There's always a demand for luxury

The Wall Street Journal will soon follow The Times, the Telegraph Media Group and The Economist into the luxury magazine market. But why are there so many of them? John Reynolds reports.

Newspaper owners are parking their tanks firmly on the lawns of upmarket magazines, with a recent flurry of luxury glossy title launches.

The Wall Street Journal, under the direction of new owner News Corporation, which is looking to recoup the $5bn (£2.4bn) it paid for the newspaper last year, is the latest title looking to lure new affluent readers and advertisers. It plans to move into the luxury market with the September launch of a glossy quarterly magazine, called WSJ.

Rupert Murdoch is following in the footsteps of other news publications, such as The Economist, which last year launched Intelligent Life, and the International Herald Tribune, which has also launched new weekly style magazine T.

Others that have looked to cash in on luxury territory include the Telegraph Media Group with ST Fashion and Time, which has been running Time Style & Design for more than five years.

With publishers' core print newspaper editions generally suffering from declining circulations, the opportunity to offset this and lure big-spending advertisers by extending their brands into new luxury magazine formats is an enticing one.

Possible recession

Yet with an economic downturn, and possibly a recession, looming, is this really the best time to launch luxury magazines that rely on big-spending consumers?

Clare Rush, head of press at Mediaedge:cia, says: "Traditionally, old money has been more recession-proof. But this is not necessarily the case now if there are job losses in the City."

The Times' Gill Morgan, executive editor of Luxx, also voices concern, but believes the luxury market is relatively recession-proof. She says: "Obviously, everyone is worrying about the economy at the moment, but that's a short-term approach. There may be some fluctuations in the market and in spending power, but the luxury market is here to stay."

The Wall Street Journal, which has run advertising for luxury brands such as Hermes and Tiffany across its newspaper, claims that advertisers always want to see their brands advertised on glossy pages instead of newspapers.

Mike Miller, deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, says demand is there from luxury advertisers for a glossy magazine. "There will be global brands, such as jewellery, fashion and watches in the magazine," he explains.

But others are not convinced that there is a vast untapped pool of advertiser demand for so many luxury magazines published by newspapers.

Mediaedge:cia's Rush believes the new luxury magazines are a welcome addition for advertisers, but argues that it is newspaper sales houses seeking out new commercial opportunities, and not advertisers, which are driving the recent flurry of launches. Advertisers, though, appear to be buying into the new titles with luxury brands such as Prada and Armani show-casing their products among the pages of Time Style & Design.

Adrian Pike, press associate director at MediaCom, says these luxury titles offer advertisers access to "quality channels" on which brands are prepared to shell out. He cites Jaguar, which tends to use newspapers "occasionally", but prefers to go with something glossier.

Although WSJ will be launching across an increasingly congested market, Miller is not unduly worried about competing magazines. He argues that WSJ's planned irreverent editorial approach will offer something new to the market.

Expanding coverage

He says: "The whole history of The Wall Street Journal has been a process of broadening what we cover, and finance blurs into what goes on in the rest of world.

"The difference between work and play is obliterated. This is an area of journalism we should be serving our readers with."

He also rebuffs claims that WSJ is late coming to the luxury titles market, arguing that it has planned the launch for some time, adding that "the first to market is not always the best".

While media buyers may have the new titles on their media schedules, some are concerned that the titles will not appeal to enough readers.

Hannah Murphy, press development director at Vizeum, says there is limited research available on who is reading luxury titles: "The Times' Luxx magazine is hitting a large number of people, but I question how many people are picking up the paper for it."

Yet, despite concerns over advertiser and reader demand for luxury titles, newspaper publishers' recent and planned activity suggests the luxury magazines sector will continue to grow for some time to come.

NEWSPAPERS' LUXURY MAGAZINES

WSJ: The glossy magazine will cover cars, fashion and travel. The quarterly publication claims it will prove an authority on "how to live life to the fullest"

Luxx: The quarterly publication has lured in advertising from brands such as Jimmy Choo, Raymond Weil and Dom Perignon. It claims to cover every aspect of the luxury sector, from homes to holidays

Intelligent Life: The title claims to be more than "just a catalogue of the things for readers to buy" and says it is written for affluent executives

T: Covers fashion, travel, design and holidays, claiming to guide its readers through what is "new and worthwhile" in style.

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