There are few surprises in the latest round of ABC results, with the general trend continuing to be downward, and the same sectors taking a heavy kicking. Most men’s monthlies and weeklies appear to still be dead men walking; the celebrity weekly sector has suffered more heavy losses YoY. Hello and OK also posted significant PoP losses, meaning they have failed to hold on to the extra sales generated by the Royal Wedding in the first half of 2011. Undoubtedly the doom-mongers will cite these results as further evidence of the death of print, while publishers will blame their favourite catch-all: the recession. But is that what’s really going on here?
Take everyone’s favourite whipping boy (or girl), the Celebrity sector. This recession has certainly proved that the existing magazine marketplace and the volume of publications isn’t sustainable in its entirety. There are far too many publications providing similar content badly! Gone are the days of each magazine having a unique USP on the newsstand and the ability to compete purely on the content it provided or the exclusives it could land. The battleground has become “how many magazines can I fit into a single polythene bag and flog them for a quid”, while neglecting the most important element of what they stand for – differentiated, valued content! Similarly, compare the brand strength of some of these titles to what they were even five years ago; brand identity been eroded by multi-packing and constant redesigns- and readers pick up on this.
The sectors that post big declines make the headlines, but look deeper and we see some positive stories: the mature women’s lifestyle sector (GH, Prima) showing growth; the Home Interest sector (Good Homes, Country Homes) showing growth; and the luxury sector (Tatler, Harpers) holding its own. These successes yet again prove there is an appetite for the written word when quality publishing is at the forefront- but the same three factors still have to be right: brand, price and content. The market is very quick to talk about the demise of print, and the industry is equally as sharp to isolate TV, digital, VOD, tablets, mobile and the other means of communicating to our target audience. However, in a world that has experienced a rapid rate of media proliferation in all channels, there are still 2000+ magazines consumed per minute in the UK. When publications are much more than just their print edition – with touch points in tablet, mobile, online, events – the strength of the brand proposition trumps the pure circulation number. Shouldn’t this be what’s most important to clients?
The relative success of free magazines in recent years adds a fourth factor for success: convenience. Although they are far from reaching critical mass, the emergence of iPad editions makes ‘convenience’ easier to deliver than ever; the publishers that get all four factors right will always find an audience; those that don’t will continue to be a bad headline.
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Chris - 20/02/2012 @ 11:41
Magazines need to provide quality journalism and content that is not easily found on the web. Thought provoking, original and insightful content can still win through, the likes of The Week and Wired are testament to that.