IPC has drawn first blood in what looks set to be the most competitive battle of 2007 in the consumer magazine market.
In a joint venture with Groupe Marie Claire, IPC is ploughing £18m into high street fashion and celebrity title Look, making it the magazine publisher’s biggest launch to date.
With women’s weekly magazines currently in fashion, it comes as no surprise that rival publishers News Magazines, National Magazine Company, Northern & Shell and EMAP are all set to follow IPC into the market in the coming months. Each publisher will claim to have spotted a gap in the market for something “completely different” but some industry sources believe it will lead to a cluttered market and some inevitably expensive flops.
On the face of it, Look does bring a fresh idea to the shelf, concentrating on giving its 18to 30-year-old readers information on how to kit themselves out in the fashions their favourite celebrities wear at affordable high street prices. But as well as pictures of shoes, dresses and bags being sold at high street prices, the cover features celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham and boasts of “the hottest celebrity news” and “amazing real life stories”.
The trouble with celebrities
One industry expert says: “The concept of the magazine is good but although the title is not meant to be celebrity based, there is a lot of reliance on celebrity. Look’s editorial team needs to remember at every turn that there are tons of magazines promising news of what celebs are saying and doing and reporting the real-life stories of everyday people.”
Another source adds: “Where consumers once had a favourite magazine brand that they generally stayed loyal to, now it’s much harder for them to align themselves to a certain brand. When young women go into a newsagent there are about 15 titles on the shelf that they might consider and the problem is that if you stick your hand over the masthead, they all look the same. Celebrity weeklies is a relatively new sector but it’s huge. “Whether it can sustain four or five new titles this year is anyone’s guess but every new entrant should try and stick to the content that makes it slightly different from the others.”
Evelyn Webster, managing director of IPC Connect, the women’s weeklies division which will add Look to its roster alongside Now, Chat, Pick Me Up, Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman’s Weekly, maintains that no other magazine is currently doing what Look will do. “The biggest point of difference is that Look delivers up-to-the-minute and comprehensive coverage of fashions exclusive to the high street in any one week,” says Webster. “Trends reflected in the high street are based around what celebrities are wearing and young women, who treat Kate Moss and Sienna Miller as role models, see them sporting certain looks and accessories and want them immediately. Retailers are increasingly working to accommodate this trend and act within 24 hours to change product lines, sometimes getting them into stores within a week. Consumers may want a certain product for a couple of months before discarding it. Look is the first magazine to tap into this new phenomenon of fast, affordable and disposable fashion, with fantastic relationships between our 40-strong editorial team and the high street retailers enabling us viewings of products.”
Making it worth it
IPC has a £9m marketing budget to establish Look as a heavyweight brand. With so much at stake and rival titles set to join the race for readers later in the year, IPC will need to remain focused on what makes Look different. If it hopes to become an indispensable style bible to the masses, then that must be at the expense of the coverage of celebrities and real-life stories that have served others so well.