How Consumers Read Magazines

For 20 years, the magazine reading habits of Canadian consumers have been the focus of an annual research study conducted by PMB Print Measurement Bureau, a non-profit association of publishers, advertising agencies and advertisers.This year's study was released June 10 in...

For 20 years, the magazine reading habits of Canadian consumers have been the focus of an annual research study conducted by PMB Print Measurement Bureau, a non-profit association of publishers, advertising agencies and advertisers.

This year’s study was released June 10 in Calgary.

PMB ’92 is based on about 15,000 in-home interviews conducted across Canada in 1990 and 1991.

For each annual report, two years’ data are combined, providing a rolling average.

The report provides detailed information on the readers of specific consumer and business publications, their ownership of consumer goods, their use of products, brands and services and their habits and lifestyles.

Information gleaned from the report is used by members in various ways.

Publishers use the data to develop readership profiles, review editorial quality and provide sales support.

Advertising agencies use the information to determine target groups for clients’ products, plan their media strategies and determine prospects for promotional and sponsorship support.

Advertisers use it to analyze markets and monitor consumer attitudes through lifestyle and behavioral data.

PMB ’92 gathered information on 69 publications and 1,115 products and services.

Below is a random selection of findings.

Habits

- Canadian consumers spend an average of four hours and nine minutes per month reading pmb-reported magazines; the average time spent reading all French-language pmb-reported publications is five hours and two minutes.

- The average number of readers per copy of all pmb-reported publications is 2.4; the average number of readers per French-language pmb-reported publications is 3.0.

- Advertisers who place one insertion in all 69 pmb-measured publications could expect to reach 68.7% of the population over the age of 12, with an average frequency of 2.9.

Demographics

- Population growth across Canada was strongest in British Columbia, at 3.6%.

- The Canadian population grew older, with an increase of 3.7% in the 35-49 age group. As well, the number of teenagers increased for the first time in many years, as the children of baby boomers reached adolescence.

- Growth within the professional category was 17.3%, while positions in the clerical and secretarial category declined 5.4%.

- The percentage of Canadians living in households with incomes of more than $75,000 grew 13.7%, while the percentage of Canadians living in households with incomes of less than $20,000 declined 6.6%.

Market comparisons (figures are indexed, with 100 being the average)

- The proportion of consumers driving Ford cars is greatest in Alberta (123), while in b.c., Japanese cars tend to be the most popular (142.)

- In Vancouver, there is a balanced use of banks to trust companies (115), while in Quebec City, the use of credit unions or the caisse populaire is nearly three times the average, at 272.

- Scotch whiskey drinkers attend live theatre performances more than twice as often as average (205). Baseball fans eat a greater proportion of frozen dinners (142) than live theatre goers (93.)

Demographic breakdown

Of advertising/media decision-makers, 41% are age 30-44; 34% have some university education or a university degree; 47% believe there is too much sex in advertising; 76% say they are conservationists; 18% say they are swingers; and 43% consider themselves stylish.

INSIDE

In this special report, Strategy asked a cross-section of consumers to tell us about their magazine reading habits.

The object of these articles is to provide marketers and advertisers with some insight into how consumers from different demographic segments interact with the medium – what motivates them to read magazines, how they approach the task, and whether advertising affects their decision to buy particular products.

Accompanying each of the 13 articles, which begin on this page with David Balcon and Tom McSorley, are statistical profiles supplied by Joanne Van der Burght, director of operations at the PMB Print Measurement Bureau.

The figures, culled from pmb’s 1992 research study, are intended to provide a snapshot of the demographic sample which the contributor represents.

David Balcon

The world contained between glossy covers

I love magazines. I am hooked on this form of journalism and entertainment. There is something about a glossy cover and well-laid out pages – the color and good graphics get me every time.

Editorially, a magazine can cater to my specialized and eclectic tastes. This way, it fulfills my need to escape for a half-hour or so: instead of daydreaming, I will meander through a wine or cooking or travel magazine.

On an airplane, it is perfect for bringing variety to an otherwise routine few hours in the air. Well-thought out essays will introduce me to viewpoints I may not always agree with, but value having been exposed to.

I subscribe to about 20 magazines – Canadian, American and British. The bill – excluding the trades, which I read for my consulting business – exceeds $1,500 annually. And this does not include the ones I regularly pick up at the Hub Smoke Shop here in Edmonton, or when I travel.

