Monday, April 16, 2012

High end magazine titles in bid for soap glory

Magazine brand extension takes another turn as Condé Nast looks for film/drama/soap spin-offs.

Anyone got good titles for a soap based on Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair or Tatler?

Older readers may remember Compact, but that's probably not the right demographic.

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Panzer publishing Mk2: Landlove vs Landscape

Flicking through these two magazines from Hubert Burda (Landlove) and Bauer Consumer Media (Landscape) is an exercise in instant deja vu: whatever one magazine has, the other has too.

To wit:
• logo with straight type plus scripty bit – check
• guide to bluebell woods – check
• feature about willow weaving – check
• feature about lilac – check
• feature about a cookery writer's delightfully quaint country cottage – check
• seasonal recipes – check
• feature about the Brecon Beacons – check
• seasonal garden tasks – check

It's uncanny. Strangely enough it's easier to tell the difference between these magazines with your eyes shut – Landlove is printed on a nicely tactile grade of matte-finish paper while Landscape uses a semi-gloss.

One other odd thing – while Anna-Lisa De'Ath  (L-love) highlights content and page numbers in her editor's letter, Sheena Harvey (L-scape) does not refer to any content at all in hers. It's almost as if she had no idea of what was going into the magazine.

There's another echo of deja vu in that these magazines are a bit Country Living, a bit Good Housekeeping, a bit Gardeners' World a bit Countryfile and even a bit Living Woods.

Both titles are based on magazines produced in their publisher's home market, Mein Schönes Land (Burda) and Landlust (Bauer) respectively. It is this that recalls the original burst of so-called "Panzer publishing" in the 1980s, when Bauer and Gruner + Jahr  took the women's weekly market by storm from IPC with titles like Bella and Best.

The big question is, do women over 35 (the stated target demographic for both magazines) either want or need even one magazine that seems to replicate large elements of what is already on the market without adding anything very new? As I was unable to see much of a difference between Bella, Best, Woman's Own or Woman's Weekly all those years ago I may be be the best judge of this.

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Signs of life in the magazine market

Three launches on special display in Cardiff Central station's WH Smith.

Intriguingly, all three  – on the face of it – seem aimed at a similar demographic. More detailed review in the next post.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc, Meredith and News Corp may be about to fail

Next Issue Media, an online store for magazines that challenges Apple's Newsstand, is about to launch.

It's a joint venture between Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc, Meredith and News Corp, so there's some serious firepower behind it, but an article in suggests that there may be some fundamental misunderstanding of the market.

In a piece entitled A Netflix For Digital Magazine Subscriptions. Will It Work?, Jeff Bercovici looks behind the scenes and asks CEO Morgan Guenther about the new service. One of the things Guenther says suggests the answer to Bercovici's rhetorical headline may be "No".

Guenther spouts the expected guff about innovation and customer benefits but – for me – gives the game away when he justifies launching with a fairly limited selection of top-selling titles from the group of publishers, titles from the 'short, fat part of the curve rather than the long-tail niche properties ... “These are the titles people care about,” he says. “They aren’t Arctic Birdwatching magazine.”'

If Guenther does not understand that (hypothetical) readers of Arctic Birdwatching are more likely to care passionately and deeply about their magazine than any given reader of a mass circulation title, then he simply does not understand magazines.

It's a classic mistake, one that nearly everyone outside the magazine industry makes.

The other thing Guenther and all the companies involved should be concerned about is the fact that Android users generally do not like to pay for stuff they see on their phones or tablets – that's why they buy Android-powered devices rather than an iPhone or iPad.

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