To survive, take a leaf out of Glamour’s book

The consumer magazine market has recently seen many titles disappear and a few arrive. This is as it should be if the sector is to flourish. By Caroline Simpson

Pessimists within the industry are no doubt taking great delight in much hand wringing, shaking of heads and speculation about future casualties in the sector. Why? At the news of Shine’s demise, close on the heels of Bare, Sky, Later and PS, as well as the closures of Mondo, Nova and Woman’s Realm. These casualties all occurred this year and there are certain to be more.

Given this run of “disasters”, it would be natural to be more than a little anxious about the state of the consumer magazine market. But the truth is, this should be welcomed. At the risk of sounding too Darwinian, only the fittest survive.

This list of casualties is about as diverse as you can get, yet they all proved unviable, unable to generate sufficient sales and – ultimately – advertising revenue. They failed to identify and create a clear editorial proposition that consistently reflects and enhances the interests, aspirations and attitudes of the target market. When a magazine does manage to achieve this goal, it is an incredibly powerful tool.

Cosmopolitan is one of the best examples of this, retaining an enviable track record of stable sales within the increasingly fragmenting women’s monthly market. The connection that Cosmopolitan has with its readers goes far beyond the editorial page; it has deepened and broadened through targeted brand extensions such as Cosmo Hair magazine, lingerie collections and even bed linen – all reflecting the core values of the title. The summer will bring yet greater interaction through the launch of Cosmopolitan lifestyle cafés. Altogether, an incredibly strong brand.

All the more remarkable then that the success story of the recent launches, Glamour, has beaten its target by 100 per cent (on paper at least). Although a close competitor to Cosmopolitan – both target savvy, 20-something women with a zest for life – Glamour has identified pace as a key differential within its editorial proposition. Perhaps the words that best sum up Glamour are “bite size” – not only physically but also in terms of layout and feature content. It is clearly aimed at those women who want to know about the latest fashion, celebrity gossip, health and beauty advice, but critically, want to digest this information the way they live their lives. That is, as dynamic, active, busy individuals.

Glamour’s achievements so far demonstrate that success is not about occupying a gap in the market in socio-demographic terms. It’s about really knowing what works for your readers.

The advantage the magazine medium offers above all others is the potential depth of relationship with the market – a relationship that advertisers can exploit, often across multiple platforms. Strong magazine brands that truly connect with their market will benefit consumers and advertisers alike. Ironically, a few more casualties, alongside fresh, insightful launches, would strengthen the consumer magazine market.

Caroline Simpson is managing partner and head of press at Zenith Media

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