Last quarter’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures show that consumer magazines as a whole are down in terms of circulation. However, women’s magazines, for instance, are losing ground much faster than the home and lifestyle titles. The latter – which encompass a plethora of magazines dealing with decor, gardening, food, do-it-yourself and health – are clearly still appealing to readers and advertisers. Media 24’s Tuis, for instance, showed impressive growth of 35% in third quarter ABCs, according to ABC vice chairman Gordon Patterson.
A lot of their resilience lies in the spending power of their target market. Aimed at the upper LSMs and with content centred on enjoying the good life, these titles attract big advertisers. As Starcom MediaVest Group deputy MD Celia Collins says: “These magazines are popular with advertisers. It’s because of that lifestyle element that advertisers try to tap in to. (Home and living magazines) target people in their leisure moments, when they’re at home relaxing.”
The upper LSMs are more likely to buy several different magazines every month – the collectability factor of these titles lends itself to promiscuous buying – and “pick them up on a whim, like when standing in the queue at Woolworths”, says Collins.
Their appeal to the upper LSMs and one of the reasons they are sustaining their circulation in the era of digital media lies in this very collectability, says Collins. “Readers keep them aside for ideas, or for things they can cut out, like recipes. If they want to redo their kitchens, they might say ‘Oh, this Samsung fridge would be perfect’ or ‘I want this look and feel’.”
Most of these magazines also have a very local flavour that the internet doesn’t do very well yet. Local gardening magazines will provide geographically relevant advice; local decor magazines provide insight into well-decorated South African homes, with suppliers and prices that are more attainable than in an international publication.
Collins warns, however, that these magazines should not get complacent: the circulation boom of 2009 has tapered off a great deal and people are becoming more discerning in their magazine-buying habits. Consumers who bought three or four magazines a month are now buying just one. An oversubscribed market has become even more competitive for advertising as even more affluent customers have less money to spend.
According to Nielsen figures, the top advertisers in this category are brands that aim at higher LSMs and with a slant towards home fittings (carpets, tiling, wood products) and DIY equipment. The top advertiser for September 2012 was Shoprite and purveyors of other fast-moving consumer goods, like Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Unilever and Foschini, appeared on the list.
They also included luxury chocolate producers Lindt & Sprungli; homeware retailers and manufacturers like New Clicks, Le Creuset and Samsung South Africa; garden equipment suppliers Efekto; and upmarket estate agents Pam Golding. The car advertisers who spent the most in the home and living sector were Daimler AG, Ford and Toyota.
Despite the affluent target market, the biggest advertisers were not necessarily luxury goods. The titles from international publishers seem to boast the most luxury brands, with Conde Nast’s House & Garden South Africa, for instance, featuring advertising from Porsche, Louis Vuitton and watch manufacturers Michel Herbelin and Tag Heuer.
The top spending advertisers are spread across most titles in this category. Marketers who spoke to The Media were reluctant to reveal their strategies and with whom they are spending money, but they agreed that these magazines are desirable environments in which to capture an affluent, house-and-garden-proud demographic.
The Gardener is a publication based in KwaZulu-Natal and part-owned by Caxton. It attracts little lifestyle advertising, getting mostly spending from companies that make heavy duty gardening equipment like ride-on mowers or seed suppliers. These are brands like Starke Ayres, John Deere, Gardena and Builders Warehouse.
Editor Tanya Visser says they try to keep their ad to content ratio low, at about 35%, which is needed to at least cover their basics. As the magazine does not have the support of a corporate owner, they have to think about the “nitty gritty”, says Visser, like covering costs like water and electricity. The Gardener steers away from advertorial and promotional content in order to attract advertising, she says. However, the magazine’s sales and marketing rep, Jonathan Gouws, says they will occasionally feature sponsored content in the DIY sections; one such feature, for example, was instructions on assembling a garden bench, with support from Topline.
Collins says that for her, the magazines in this sector that really stand out in terms of quality are Habitat, Tuis, Ideas and Garden & Home. Garden & Home is one of the most established home and living magazines, claiming a readership of 400 000 in the LSM eight to 10 bracket.
According to Caxton Magazines advertising director Debbie McIntyre, their success in attracting advertising is due in part to their ‘heritage brand’ status. “Garden & Home has a proud history of showcasing the best in South African homes, decor and garden. Our advertisers recognise that we are the preferred luxury read in this category.”
Associated Media and Publishing’s House and Leisure is another home and living magazine that is doing well. Like Tuis, it has managed sustained circulation growth and has also achieved industry recognition, winning several Picas last year. Editor Naomi Larkin says they remain attractive to advertisers by sticking with what they do best.
“I insist on a continual internal audit to ensure we are on brand and remain committed to delivering demographic and geographic representation and a high ‘news’ element within the confines of a lifestyle magazine. House and Leisure is a consistent, positive affirmation of stylish South African lifestyles,” says Larkin.
While some marketers are slashing their print budgets, others are happy to still advertise in home and living magazines. Chris Grylls, media planner/buyer for Woodoc, says: “No doubt as smartphones and portable PCs, tablets and so on start to be used by the mass market, digital advertising will become more important – and, I would imagine, all-important some time in the future.
“But when? Right now the digital market is not that wide and is very much youth-centred… Companies are in all sorts of facets of social media and digital advertising because they are scared not to be. At present, print and particularly magazines are the source of material for digital advertising and we prefer to be in the source,” says Grylls.
The New Clicks media team agree that the digital is not going to replace these magazines any time soon because of the “affinity that readers have with their magazines”, an emotional tie that digital can’t beat. Also, magazines “have a long shelf life, as opposed to digital’s fleeting exposure”, they add.
Collins agrees that these magazines are here to stay – at least for now. “Digital is not really a threat, because when people are online, they are more likely to be looking for a product. I was just reading about how magazines overseas have gone digital, but I don’t think we are at that stage yet… I have just been looking at our media schedules for this year and I don’t see these magazines going anywhere.”
This story was first published in the February 2013 issue of The Media magazine.