The economic downturn has definitely had an effect on magazine circulation, as consumers are having to choose fewer titles in their monthly shop. Eve Pennington, head of human experience at The Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), takes a look at what makes women’s consumer titles work.
Those magazines that have done well, both in circulation, as well as in the awards accolades, have been those magazines that have really understood their reader’s needs and reflect it in their content. These editors have put in the work with regular online surveys, workshops and research groups. They are in constant contact with their readers and make changes accordingly.
The real test to robust and differentiated editorial is if a consumer could guess the magazine title without its cover. Sadly many titles take on overseas content, or use material from freelance journalists without insisting that a topic is written specifically with a target segment of readers in mind.
Not only is the content important in the success of women’s magazines, but so is the relationship that exists between the publisher and the editor. There should be a balance of commercial and reader interests as this relationship is the life blood of any magazine. This dynamic should ensure that client’s needs are addressed through creativity and content, as long as the information is entertaining or beneficial to the reader. With some of the restructuring that is going on in the print industry, I fear that these disciplines are being pulled further and further apart.
Having sat on the Admag awards panel last year, I really think that media planners and marketers need to get their hands dirty and page through different titles, as the figures can often be deceiving and we lose touch with the fast paced changes in the publishing industry.
There are a few magazines, women’s titles included, that at first glance, look as if they have had healthy growth over the past year. On closer inspection, however, the paid for circulation has stayed the same or declined slightly, and the figures are bolstered by bulk deal distribution and free distribution. Although bulk or free distribution may very well go to a valuable market, the market has not actually laid out their hard earned cash for it.
In closing, for a women’s magazine to really thrive and survive in the time- and cash- strapped consumer’s world, get to know your audience’s likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams and fears and they will lead you to a dedicated following.