Magazines hang on in tough times

2009-11-21 13:18

GLOSSY women’s magazines appear to be dealing with the recession better than the rest of the print industry.

According to the latest figures ­released by the Audit Bureau of ­Circulations, there was a 4% drop in magazine circulation from July to September this year compared to the same period last year.

This is against an average drop of 10% for newspapers over the same period.

That magazines are showing resilience in these tough times is ­rather surprising, given that consumers seem to be pinching their pennies even more now.

Andreline van Tonder, associate publisher with Associated Magazines, says the stable has become conservative with its print orders to contain costs. This has seen titles in their stable hold steady.

Van Tonder says fashion magazine Cosmopolitan has seen a slight slide in sales, but its readership jumped from 823 000 to 984 000, ­according to the latest Amps data.

“The result of this is that our ­readers are sharing the magazine among each other during recession, but they are reading it now more than ever. We believe this is a temporary adjustment during the recession and that sales will recover after the recession,” she says.

Marie Claire has been the most stable of all Associated Magazines titles. The stable’s House & Leisure had a price increase earlier this year.

“We have had a new editor for House & Leisure since April and she has brought back the heart of the magazine,” says van Tonder

“People are flocking back to House & Leisure because of its ­focus on stylish, contemporary ­editorial content and focus on living the South African dream,” she adds.

Thought24, which houses Media24’s magazines targeted at black readers, True Love and Move, says it experienced a dip in circulation and advertising revenue, but not at an alarming rate.

“True Love and Move are the ­largest brands in their segment of the market and there is a desire by advertisers to win more of our ­target market,” says Jonathan ­Harris, chief executive and publisher of Thought24.

Liezl de Swardt, publisher of Woman360, says a more cautious and discerning consumer is buying magazines this year.

“Many women a year ago may have loaded two or three magazines into their shopping basket without giving it a second thought.

“Now they are choosing more carefully and buying only their very favourite ­titles,” she says.

Woman360 houses Fairlady, Femina, Psychologies, Sarie, Leef, Your Pregnancy, Your Baby and Baba & Kleuter. Its star titles are the iconic Fairlady and Sarie.

“During tough times, consumers tend to gravitate towards the brands they know and trust.

“The resilience of brands like Sarie and Fairlady bears testimony to this. Value for money and editorial relevance are always important but become deal-breakers during tough times,” says De Swardt.

Even those buyers who had been loyal readers of specific magazines for years would stop buying a brand that did not deliver content that was pertinent to their ­situation.

According to the circulation figures, fourth-quarter performance will be the key to the market regaining confidence in the consumer magazines segment.

Business and lifestyle magazine Destiny, which was launched at the beginning of the financial crisis, has managed to treble its readership to 186 000 in two years.

The magazine’s founding editor, Khanyisile Dhlomo, says the remarkable resilience of magazines in these tough times lies in their ­escapist ­appeal.

“Magazines that provide either some form of escapism from tough economic times, or useful coping mechanisms or strategies for success in tough times, are all doing well despite recessionary pressure.

“Most of the world’s international fashion glossies that are showing steady growth have added tangible recession antidotes to their editorial mix. This is evident in their ­enthusiastic adoption of words like “recessionista” and “chiconomics”, she says. “Both words refer to women who are fashion- or style-conscious but also acutely aware of the recession and are being frugal.

“These words’ underlying ethos really resonates with consumers who are managing their finances more carefully. They are words which are all about how to spot a good bargain and maintain a glamourous, fashionable image in tough economic times,” she says.

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