For reasons best known to itself - surely not shareholder reaction - IPC
appears determined to play down its decision last week (Campaign, 14
June) to cut the cover price on its two top women’s weeklies. We are
told this is a promotion, and that talk of a ‘price war’ is wrong.
IPC is perfectly entitled to say this but, one might guess, from where
its rivals stand, it looks pretty much like the equivalent of invading
Poland. However, perhaps the most surprising thing is not so much that
it has happened, but that it has taken so long for the magazine world to
follow the Sun and the Times. Whatever people may think of the News
International decision, it legitimised cover-price cutting as a market
Nor can it be said, as its critics said of the Times, that there is any
danger of the price cut subverting brand values. Magazines such as Woman
and Woman’s Own are cheap and cheerful - and proud of it - and, given
that a typical reader is bombarded with cut-price supermarket offers,
there is no reason to think that they would respond in anything other
than a positive manner.
Cynics will say that the move is designed to shore up further bad news
on the ABCs, in which the whole sector took a hit last time round from
the launch of the National Lottery scratchcards. Yet market analysts say
the rot has been stopped and, as a group, the market is on the way back.
IPC’s move seems more like an offensive strike designed to grab more,
rather than a defensive one.
But perhaps the most significant long-term impact will be on the image
of IPC. Nicknamed the Ministry of Magazines for its lumbering and
bureaucratic approach, nothing seemed to have changed in the 80s when it
allowed the German publishers to park their tanks on its lawn without
even giving them a parking ticket.
This latest move, coupled with IPC’s success with the TV listings titles
and Loaded, suggests it is time for us to consign that image to the bin.