Last year, when the Independent Television Commission announced a
partial lifting of the ban on masthead programming, one wag in the House
of Lords remarked that the decision was a bit like ’decriminalising
cannabis for redheads’. Last week saw further concessions - and Ian
Locks, the chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association,
greeted them in like manner. The new rules were ’like legalising
cannabis, but only allowing smoking behind the bikesheds,’ he said.
This week, the publishing playground was conspicuously empty during
breaks, although there was a dense and rather amusingly-shaped cloud of
smoke rising from a hidden source in the far corner.
The ’redhead decriminalisation’ saw magazine publishers able to launch
television versions of their properties - but only on satellite
This latest ’bikeshed’ development extends the privilege, allowing them
to launch masthead programming on ITV and Channels 4 and 5.
There’s every indication that publishers intend to make the most of the
new freedoms, despite the odd grumble that the rules, to be in place by
the autumn, don’t go far enough.
For instance, cross-promotion will be restricted. Should, for example,
the Marie Claire Show ever make it on to our screens, the TV version
won’t be able to mention the magazine or any articles in it. And, to
avoid what it sees as the danger of a blurring between advertising and
editorial, the ITC will insist that the TV show should not merely be a
television version of an issue of the magazine.
Publishers believe there will be rich pickings on mainstream TV
But research conducted for Campaign by CIA MediaLab reveals some
CIA asked 1,000 consumers what they thought about a range of potential
masthead mutations. Strangely, the ones you’d have thought had the most
potential - at the sexier end of the women’s market - stimulated the
least positive response. As the table shows, the Economist is an
unlikely front runner; Marie Claire an even more unlikely
The reason for this may well be that niche magazines are read by a small
but loyal readership. Mass-market titles have a greater proportion of
floating voters. But there’s a related issue. Glossy women’s monthlies
tend to attract an ABC1 audience but the people who say they would watch
masthead programmes tend to be C2DE - not a demographic many advertisers
are keen on.
A problem? Not necessarily - and publishers say they won’t dumb down to
suit the audience. If anything, they will try to get the dynamic to work
the other way. Terry Mansfield, managing director of the National
Magazine Company, says the goal ’should be to raise programme
And David Fletcher, the managing director of CIA MediaLab, believes the
picture is generally pretty rosy for publishers across the spectrum.
’There is probably a greater expectation of the programming associated
with smaller titles. And more specialist brands will get a better
relative response from advertisers. I think that the bigger mainstream
magazine brands will transfer very comfortably on to television.’
Who would watch masthead TV?
The Economist 75
Good Housekeeping 67
Ideal Home 67
Mother & Baby 62
Sainsbury’s magazine 60
Woman’s Own 59
Marie Claire 44
Source: CIA MediaLab