by Herman Manson (@marklives) While her rivals are seeing circulation declines Kate Wilson, editor of Women’s Health SA, just saw the title’s total paid circulation rise 8.4% year-on-year to reach 78 791. Women’s Health has now overtaken both Cosmopolitan and Glamour’s total paid circulation figures.

But Wilson isn’t building a magazine brand, she says, instead she is building a multi-platform content brand. In fact Women’s Health SA Kate Wilsonlaunched a website in the country before the physical magazine arrived and has built various digital content modules into the Women’s Health brand strategy. Extensions like DVD and booklet cover mounts often draw from other aspects of the business (so a booklet might contain extracts from a book you get to order from the publisher). Next year will see events placed into the mix.

Of course the brand could also draw on the visibility of sibling Men’s Health which Wilson says helps double the facings of for her magazine.

But ultimately it is the service journalism in the health and wellness field particularly that has near universal appeal. Wilson says she won’t apologise for the ‘layer of superficiality’ in women (or anybody else) wanting to look their best. For Wilson looking your best translates into feeling your best and health, nutrition and weight-loss are all issues we have some control over in a time of great economic uncertainty.

Women’s Health also encourages its resident experts and columnists to maintain media visibility and this network keeps reinforcing the Women’s Health brand where-ever they go.

Content is skewed 60-40 in favour of local contributions and its 60% black audience means most of the fashion shoots are done locally rather than sourced from the States. Sex and beauty content is approached from a more scientific angle than you will find in most women’s magazines says Wilson. The food pages also tend to be local to ensure they cater to local tastes. It helps the magazine feel authentically South African and Wilson argues it should discourage (cheaper) digital subscriptions to the parent title in the States.

Wilson reveals she works quite closely with the Women’s Health editor in Australia – the global brand allows her to tap in experience and best practice in any number of countries. At the moment Women’s Health is launching three to four new international editions every year. Apparently Oz picks ups quite a bit of syndicated content from Women’s Health South Africa.

The brand is still in a growth phase says Wilson and the title generally do better in summer though she is working on extending the content offering into a suitable winter read as well. So don’t expect similar growth rates in winter months as the magazine has seen this past summer, says Wilson, at least for now.

More digital offerings are in the pipeline including a possible app around Women’s Health Food – a section which focuses on nutritional advice women's health sex issuewith a South African flavour.

Sex of course remains a selling point and is in line with the brand positioning as a women’s interest title rather than purely a health and fitness title. Its approach to sex is more candid than that of the US magazine partly because its audience tend to be younger and Joburg based and therefore more open to sexual health dialogue says Wilson. The focus is also less on pleasing your partner – the staple for many a magazine story – and more on the self.

Wilson acknowledges the tough economic climate and says consumers are becoming more price sensitive – something to consider when deciding whether to adjust cover pricing up or down with the announcement that 5c coins will no longer be minted.

The market is also heavily traded and Wilson will be keeping an eye out on newly launched Grazia (also by parent company Media24). Fair Lady recently dropped its cover price while Elle and Glamour are making increasing use of gifts bagged with the mag to drive sales.

Ad pages hover at around 30% of the book depending on what supplements the magazine carries. Wilson expects circulation to settle at the 80 000 mark over the long term. Subscriptions are close to 9000 and are something the title will keep pushing through deals with partners like Discovery Vitality and others.

The multi-platform nature of the Women’s Health product offering coupled with investment in South African flavoured content bodes well for its future as it taps into the global health zeitgeist that shows no signs of slowing down and is firmly establishing itself in the South African consciousness. As magazine brands decline content brands are proving their value and relevance in a changed market environment.

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