My first stop in London – after the hotel – is the magazine department at Selfridge’s or Harrod’s. In Sydney, it is a nameless shop in King’s Cross. In Toronto, Lichtman’s at the Atrium on Bay.

Such indulgent, but necessary, stops will cost me a minimum of $25, often more.

I have just returned from a one-week business trip to New York, Baltimore and Washington and find a pile of more than 20 magazines in the accumulated mail.

This is my normal procedure: separate the trade from the general, special interest and business magazines; scan the covers to get an idea of their contents; put the trades aside (Playback, Electronic Media, Variety, Proscenium) and a pile of business ones (Business Week, The Economist, Inside Guide) for later review.

Dozen U.S. mags

I then unpack a carrier bag and add a dozen or so u.s. magazines not generally available up here. They go into my third pile: the general and special interest one and are stacked by order of ‘to be scanned’ in bed that night (Equinox, Saturday Night, Utne Reader, Decanter, Wine Tidings, Travel and Leisure, This Magazine, Futurist, Privilege, Frequent Flyer, Executive Travel, Ms., Z, West, The Nation.)

Obviously, all this print cannot be consumed in a single sitting.

What I do is scan through each magazine, stopping occasionally at an article or ad, noting what will be of most interest to me when a few hours for reading are available.

Those hours are scattered through the week: at the end of a work day, during a solo lunch, on the bus or in a cab, before going to bed, on a rainy weekend afternoon.

As you can see from the list of what I read, my tastes are eclectic. However, many magazines are political or deal with social issues in Canada and the u.s.

I thrive on being exposed to all views and opinions and look for ‘alternative press’ magazines. (Many of these eschew advertising). I also find digests such as the Utne Reader of value in bringing together articles from many sources, grouped into themes.

Some magazines I prefer to keep intact and I will do so for their ‘table life.’ When the next issue arrives, I may tear out an article or two of special interest and file it away – or make a copy and pass it on to a friend.

Some magazines I store away and every couple of years I go through them, pulling out articles which might be of future use. This is particularly true for travel and cooking magazines.

A few others, such as Decanter, Wine Tidings, Equinox, Utne Reader and Futurist, I keep forever and often re-read or use for reference.

I am, perhaps, most destructive with business magazines.

I will scan them for content and then tear out just the articles I want to read. These I put into a file folder and save up for reading on airplanes, or on weekends. I will pause at certain dense amounts of information that could be useful. I keep some ads, particularly for products or services that might be bought or used in the near future.

Trades are read during office hours and stored for future reference. Useful articles are photocopied and filed. Depending upon the project on which I am working, new magazines may be added and broaden my world.

New range

(At present, I am involved in a major television series on agriculture, so have begun to look at a whole new range of magazines on farming, food processing and raising animals.)

All of this reading also helps in ‘environmental scanning,’ an aspect of my consulting work. So even my personal reading can be somehow related to work.

As to the matter of improvement over the past five years, I think the editorial quality varies greatly, but most have improved (as has the range of Canadian ones.)

I do, however, regret the loss of weekend newspaper magazine supplements such as those still found in the u.s. and u.k. (The New York Times, The Washington Post, and British dailies The Times and The Independent.)

My biggest complaint is still Canada Post’s inability to deliver most magazines on a reasonable timetable.

David Balcon, 44, is the founder of Edmonton-based Northwest Research Consulting, specializing in cultural industries and broadcasting. He is a former journalist and public servant.

Demographic description – Male, living in Edmonton, age 40-49

46% Have 2+ credit cards.

40% Have taken steps to reduce cholesterol.

23% Have Japanese vehicle in household.

75% Use bank for regular banking.

66% Eat at take-out restaurants.

80% Eat at fast food restaurants.

5% Have written to editor of newspaper/magazine in past five years.

39% Attend hockey.

12% Participate in archery.

13% Participate in curling.

47% Shop at supermarket 1+ times a week.

77% Find advertising an important source of information.

63% Would pass up favorite brand if something else on sale.

Tom McSorley

Mags are `storehouses of popular culture’

The word ‘magazine’ originates from the Arabic ‘makzan,’ or storehouse. Hence, its affiliation with the French word for store, ‘magasin.’

This etymological root is revealing, as magazines are, by their organization and design, collections or storehouses of information about, and expressions of, popular culture.

Deeper than this, magazines can be seen as storehouses of cultural memory, perched somewhere between the permanence of books and the impermanence of newspapers and television.

