Turning hot metal into classy glossies

The launch of standalone magazines by national newspapers is designed as a lure to attract new readers to the core product, says Branwell Johnson

Newsstands and magazine racks, already groaning under the weight of hundreds of publications, are about to take on a new set of glossies bearing the names of national newspaper brands.

The Telegraph Group and BBC Magazines have signed a deal to create The Daily Telegraph Gardening magazine, which will be published from March next year, priced at about &£2.95.

This move follows the news that The Sunday Times is launching The Sunday Times Travel magazine in January, with a print run of 150,000 (MW October 31).

These titles are not in-paper supplements, but standalone publications with a cover price, and are evidence of an increasing trend among newspaper publishers to extend their brands into standalone magazines. Experts believe that more spin-offs will appear as publishers try to increase the credibility of their newspapers and because they encourage sampling of their brand.

News International head of corporate development Andrew Parry-Smith says: “The newspaper industry is a very mature business, with steadily declining circulations. We have to look for new business opportunities and magazine publishing is a closely allied industry.”

The Daily Telegraph with its Your Money supplement and The Mail on Sunday’s Financial Mail on Sunday Money, already have branded consumer magazines covering finance. News International has also made a foray into the newsstand magazine market with its quarterly new-age lifestyle magazine, Know Your Destiny, which launched in October 1999. However this was branded only with the name of News of the World and The Sun’s horoscope writer Mystic Meg, and has since folded.

Media-buyers point out that, in the competitive world of lifestyle magazines, it is easier to launch a title as an extension of a trusted brand rather than as a completely new brand. Newspapers are well placed to take advantage of this.

The Daily Telegraph Gardening magazine will benefit from promotional support in both The Daily Telegraph and the BBC Magazines portfolio, which includes the market leader BBC Gardener’s World. It is also likely that the Telegraph’s 320,000 subscribers will receive promotional material. Similarly the Sunday Times Travel magazine, which is being published under contract by River Publishing, will be supported in The Times.

Parry-Smith says: “The money spent on launching a gardening or travel magazine from scratch would be enormous, because you have to explain to everybody what the positioning is.”

He calculates that the promotional support from News International’s newspapers for its travel publication will be equivalent to a &£1.5m campaign.

Ad sales for The Daily Telegraph Gardening magazine will be handled by BBC Magazines, which will use its existing advertising contacts in the gardening sector. However, BBC Magazines denies that the joint venture threatens readership of its existing gardening titles because the new publication will “target a part of the market not currently served”.

Telegraph Group enterprise director Alex Stitt says that the publication will be more upmarket than Gardener’s World and more downmarket than Gardens Illustrated. He adds: “It’s aimed at the knowing, experienced and ambitious gardener.”

MediaCom press director Steve Goodman says that for these brand extensions to work, the magazines will have to have strong associations with the newspapers. The Daily Telegraph is the only national daily with a dedicated gardening supplement, published on a Saturday, while The Sunday Times has a strong affinity with travel.

It is unlikely that readership and sales of the newspapers will be affected by these magazine launches. In fact, BBJ Communications head of press Shamista Rajaratnam believes that they may act as a catalyst to introduce readers to the magazines “who are not necessarily newspaper readers at the moment, but like the association.”

While at first glance it would seem logical that newspapers publish the magazines themselves, they acknowledge that magazine production, distribution and marketing is a different discipline to newspaper publishing. Stitt points to the graphic design and layout skills that magazine publishers use, adding that magazine marketing is very different, because they are on newsstands for longer.

Rajaratnam agrees: “It is not their [newspapers] area of expertise. They would not expect someone else to put together their newspapers and sell them.”

Goodman says that the brand extensions will provide advertisers with more opportunities for tightly targeted advertising in a quality environment. Parry-Smith also points out that magazines give clients, who might not be able to afford full newspaper rates, “a cost-effective entry into a powerful brand”.

Rajaratnam suggests that other brand extensions could include The Mail on Sunday producing a food magazine, because its cookery part-works are popular. He also suggests that the Telegraph could develop a motoring magazine. While this is speculation, what is certain is that other newspaper groups will be tracking the sales of the Telegraph and Sunday Times magazine initiatives closely.

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