Fast-to-change SA consumer mags are thriving
Not that it’s plain-sailing for the magazine industry, as we saw in last week’s release of the fourth-quarter Audit Bureau of Circulations of SA (ABC) figures for 2012.
Just like newspapers, many magazine titles are suffering sales decline but it’s not across the board – there are more than a handful that are bucking the trend and some that are doing very well.
Take a look at these three graphs showing how consumer magazines have done over the past four years compared with daily and weekend newspapers. There is a slump in consumer magazines in the last half of 2012 but it is very different from the consistent downwards trend suffered by newspapers over the past four years.
Courtesy of ABC presentation of Q4 2012 figures
Courtesy of ABC Q4 2012 presentation
Courtesy of ABC Q4 2012 presentation (see link to full document at bottom of story)
Is it a case, one wonders, in these straightened economic times of consumers taking money they might have spent on a newspaper and buying their favourite magazine every month instead?
This might well be the case in the lower LSM groups – where, for example, female Afrikaans readers are not buying the Son newspaper but opting for Kuier magazine.
In the high LSM groups, I think newspapers and magazines are totally different purchasing decisions.
And while magazines have the advantage of being more niche – and more engaged with their audience because of this – they have also been quicker to change with the times than newspapers.
Most of SA’s magazines leapt into online and social networks, eventing and email newsletters with great enthusiasm long before newspapers did. They started talking about “brands” and “audience” – rather than “titles” and “readers” – and delivering content on many platforms while looking for diversified income streams before newspapers.
While the big newspaper houses were held back by traditional cost structures and also by big corporates’ natural tendency to protect traditional income streams, there was flexibility in the magazine industry coming from the smaller, more nimble independent firms such as Associated Media and RamsayMedia.
As they experimented, they learned more about building brand loyalty among the fickle media consumers of today and these are the brands that we see thriving today.
So which magazines are doing well? Have a look the top performers in Q4 2012:
Courtesy of ABC Q4 2012 presentation
The very niche and small-circulation Expatriate SA and HQ Pony are not particularly interesting but, once again, we have Media24’s fortnightly Kuier magazine – launched in 2009 and which is very strong on human-interest stories – top of the pops.
This magazine is a phenomenon and it has been amazing to see how it has grabbed hold of a substantial gap in the market: that of Afrikaans-speaking coloured women.
When the third-quarter ABC figures for 2012 came out, I spoke to Kuier editor Kay Karriem about the secret of her mag’s success and she told me it filled two important gaps in the Afrikaans market: for coloured women and for a mid-market product (for LSM 6-8).
She said her team was very conscious of the fact – especially given the current economic climate – that the magazine differentiated itself from others by offering real value for money. “Our focus is on extreme customer care… While we inform and educate and do all of those things, our main priority is to engage. You should be able to identify with what goes on in the magazine… so that we reflect the readers’ reality but we also want them to be comfortable.”
Karriem told me then that she believed that there was more room to grow precisely because of the country’s tough economic conditions and because Kuier is constantly examining its value proposition. And, looking at the Q4 2012 figures, she was right.
While I’m not sure of the backstory of Caxton’s Living and Loving parenting magazine at this stage, it is worth noting that Associated Media’s mags were generally up while RamsayMedia’s – previously the star of the show with Popular Mechanics (this time down to 43 863 from 50 585) – were generally down.
Both firms went through top-level change in the last part of last year – with Associated getting a new group publishing director in Adrian Pickstock and Ramsay losing its well regarded MD, Stuart Lowe. I guess change sits well with some and less so with others.
Of Associated’s titles that put on circulation, we have:
Cosmopolitan went up from 81 406 total circulation in Q4 2011 to 86 885 in Q4 2012;
Good Housekeeping increased from 59 814 to 70 932 (but bear in mind there is a deliberate strategy of sampling quite a lot of copies because the brand is still new in SA);
Marie Claire rose from 37 439 to 41 137; and
House and Leisure went from 38 338 to 44 630 year-on-year.
Clearly Kuier, Living and Loving and the Associated titles are doing something right – as are the following titles (bearing in mind these are total circulation figures so you do have to scrutinise incentivised sales, free and back copies):
Caxton’s Bona: up from 95 261 in 2011 to 97 190 in 2012;
Reader’s Digest SA: up from 35 833 to 40 269 (the mag was also up in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the corresponding period a year earlier);
Gisele Wertheim Aymés’ Longevity: up from 20 582 to 22 339;
Times Media Group’s Elle Decoration: up from 22 130 to 23 630;
Times Media’s Elle: up from 38 891 to 43 820;
Caxton’s SA Garden and Home: up from 34 935 to 37 824;
Media24’s Fairlady: up from 48 789 to 57 522 (a notable turn-around here: the magazine’s Q3 2012 circ was 53 436 compared with 56 986 in Q3 2011);
Media24’s Ideas: up from 88 452 to 91 905; and
Caxton’s Woman and Home: up from 59 860 to 60 187.
Find more ABC analysis here
– SA’s leading media commentator, Gill Moodie, offers intelligence on media – old and new. Reprinted from her site Grubstreet.