OPINION13 February 2015

Magazines must adapt to changing reader behaviour


As the latest ABCs show, magazine decline is steadying as these brands extend and target consumers’ passion points. But more still needs to be done as Carat’s head of publishing, Stephanie Arlett, explains

Consumers expect more from brands these days – they want to interact, converse, experience and even contribute. Strong modern magazine brands are now multi-faceted – magazines, websites, apps, social media, events and new revenue areas such as consultancy and content production. 

It is an exciting time for publishing; audiences have more opportunities to interact with magazine brands experientially: Cosmo Fashion Fest, Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery Schools and Wired Events are a few good examples. Marie Claire’s recent announcement that it is to launch into the beauty retail sector in partnership with Ocado is extremely interesting, especially when you consider the strength of magazines to shift product from their pages.

This diversification of revenue streams is really important for publishers who can no longer rely on print revenues alone.

Need to switch off

Another trend emerging is the increasing desire to escape constant multi-screening – we live in an exhaustingly connected world. According to Future Foundation Trending 201565% of Gen Y ( 60% for Gen X, and 58% of Baby Boomers) feel the need to escape emails, texts and calls and switch off.

Magazines offer a break from this; according to Time Inc’s AdSense research, 95% are not multi-tasking when reading, giving people the perfect ‘me time’ (Time Inc Magazine Experience study). 

This may explain why, while the latest ABCs show print decline slowing, the totals are pretty static year-on-year. In fact, 21% of magazines posted a YoY increase. Sectors that did well include Health & Fitness, Cookery and Kitchen, Home Interest and Motoring, showing that magazines’ brands are perfect for targeting passion points.

Women’s Weeklies have struggled particularly the celebrity market, which is unsurprising given the clutter in this sector, as well as the success of Mail Online’s bite size celebrity news, which is ideal for consumption on the go.

Digitisation of media

We cannot, however, underestimate the digitisation of media consumption. Magazine brands have started to adapt with digital editions and a number are enhanced which ABC allows within the classification. 

These have grown 38% YoY but this is from a low base and the totals are still underwhelming. Combining all the average issues this comes to 666k – a far cry from the 46m print number. Of course magazine brands use digital more widely; it is a powerful tool to engage and interact with audiences across a plethora of platforms. 

As tech development costs fall, magazine brands should look to adapt further and develop more bespoke digital experiences, which capitalise on all the strengths that devices offer, such as gamification, video and interactivity. Reach is a challenge, however the real advertiser opportunity is the audience engagement that this platform can offer. There are some really exciting developments starting to happen, such as native formats which combine clients product with editorial content. 

In summary, magazines’ brands are adapting to changing consumer behaviour, but they could be doing more. Magazine brands offer a trusted and influential environment and a passionate and engaged audience, with arguably less brand safety and viewability concerns.

From an advertiser point of view, the real Holy Grail would be for magazine brands to deliver audience reach dynamically across all brand touchpoints, with the right message, at the right time, in the right environment.  

Stephanie Arlett is head of publishing at Carat