New titles go for point of difference

Publishers believe their new titles will tap into unexploited sectors within the crowded magazine market. But will they stand out?

Despite the latest set of lacklustre circulation results, a raft of new titles are about to launch into the crowded magazine market.

With at least six new women’s titles due to hit the newsstands and over four planned for the men’s market, the chances of offering consumers and advertisers a different but popular proposition are slim.

Yet Dennis Publishing – which next week launches its first women’s magazine, called PS – thinks it has found an unexploited opportunity. Publisher Susan O’Hare says: “It will be the first women’s magazine to champion home shopping.”

Every item featured in the magazine – from clothing to homeware – can be ordered direct from the manufacturers by telephone or over the Internet.

PS aims to tap into the rise of the home shopping sector, which O’Hare claims has grown 43 per cent over the past five years. She says it is likely to increase by 70 per cent over the next two years – to &£13bn – on the back of Internet sales.

The BBC is also launching its first women’s lifestyle magazine, under the working title project Urma. Publisher Justine Southall says it is essential to offer a point of difference. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. But it only takes a good idea to invent a phenomenon.”

Other entrants into the women’s glossy lifestyle arena include Eve Pollard’s new company, Parkhill, with project Verve, aimed at older women; Gruner & Jahr, with project Florence; and IPC, which is turning to its style bible of the Sixties, Nova, to offer a platform for a new women’s title.

John Brown Publishing is also planning to launch a health-oriented women’s lifestyle magazine – project Bare – presumably to cash in on the growing women’s health sector, highlighted in the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).

While the bubble burst on the lads’ market over six months ago, publishers are trying to expand the sector by launching titles which appeal to an older generation.

Among them is IPC, which has just secured a debut ABC of 90,555 for Later, a magazine aimed at men in their late 20s and early 30s.

IPC Music & Sport managing director Andy McDuff says: “The men’s sector is relatively underdeveloped and we have certainly expanded that end of the market.”

But he does not believe the time is right to launch a title for men in their 40s and 50s. “There’s certainly a school of thought that once men go beyond 30 to 40, their interests get narrower.”

But Cabal and Northern & Shell intend to launch titles aimed at older men later this year.

MediaVest client services director Nigel Conway says: “The men’s sector will continue to expand. There’s a market there, but for how many more titles who knows. There’s certainly a surplus of sex, lager and babes.”

The flood of men’s magazines has made it harder to establish recognition on the newsstands. In an attempt to differentiate Esquire from rivals, the editor of the National Magazine Company title has said that there will be fewer scantily clad women featured on the cover.

McDuff adds: “A lot of us feel our brands are beginning to lose their identity because everyone is copying everyone else.”

Other titles which will launch later this year include Tyler Brule’s project Tart – a sports lifestyle magazine – and Blue Sky’s “babe-free” magazine for older men, called Quest. Former GQ editor James Brown is also planning a consumer magazine, through new venture IFG.

MediaVest’s Conway says: “One thing is certain, these titles won’t have a mass circulation. New titles can no longer sustain the 250,000 they need to be mass market. But there is room for more focused products.”

He cites the example of EMAP’s Red (ABC 180,403), which was launched to cover a readership profile not met by the company’s existing titles, Elle and New Woman. “It’s a question of keeping readers within your stable,” Conway explains.

Caroline Simpson, managing partner and head of press at Zenith Media, agrees there is a need for more focused products, especially in the women’s sector.

“It would appear that for the thirtysomething, cash rich/time poor woman, this is about to be recognised through a number of launches in the spring. Some may interpret it as clutter. But fragmentation isn’t a bad thing for advertisers, as competition becomes ever fiercer and niche targeting opportunities – which minimise wastage – grow.”

Apart from coming up with new ideas, publishers are looking at spin-offs – such as the health magazine Zest, launched on the back of Cosmopolitan, which recorded an ABC of 117,244, up 8.4 per cent year on year. Rival IPC recently announced it will turn its quarterly Marie Claire Beauty & Health into a monthly title.

NatMags managing director Terry Mansfield says: “Our strategy of establishing master brands and publishing magazines from them is paying dividends.”

This strategy is not always successful, however, with Esquire having to fold health spin-off ZM back into the main title and Condé Nast withdrawing GQ Health offshoot GQ Active following disappointing sales.

One-shot spin-offs, such as Good Housekeeping Buy the Best (ABC 59,001) and Cosmopolitan Real Life Stories (ABC 61,045), are also increasingly being used by publishers.

And they are exploring other platforms to build their brands, such as Northern & Shell’s TV masthead deal with Carlton for OK! and IPC’s WAP telephone deal with BT Cellnet for the online version of its TV weeklies, Unmissable TV.

Mansfield concludes: “There’s always a place for a new magazine, provided it has a point of difference. There are 27 magazines in the home interest sector. House Beautiful was one of the first – now there are seven titles which look the same.”

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