Women’s title from Shortlist publisher gets mixed reaction

Mike%20SoutarThe prospect of a new free women’s title from the publisher of men’s title Shortlist has been met with mixed reactions from media agencies.

Although Shortlist Media founder and managing director Mike Soutar has dismissed the idea of an imminent launch of a women’s free title aimed at 25- to 40-year-olds as “speculation”, talk of a project being tested with agencies continues.

Mindshare managing part- ner Vanessa Clifford told Marketing Week that she would welcome such a move with the right content, and says: “I think there’s a gap in the market for a free weekly title that covers celebrities, beauty and fashion, and pitches itself somewhere between the A-list Grazia and Heat, which is aimed at the younger market.”

However, she adds they would have to bear in mind that “budgets are decreasing” so it would have to “offer an audience that can’t be reached elsewhere”.

Universal McCann’s press chief Eve Samuel-Camps is more sceptical of the publisher’s chances. “The women’s magazine market is far more established, bigger and competitive than the men’s so I would question if there is a market for a free title,” she says.

“Women have much more affinity with their magazines, and every age group and preference is covered by strong titles with large circulations across the board, from Company to Good Housekeeping, so I’m not sure there’s a gap in the market,” she adds.

Samuel-Camps explains the debate is not whether such a title would be read, as free titles are now well-established, but what relationship readers would have with the title and whether it would be comparable to the strong affinity women have with the magazines they pay for.

Superdrug has been distributing its free women’s magazine, Dare, produced by River Publishing, through its retail outlets and by hand outside London Underground Tube stations for some time. However, the title is on a bi-monthly schedule.

Last week, Shortlist Media reported a pre-tax loss of £2.7m in its first year of trading ending August 2008. Soutar says the loss was less than the company had forecast and it was on track to deliver on its plan to reach profit by year three.

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