Media Forum: Do advertisers rate weeklies?

Cover price is the backbone of the new weeklies market, Alasdair Reid reports. The weekly magazine revolution continues. In fact, if anything, it is gaining momentum as the pre-launch sales pitch for Emap's Grazia gets into its stride with presentations to media agencies across town.

Not so long ago, all we had in this sector were the dowdy old mass-market women's weeklies, titles that in basic philosophy and outlook had changed little since the 50s.

Even when the big German publishers came over here to teach us a thing or two, they launched magazines that tended to major on homely accoutrements such as knitting patterns.

The first stirrings of renaissance in this sector came, of course, with the wave of celebrity titles. Some believe there's room for at least a couple more titles in there and Reveal, a new title from a joint-venture company formed by The National Magazine Company and Australian Consolidated Press, is testing that theory. Now comes news that Emap and IPC will go head to head with film weeklies too.

Then there is the advent of weekly glossies. B Happy, by Northern & Shell, will possibly come into that category and Grazia almost certainly will.

Should advertisers be excited about all the quality new ideas appearing in the weekly market or will weeklies remain relatively advertising-free zones?

Colin Morrison, the chief executive of ACP-NatMags, says it would be a big mistake for publishers to allow weeklies to lose their essential character. He explains: "From a consumer point of view, readers spend more intense time over a shorter period with weeklies. Also, exposure to advertising is structured differently. With a weekly, you will not get so many readers going backwards and forwards through it over an extended period. Weeklies have less advertising - that may be one of the things behind their popularity."

In other words, too much advertising might damage newsstand sales. So would he actively suppress advertising demand through high ad rates? "I believe weeklies will remain an exclusive medium from an advertising point of view for a long time," he responds.

IPC Media is less proscriptive in its approach to this issue. Morrison would seek to take only 20 per cent of total revenues from advertising, whereas IPC could countenance figures closer to 30 per cent from its weeklies and is also readier to increase issue sizes to accommodate advertising demand, though it does agree weeklies should remain relatively clutter-free.

Tim Brooks, the managing director of IPC ignite!, explains: "When we first presented Nuts to media agencies, the response was there might be some advertisers that would not want in. We've been pleasantly surprised at the way it has taken off across every single one of the categories that use men's magazines. We offer similar quality (to men's monthlies) but at greater frequency."

Nuts, though, has reached what Brooks regards as an optimal issue size, though it will be interesting to see what happens if advertising demand keeps rising. And won't it naturally rise because advertising is attracted to new supplies of readership? It's not that simple, Claudine Collins, the press director of MediaCom, says, though she admits there are a lot of people who do not have the time to read a monthly.

She adds that, while many advertisers will be attracted to the frequency and immediacy offered by weeklies, some will still prefer the larger levels of pass-on readership in monthlies. "A weekly is read and discarded far more quickly. Some advertisers want the increased frequency; some want people to have many opportunities to see their ad."

On the other hand, Kelly Harrold, the deputy head of press at ZenithOptimedia, argues that any successful new magazine will be of interest to advertisers.

She comments: "If you are an advertiser whose campaign objectives make magazines the best medium and you also need to drive sales by a specific time, then you will want to use weekly magazines. Many of them might use weekend newspaper supplements, so they will be very interested in a glossy weekly. If it's the right environment and the price is right, then some of those advertisers will be interested."

So, in fact, there could be significant losers among the supplements?

Not necessarily, Harrold says. "Magazine revenues were up in the first and second quarters, so there might be enough growth in the market to keep everyone happy. In the short term, revenue has to come from somewhere," she concludes.

MAYBE - Colin Morrison, chief executive, ACP-NatMags

"No publisher will regard advertising as unimportant, but the pricing may well reflect the fact that weeklies derive 80 per cent of their revenues from cover prices as opposed to monthlies, where it's 50 per cent."

MAYBE - Tim Brooks, managing director, IPC ignite!

"Weeklies are designed to be easily consumed. When we were researching the prototype to Nuts, people liked the fact you didn't have to wade through lots of stuff. But it is not our strategy to turn advertisers away."

MAYBE - Claudine Collins, press director, MediaCom

"Emap must keep Grazia as a premium product. It will be all too easy for it to allow it to flip into a mass-market style. What advertisers will not be happy about will be weeklies pricing themselves as if they were monthlies."

YES - Kelly Harrold, deputy head of press, ZenithOptimedia

"They want to restrict pagination to get a high yield so when they up the pagination they do so at the right yield level. But if the price is right, there will be many advertisers who will be interested in a glossy weekly."

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