The news that BBC Magazines and Egmont Magazines are launching five titles into the fiercely competitive children’s market will be another boost to a burgeoning sector that also gives advertisers access to parents.
With most media commentators focusing on men’s and women’s weeklies, the children’s market is often ignored. But the pre-school, pre-teen and teen magazine markets – worth a total of £107m last year – are growing at 4% a year, according to WH Smith. There are 187 titles across the three age groups, 52 of which are aimed at children under five years old.
BBC and Egmont, number one and two in the market respectively, say all five new titles will be launched in the first half of 2007, representing a rate of innovation that dramatically outpaces that in the adult magazine market.
Trojan horse BBC children’s magazine publisher Pauline Cooke says advertisers love the market because they can reach young parents. “Many advertisers, who abide by strict rules to protect children, find they can use us to access a mother in an environment where she feels safe about what her child is being exposed to – the environment being in her home while she spends quality, interactive time with her children,” she says.
Cooke says there is a knack to launching the right brand: “We are quite picky about what we publish, as the magazines are all very brandand character-driven. The majority of the titles in the market are based on television characters, so in that way there is a lot of brand loyalty among the consumers.
“Children all have their favourite TV shows, but will sometimes choose a magazine based on what the covermount freebie is in any one week.” Jostling for position The success of titles can depend on relationships with retailers – particularly the multiples which generate more than 50% of magazine sales. The available shelf space shrinks with every launch, so the ties publishers have with magazine buyers are more crucial than ever.
Disney – as the licence owner of titles such as Winnie the Pooh and Princess – has, for example, recently opened an office next door to Tesco’s headquarters in Welwyn Garden City in order to help increase sales opportunities through Tesco stores.
But there are questions surrounding increasing cover prices of children’s magazines and whether it is even morally justified for children under three to be attracted by brands at all.
Both the BBC and Egmont claim research suggests that parents value their products as much as their children do. Siobhan Galvin, group product manager at Egmont, which sells a million children’s magazines every month, says: “Children recognise brands and are influenced by them from a very young age whether we like it or not.
“You’ll find many children point in recognition when they see McDonald’s golden arches sometimes before they can string a sentence together. These magazines typically have educational value and are loved by parents.” Value judgement Galvin is, however, concerned with the rising prices of children’s magazines, some of which cost £2 and are increasing all the time. She says: “Parents understand value and have their own ideas about what a children’s magazine should cost, so I can’t see the price rising much higher than £3.” Egmont’s most expensive magazine is the fortnightly title Toxic, aimed at 7to 12-year-old boys and retailing at £2.25.
Advertisers, ranging from mobile phone and videogame manufacturers to animal charities, may look to this growing market more regularly, as access to children is increasingly curtailed elsewhere. With new characters emerging all the time and a healthy stream of ad revenue, the future looks healthy for the specialist children’s magazine market.