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Is launching a new women’s lifestyle magazine clever?

With circulations continuing what seems to be an inexorable decline, the news last month that DC Thomson had launched a new lifestyle magazine called Platinum was interesting news, to say the least.

The latest ABC results in August showed very few instances of any year- on-year (YoY) rises in actively purchased circulations for the six months to the end of June 2019. In fact, we saw the total average actively purchased copies shifted by the top 50 magazines fall under 10 million, a drop of 9%.

Two titles that particularly struggled were Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and the independently published Hello!. Cosmo dropped 29% YoY, which the publisher blames on a ‘trial’ cover price increase from £2 to £2.50, which it quickly reversed after only a few issues. Hello! decreased by 17% YoY, which was again blamed on a cover price increase and a huge glut of royal editorial across multiple other titles.

However, if we look closer at the women’s monthly sector, which Platinum has now joined, the picture isn’t quite so grim. Good Housekeeping, which is probably the closest to where Platinum is being positioned, has a current total circulation of just under 423,000. But subscriptions are a key part of this figure, accounting for 57% of their total actively purchased figure, and that has remained stable YoY. In fact, newsstand sales have only dropped 5.6% YoY. Also, let’s not overlook that they still make around £600k a month in cover price alone, which quickly adds up to millions across the year.

Also, DC Thomson has been very shrewd in positioning this as a 55+ title. This demographic still has that reading habit and unlike titles such as Cosmopolitan, who only has 10% of their readership over 55, means they are tapping into an audience which still prefers the printed word.

This leads me to another important point. Much is made currently on the short-termism of brands and their advertising, chasing sales now but ignoring long-term brand building. Couple this with the continued obsession of marketers on hitting a youth audience, you might wonder why you’d release a title aiming for the other end of this age spectrum. With 75% of Britain’s housing wealth being owned by the over 50’s, and with the recently retired now wealthier than those aged under 45, suddenly a magazine that is read by this older, wealthier sector, looks like a decent bet for brands.

Brand loyalty can also play a factor in people’s decisions, the belief that older adults are too loyal to the brands they’ve grown up with, so better to get them younger as they are easier to convert. However, a study last year from America showed that only 1 in 5 American adults say they tend to be loyal to specific brands and largely buy from them repeatedly, while one-third like to try out different products even when they know there’s one, they like.

All Response viewpoint
Thinking like this is what prompted DC Thomson to launch a new title and time will tell if the theory holds out and bears fruit. First however, they should be applauded for having the confidence to launch a new title in what is a difficult press market. Secondly, it’s good news as it offers our clients access to what we already know to be a fruitful audience and in what looks to be a high-quality publication. We have spoken to several of our clients about the magazine as a potential opportunity, as by using it now we also benefit from the initial marketing push the publisher is doing to launch the magazine. However, as with all our clients, this will always be a ‘test and learn’ process to ensure we are generating the right results at the right price, but we wish DC Thomson and Platinum all the best.

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