I read a lot of magazines. Actually, in my job as magazine critic for CBC-Radio’s Prime Time, I read many different, peculiar, downright bizarre magazines.

Wandering in and out of the diverse ‘storehouses’ of our culture is a valuable, if occasionally disturbing, anthropological process.

Not everyone buys magazines in this way, but it is worth looking around a magazine store sometime, just to see the range of publications available.

Every conceivable interest appears to have its own magazine, from guns to genitalia, movies to make-up, cars to computers, pets to politics, sports to science, motorcycles to meditation, fashion to facism. The selection is staggering.

In addition to my ‘professional’ approach to magazine consumption, however, I also buy various publications, like most people, about subjects which interest me: movies, books, politics, music, and, in moments of exquisite nostalgia for younger days, hockey.

I usually read them cover to cover, and prefer publications that are well-written (although, in the case of hockey magazines, I am forced to make vast and numerous exceptions.)

In fact, I often scan the contributors’ list before buying the magazine. Graphic design is important, but magazines such as Ms., Harper’s, and others, which place content over form, are my preference.

Glossy, slick, vacuous magazines abound on magazine racks, but constitute little more than wasted paper, and offer about as much intellectual nourishment as a McDonald’s pizza. Our world is already saturated with images, so give me a magazine to read, not to look at.

Editorial content

In my view, editorial content is the most important consideration in judging a magazine.

Low budget publications such as New Maritimes, or This Magazine, are far more rewarding to read than expensive, tawdry confections such as Details and Entertainment Weekly.

Advertising content is also important, however. Although most do not, some advertisers presume that those who see their ads are intelligent, mature human beings.

This presumption of intelligence should be the rule, not the exception. Where you find it, reward the advertiser, as you do the magazine, with your business.

The late Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges once observed: ‘Life is short; read good books.’ This principle must apply to magazines as well.

If a magazine fails to do more than simply amuse or entertain, stop buying it. Indeed, if you spend an average of $25 monthly on magazines, critical discrimination is essential.

Browsing through the many and varied ‘storehouses’ the world of magazines offers, it is important to find publications that transcend the merely ephemeral. When I discover such ‘storehouses,’ I subscribe.

Be demanding of the ‘storehouse’ you enter. After all, it is your culture, your memory, and ultimately – dare I say it – your life.

Tom McSorley, 31, lives in Ottawa and reviews magazines for CBC-Radio’s Prime Time.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Ottawa/Hull, age 25-34

60% Would pass up favorite brand if something else on sale.

81% Stick with brands they like.

55% Buy products for convenience, not cost.

11% Have spent over $1,500 in the past 12 months on clothing.

6% Drink 10+ ounces of liquor in an average week.

69% Have 2+ credit cards.

65% Eat at take-out restaurants.

27% Are active in civic/social issues.

31% Have written to public official in past five years.

26% Attend music concerts – classical.

78% Entertain at home.

5% Participate in knitting.

34% Participate in downhill skiing.

60% Shop at supermarket 1+ times a week.

Dick Veenis

Looking to magazines for the in-depth news picture

Magazines provide me with detailed information and analysis of events which have been reported in other media.

Maclean’s, Newsweek and The Economist are magazines I enjoy reading, as well as the journal published by my professional association.

In large measure, I am a creature of habit, reading the same magazines on a regular basis. On occasion, I am attracted to a magazine that headlines a subject in which I am interested.

I subscribe to the magazines mentioned above, however, if I find myself with time to kill, I will scan the magazine racks for a title featuring a subject of interest.

In reading a magazine, I review the index and look for articles of particular interest. I read these and then I begin reading from front to back, article by article.

Some articles I read thoroughly and others I skim, depending on the depth of my interest.

I lived out of the country for long periods in recent years, in areas not blessed with good news coverage and it is impossible to express the joy provided by having access to an old copy of one of the better magazines – no matter how old.

In the course of reading a magazine, I glance at the ads, and in the case of an ad which deals with something I am interested in, I will read it carefully.

As an example, if I am in the market for a car or a major appliance, I like to read of the various features available and the claims made by manufacturers about their product. If my interest is aroused by the information, I will investigate more fully at the dealer.

In retirement, I read fewer magazines, having discontinued reading trade periodicals and specialized magazines relating to my vocation.

