The illusion of women’s choice

This month, another two women’s magazines hit newsagents’ shelves. OMD Snapshots looks at how women perceive the magazines aimed at them

This month has seen the launch of two women’s monthly lifestyle magazines: InStyle from Time Warner and Glamour from Condé Nast.

The women’s monthly magazine market is a mature one, and despite the plethora of magazines available, new entries are welcomed by advertisers and media agencies alike. The increased competition is perceived as a good thing, especially if it means a shake-up in what is regarded as a mature and tired market.

Every magazine strives to differentiate itself on the newsagents’ shelves and, with this mind, Condé Nast opted to make Glamour small enough to carry around in a handbag.

Although it is too early to see how Glamour and InStyle will fare, OMD Snapshots used its panel to understand the women’s magazine market from a consumer’s point of view. It addressed issues from how readers of women’s magazines felt about the choice available, to what criteria they use to make their choice of magazine.

Are women fazed with the amount of choice available? The research found that women did not find it difficult to decide which magazine to buy – only 30 per cent agreed that there were too many magazines to choose from.

Are women satisfied with the choice available? Snapshots found that over half of readers felt that there was no single title that met all of their needs. This attitude means that magazine buyers are likely be promiscuous in their buying habits, as they glance at different titles to get what they want.

We asked the panel if they would like to see more choice in the range of women’s magazines on offer. The good news for publishers is that a quarter of the respondents said that they would welcome more choice.

Almost 70 per cent of the panel said they buy one or two magazines each month. We asked our panel how they rated certain factors in terms of importance when deciding on which title to buy.

The results indicate that the two key factors are what the cover of the magazine looks like and the cost of the magazine. This implies a fickle and disloyal audience. Worryingly for editors, the articles within the publications appear low down the list of readers’ priorities.

We asked the panellists if they always knew which magazine they were going to buy before they go into the newsagent. The results underline a lack of loyalty, with only 18 per cent having a definite idea which title they want to purchase. With so many readers making last-minute decisions, it is vital for publishers to ensure that their magazines stand out on the shelves.

From an advertiser’s point of view, this lack of loyalty would appear to undermine the relationship of trust that magazines sell themselves on. Editors will be depressed at how easily a cheap piece of plastic can influence a reader’s purchase. It is the strong brands, with high quality content that attract stable sales. The research shows that while women may be fickle, this may be because they are not happy with what is on offer. Perhaps Glamour’s size, or InStyle’s editorial will hit the right spots.

Snapshots is a rapid response, online research tool, owned by OMD UK. It surveys 2,500 Internet users a week

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