out with ease: flawless

efficiency, thorough preparation, incredible stamina.



This last belief probably loomed largest. Compared with UK publishers,

the Germans looked long term - so the theory went. Because they didn’t

have the City breathing down their necks, they weren’t as driven to

deliver the bottom line as the Brits were. The Germans had deep pockets

and strong nerves - if they believed in a project, they’d stick with

it.



Can Enjoy!’s demise confirm IPC’s return to absolute ascendancy in its

own market? Should it justify IPC’s aggressive marketing techniques?

Enjoy!, which was targeted at 25- to 28-year-old women, served up

celebrity gossip plus a bit of everything from beauty to cookery. It

planned to break new ground in the UK weeklies market; but when it

launched, G&J with Here! and IPC with Now had both beaten it to the

punch. Since then, IPC and G&J have indulged in cover-price cutting.

Bauer management claimed last week that this was a big factor in the

demise of Enjoy!.



Is it true? IPC has also been using cover price cuts to bolster Woman

and Woman’s Own and it seems to be working. Has price cutting been

vindicated and are we going to see a lot more of it?



Jackie Newcombe, the publishing director of Now, does not think so. Nor

does she think that triumphalism is appropriate. ’It’s never nice when

people lose their jobs,’ she sympathises. ’I suppose we are surprised

Bauer didn’t stick with it because it has the resource to take a long

view.’



Newcombe reckons that the problem with Enjoy! was that it spent all its

marketing budget at launch and didn’t have anything left - and it isn’t

easy to crack awareness in this crowded market. ’We believe we launched

Now in classic marketing fashion with two phases of promotion. And it

was only during those promotional phases that we cut the price to

30p.



Otherwise, we have stuck to our guns at 60p. Here!, on the other hand,

has had six prices.’



She adds: ’If we do get involved with cover-price cuts, as we have with

Woman and Woman’s Own, it isn’t done to boost the Audit Bureau of

Circulations figure. That comes back to haunt you. But we will protect

market share - that means keeping your rivals at a low point and

dominating the shelves.’



Nigel Conway, the media planning director of the Media Centre, can see

tactics becoming more aggressive. ’It has been a bit akin to the

newspaper wars,’ he states. ’This is a limited market and there’s not a

lot more room for growth.’



Conway argues that Bauer didn’t put much marketing support behind

Enjoy!



after its launch. ’IPC was very committed to establishing Now and has

continued to give it TV advertising support. So has G&J with Here!. The

lesson is that you need a very aggressive marketing strategy to get the

numbers these days. IPC and G&J are willing to do it.



’G&J started the price cutting and, although IPC has always said it is

reluctant to get involved, that hasn’t stopped it doing it. You’d have

to say that it does work if a major player like Bauer can be squeezed

out of a sector. I’d say that was just as much to do with brand

awareness as quality of product. But no-one can doubt that, over the

last 18 months, IPC has totally re-established its credentials in the

market, not only as a professional marketer but as a company that is

very committed to establishing the right products at the right

circulation levels.’



Holger Wiemann, the managing director of Gruner and Jahr UK, obviously

can’t agree that IPC has rediscovered market ascendancy. He also says

that there is still no evidence that cover-price cutting works. In any

case, he argues, we’ve now seen the last of it: ’The market has now

settled down.



It will be the quality of magazines that will determine their

circulations.



As for Bauer, it may have got it wrong this time but I wouldn’t be

surprised if it came back with something else and a different concept.

Bauer is in the UK market for the long term.’



Neil Jones, a director of TMD Carat, says a five-year snapshot of the

weeklies market is revealing. ’Over that period, the number of titles in

the women’s weekly market has risen from 11 to 16, or 15 following the

closure of Enjoy!. In that time the combined circulation of the sector

has risen by 12 per cent. IPC’s share, though, has risen from 38 per

cent to 41 per cent. That speaks for itself,’ he says.



’When the Germans came in 1986 they caught IPC napping - there’s

absolutely no doubt about that. But since then, IPC has become very

streetwise. It is astute at protecting its market share. This time,

Bauer was caught out, though I’d say the main problem was that Enjoy!

was just not good enough.’



Caroline Simpson, the head of press at Zenith Media, questions whether

Enjoy! ever really stood a chance against a background of price

cutting.



Spoiling the launches of rivals has become commonplace. She comments:

’Given that the market is approaching saturation point and therefore the

goal is market share rather than growth, it is somewhat surprising that

Enjoy! was only given six months to establish itself, even if a serious

repositioning of the brand was needed.



Publishers must look back with longing to the days when a launch

expanded the market as well as growing market share, and quickly became

profitable.’



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