It is hard to judge if the quality of magazines has improved over the years. One’s interest in a magazine, in my opinion, is more a question of whether the editor or editorial policy or format of the magazine appeals to one’s taste.

Considering the wealth of information, the modern communications networks and the skilled staff now available, magazines can and should be good.

Dick Veenis is a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Callander, Ont.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Ontario, retired, bachelor’s degree

76% Have 2+ credit cards.

62% Have taken steps to reduce cholesterol.

88% Have British vehicle in household.

77% Have done home improvements/renovations in past two years.

73% Use banks for regular banking.

31% Eat at private clubs.

15% Have taken 3+ pleasure trips (1-3 nights away) in past 12 months.

11% Have taken 3+ vacation trips (4+ nights away) in past 12 months.

56% Eat at high quality restaurants.

38% Are active in civic/social issues.

29% Attend baseball.

50% Have written to public official in past five years.

53% Attend live theatre.

Eric Summerley

Artifacts of their epochs

While I read about 200 magazines each year, albeit perfunctorily, I am not an avid media ‘consumer.’

I do not buy magazines, and there are none beside my toilet. The only collection I have consists of a few years of second-hand National Geographics.

Magazines, however, are one of my primary research sources. Thanks to the intended transience of the media, a magazine is an artifact of its epoch.

Everything about the magazine – the ads, articles, photographs, and overall aesthetic speak specifically about the cultural mythology they are intended for. They can be narrowed down to any subject, any country, any social group.

There is no special interest left untouched for long; any new hobby, trend or technology is accompanied by a few new magazines. Which is perfect for my purposes.

Whenever I begin the research for the design of a play, especially 20th-century works, I end up in the magazine section of the library.

From old editions of Vogue for the upper class, to old Good Housekeeping for a better picture of the less affluent, I find ample costume references.

Architectural and decorating magazines give a good deal of information for furniture, props and settings. Old news magazines recall in pictures the concerns of the time, and family magazines spell out the mores and gender politics of the middle class.

In all, the ads are fascinating. For one, they are a good source for period props and graphic styles. They also illuminate the aspirations and codes of the era and social group.

Alcohol advertising, for example; from the 1950s depiction of the happy husband and his glass of whisky after work, to the ’70s swinger party recipes guaranteed to loosen things up, to the rather abstracted product image ads of our time.

There are little clues in every page of these magazines, and they become more obvious as one looks further into the past.

Having the chance to spend so much time with a range of magazines from our century, I can certainly say they look much better today, with a perhaps more seductive aesthetic than ever before.

Our mythology

However, we cannot really see past our own time, or through our own mythology, so I assume that in 20 years a magazine from today will seem as naive as those from the 1960s seem now.

For my own interests as a consumer, I always mean to take out subscriptions for various theatre, fashion and architectural magazines. When I am past my student budget I will, but I know that it really takes about 10 years before a magazine becomes valuable to me.

It is having access to a good range of material spanning several years that would appeal to my needs.

I have seen some rather distilled ‘best of’ collections offered by various publishers, but what would really benefit me, and perhaps others in my field, are collections of whole back issues, if they were available.

Eric Summerley, 24, lives in Montreal and is a student at the National Theatre School of Canada.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Montreal, student with part-time job

42% Use Caisse Populaire for regular banking.

94% Eat at fast food restaurants.

52% Eat at high quality restaurants.

73% Attend baseball games.

68% Attend hockey games.

99% Attend movies.

41% Attend live theatre.

92% Participate in bicycling.

62% Exercise at home.

60% Use convenience stores 1+ times a week.

70% Stick to brands they like.

53% Find advertising an important source of information.

63% Look for convenience, not cost, when buying products.

Greg Burliuk

Pleasure of reading comes first

Magazines are my drinking buddies. I turn to them to relax, listen to a good yarn and generally feel good about things.

I look forward to reading them with delicious anticipation, and when a favored one arrives at home, I plan its reading as carefully as a general would a military campaign.

It is not that I do not read magazines to become more informed, but the pleasure of reading the articles has to come first.

And since you should never choose a fellow carouser lightly, that is why I do not often buy from the newsstand but, instead, tend to be a subscriber.

Right now I take Sports Illustrated, Premiere and National Geographic, while our household receives Parent Magazine.

My magazine buying habits have stayed roughly the same for the last 10 years (I have always taken Sports Illustrated, but other magazines such as Rolling Stone and Omni took the place of Premiere and National Geographic.) I spend $10 a month on magazines.

