If media planning is very much a numbers game, where does that leave titles with limited circulation?
Niche titles often have to work harder for adspend, says Kelda Lund, (outgoing) publisher of REAL SIMPLE. “We believe that niche titles face a serious challenge in separating themselves from the other mainstream titles in terms of cost per thousand (CPT) and clients looking for reach.
“In most instances it is easier for a marketer or media planner to justify spending their own, or a client’s advertising budget, in a bigger title where CPT and reach do not require motivation.”
An approach that only considers the quantitative is lacking, argues Christian Eedes, editor of WINE. “To consider WINE magazine purely in terms of CPT is to overlook how desirable our readership is in marketing terms: 38.7 percent of our readers have a total household income of over R50,000 a month, for instance.”
The challenge to divert the focus of advertisers and media planners away from abstract figures becomes even greater in difficult economic times; and considering that more and more general mass-market titles are incorporating lifestyle in their editorial mix, says Johan van Zyl, editor of VISI.
“We have never struggled to get advertisers in the past, but in the current economic climate it takes much harder work to convince clients to spend with you and not go the mass-market route. Currently there are simply too many magazines and clients ‘shop around’. Some titles are now on a slippery slope, selling advertising space at ridiculous discounts without realising that they’re cheapening their brand.”
Top Billing publisher, Patience Stevens, believes media planners should consider the strength of the brand, the quality of the product, and the loyalty of its readers. “I believe that media planners have a very clear idea of what the magazine (Top Billing) represents and the audience it speaks to. When it is overlooked, it is because a decision is being made on data ‘runs’.”
Mike Nussey, account director at Y&R, rubbished suggestions that media planners might be missing the point when it comes to niche titles. “I think that people who are in niche titles do so without doing their homework. When niche titles fail, they are the ones to blame and they must not blame the industry for not ‘supporting’ them.”
He says niche titles are seldom on his radar. “If there is a niche title that is printing 10,000 magazines, it means nothing in the bigger scheme of things. It’s all about CPT. If I want to reach many people, I want to be able to do so through the larger titles so that I get to lots of people, guaranteed.”
However, Lund believes that the “wastage factor” should be considered when basing decisions on CPT. “Ultimately, a higher-circulating title with a lower CPT can be more expensive in terms of reaching a specifi c consumer because of the wastage factor.”
Tanya Schreuder, director at Vizeum, says there is great value in buying a reader who is highly involved in their read. However, she would not buy niche titles that are over-priced.
“CPT needs to be digestible.”
Her approach is to consider niche titles together with mass titles.
When choosing between the two, the tendency is to not only consider the “hard numbers”: “We consider the softer side as well – a highly involved reader; a magazine that is read from cover to cover, as the editorial is relevant to the reader throughout the title; a magazine often kept as a reference, i.e. Your Pregnancy will be kept over the ninemonth journey or Runner’s World will be kept as a runner will continuously refer back to it.”
Schreuder believes the perception that niche titles are being overlooked, is not without merit. “There are two possible sides to this perception: One being that often niche titles are not read by AMPS (All Media and Products Survey), and with a lack of numbers and research behind some niche titles, they are often simply not considered. Another reason could be that, with limited budgets, planners are looking at ways to maximise their reach through the more mass (market) titles.”
Sheena Spies, media manager at Ebony and Ivory, says it is to be expected that lifestyle niche publications would be used on a less frequent basis than that of the more “generic” titles that target broader audiences. “With eroding budgets and a more difficult economic climate in mind, planners may choose to go with titles that provide wider reach as opposed to targeted lifestyle niche titles (unless, of course, if strategy dictates otherwise).”
Lund says communication is key to overcoming the challenges of niche publishing. “Advertisers need to understand the actual value they get from directly targeting the consumer group they wish to reach.”
Similarly, Stevens would like the opportunity to present in person to the “unconverted” media buyer “the power of the brand, and of the publication, that ABC figures just cannot reflect”.
Says Schreuder about the titles on their radar: “A magazine would only be on our radar if we have seen a sales representative or read PR on a title or worked on a brand relevant to the niche category.”
She has high hopes for niche titles: “I believe niche will feature lifestyle niche titles
“REAL SIMPLE is marketed on its quality of audience, which few other magazines can offer. The magazine content offering and positioning is niche and is much more valuable to advertisers and readers alike than generic communities. Operating in a niche sector allows us to have a more personal relationship with our readers, and to introduce programmes that foster that. This personal relationship is something that advertisers can tap into in a variety of ways.”
“Our readers have buying power: they travel (locally and overseas); they invest in themselves and in their homes. They are a smaller market, yes, because they have more disposable income than the average consumer, but they are the people who media planners or advertisers want to speak to, because, through advertising in Top Billing
magazine, they are creating interest in high-end products, amongst a target market who can afford to purchase those products. Our viewers and readers are intensely loyal, and the association with the brand translates into sales.”
“VISI, South Africa’s leading décor, design and architecture magazine for the top-end of the English and Afrikaans markets, is a celebration of living well and is committed to bringing you 100-percent South African content with a global sensibility, which is evident in our outstanding design, presentation and innovative features. We have won more décor magazine awards than any of our competitors and also received international recognition in 2007 at the Folio Awards in New York (for best cover).
“Our readers collect every issue – not only as coffeetable must-haves, but also as reference guides because they very seldom pass their copies on. They own the content and focus group studies have shown that they perceive advertisements to be part of the editorial mix, offering better value for advertisers.”
“WINE magazine offers access to a target market with exceptional spending power: 38.7 percent of our readers have a total household income of over R50,000 a month; 17 percent have an income of over R100,000.” become the new mass. With the rise of digital technology and the ability for consumers to customise and choose the content they consume, more consumers will look at media spaces that speak directly to them and their needs.”
Florence Modikwe is editorial assistant at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media magazine.
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (March 2009)