This Christmas edition of the Radio Times proves the wisdom of the
’you should never judge a book by its cover’ cliche. In-between the
execrable front cover and the mawkish Danbury Mint Millennium Teddy Bear
ad on the back cover lurks an extremely good product.
The columnists are well known - John Peel, Polly Toynbee, Alan Hansen,
Barry Norman - and are good writers. The listings are clear,
comprehensive and informative; the sections on family, sport, films etc
are excellent for cutting through the mass of information to give you
what you want at a glance. The entire package has the feel of an
And it’s streets ahead of its direct competitors, who all seem to be
stuck in tabloid soap land.
But there are two problems - one minor, one major. Taking the minor one
first, the sheer frequency, variety and volume of ads is off-putting.
The effect is similar to when your granny goes out with too much make-up
on - you love her but you wish she’d tone it down a bit.
I don’t want to have to wade through 30 pages of ads before I get to the
first listings page.
The major problem is the competitive context. I don’t mean the other
listings magazines - the Radio Times can easily justify its high price
compared with them. I’m talking about the tidal wave of free listings
that are available in every newspaper and general interest magazine on
sale in your local newsagents. If you read Hello! or Time Out or one of
the newspapers, I can’t see the point of the Radio Times.
The days when the Radio Times was a Christmas institution are gone.
There is no chance of revisiting the glory days of selling ten million
copies at Christmas but the fact that it’ll sell about three million
copies this time is a remarkable publishing achievement.
Unfortunately, just because something is good doesn’t give it a reason
to exist. I fear that the Christmas issue (which has the legacy of a
huge pool of goodwill among a large section of the population) will be
the least of the magazine’s problems over the next ten years.
Publisher: BBC Worldwide
Cover price: pounds 1.50
Frequency: Christmas edition, otherwise weekly
Normal circulation: 1.4 million
Christmas circulation: 3 million
Ad rate full-page colour: pounds 38,150
Advertisers include: Renault, Go, Virgin Mobile, Waitrose, Boots.