Why there’s no niche for a mature woman’s title

Publishers are deluding themselves that a gap in the over-35 women’s market signifies a demand. Get ready for the fall-out.

Looking at the plethora of general women’s magazines on the shelves, it seems incomprehensible that publishing houses planned, launched and even relaunched additional titles this year. They are apparently working under the illusion that ABC1 women aged 35-plus are not catered for and that critical mass can be achieved in this market.

Media planners admit that they are fazed by countless presentations from publishers illustrating figures that prove this perceived gap in the market. What publishers are failing to realise, however, is that a gap does not equate to a need, and if there is no need then no amount of sales promotion or advertising is going to remedy the situation.

Moreover, publishers are overlooking a basic tenet of marketing – that people generally respond to products that are marketed to them as being for someone younger. Not surprising, then, that a shampoo created for those over 50 was not a fast mover with consumers, nor that Aura magazine folded after only three issues. In a society that reveres youth and beauty, there can’t be many over-35s who regularly want to read articles about getting older.

Even more fundamental is the fact that women in the 35-plus group are not an homogenised set. Despite coining terms such as “middle youth”, there is simply no catch-all, as women in this group can be at different life stages with various needs and interests. Some may be starting a family, while others may be divorced with teenage children.

And no matter what publishers say, there is little to differentiate women’s general interest titles. They all spout almost identical advice on how to dress to look younger/sexier/a stone lighter, be the consummate hostess and have a family and successful career.

Many of the women’s titles are a buttress to support developing personalities, but most women over 35 do not have the latent insecurities they may have had in their 20s. They have passed through the rites of passage and have emerged as independent, confident individuals who are happy in themselves and more accepting of the way they look. So if they know that red lipstick suits them, then there’s no point telling them that pink is the summer rage, they are simply not interested.

In any case, by this stage in life, most women have defined interests – whether home interiors, cookery, car maintenance or career – and choose their reading material accordingly. Obviously an all-encompassing title that is trying to be too many things to too many people will hold little appeal.

Many women have neither the time nor the inclination to read a magazine from cover to cover. It is snippets of information that they are after, a need that is fulfilled quite adequately by the weekend supplements that keep them abreast of current trends.

We all hold our breath for Eve.

Amanda Morrissey is managing director of Brewer Blackler

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