If I had to live on a desert island, I would like Sports Illustrated and National Geographic with me.

That is because both of those magazines have exceptional photography and a high standard of writing. To me, a great story has a high degree of drama in it, whether it be humor, tragedy or violence.

I tend to read magazines in their entirety (although not from cover to cover) because many times I have been pleasantly surprised by articles I was not attracted to initially.

When I am reading a magazine, I tend to save the article I am most interested in to the end, and mix up the rest, alternating appealing with non-appealing ones.

Because the headlines in magazines tend to be atmospheric rather than informative, I do not often pay much attention to them. Although I would hate to see magazines without graphics or photography, it is ultimately the stories I enjoy the most.

Because the magazines are my buddies, I do not tend to share them with others, except in conversation. I do not often pay much attention to ads, unless they, like the stories I enjoy, have some element of drama in them.

As shiny as it may be, shots of a new car leave me cold, no matter how much the captions tell me I am supposed to want it.

Free offers and coupons seem like too much trouble to be bothered with, although I always try the samplers of cologne that sometimes come in magazines.

Advertising I have enjoyed recently includes: a Father’s Day ad for Game Boy by Nintendo, in which a man is shown doing chores around the house. Because he is shot from above, he looks as if he is part of a video game. Also a running shoe ad which puts a professional basketball player in a dress and pretends he is a grandmother.

I have found the quality of magazines has gone downhill in the last 10 years. First of all there are fewer stories inside an issue, and the ones that do appear sometimes reveal the writer is not seasoned enough.

Greg Burliuk, 42, has been a newspaper reporter for 20 years, the last 14 of which have been spent as an entertainment writer at The Whig-Standard, a daily newspaper in Kingston, Ont.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Ontario, reporter, age 40-59

60% Have North American vehicle in household.

58% Use bank for regular banking.

55% Eat at take-out restaurants.

56% Eat at high quality restaurants.

38% Attend hockey games.

26% Have written to public official in past five years.

42% Attend live theatre.

22% Attend auto racing.

32% Participate in woodworking.

48% Participate in bicycling.

40% Exercise at home.

38% Participate in golf.

52% Would pass up favorite brand if something else on sale.

84% Stick with brands they like.

48% Look for convenience, not cost, when buying products.

Steve Calderhead

Eclectic sampling falls under a curious gaze

My magazine habit is sporadic. I subscribe to This Magazine (a lefty rag out of Toronto), but I read just about any magazine that I come across.

This includes the usual: Time, Saturday Night, Maclean’s, Vancouver (they give the darn thing away); and at my parents’ place I glance at Gourmet and Canadian Living – I am not terribly discriminating if I am not buying, but I am curious.

If I have little time to read, I tend to stick with the serious stuff, but it is not unusual for me to spend an evening reading about some snob travelling the Tuscany region sampling the local fare.

Advertising in general magazines does not attract my attention unless it is of an unusual nature. Display ads tend to be more predictable and boring. The specialty magazine ads are more interesting partly, I suppose, because I see them less often and they rely less on lifestyle images (you know, breasts and beer).

Ads do not affect my decision to buy unless there is some indication there might be fewer of them. I have a feeling women tend to buy fashion magazines primarily for the photos, but also for the ads. I used to buy ski magazines for the same purpose. I no longer buy ski magazines.

Generally speaking, I feel the quality of u.s. news magazines has taken a dive. Time seems to feature soft issues on its cover; I suppose it is an attempt to capture fleeing readership, but that kind of People magazine stuff will only make me run faster.

Canadian magazines will probably follow suit years down the road, but, so far, they seem to be holding their own.

Steve Calderhead, 31, is a constituency assistant for an ndp mla in Vancouver.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Vancouver, bachelor’s degree

75% Use banks for regular banking.

24% Have written to editor of newspaper/magazine in past five years.

78% Eat at high quality restaurants.

55% Attend live theatre.

58% Participate in gardening.

63% Exercise at home.

42% Participate in tennis.

43% Participate in golf.

53% Shop at supermarket 1+ times a week.

70% Would buy extra, if usual brand on special.

62% Find advertising an important source of information.

Leon Stark

Magazines a hobby for supermarket worker

My interests include computers, photography, long-distance running, audio and video reproduction, and the world of business as it relates to personal financial planning.

My hobby is keeping abreast of new developments in these fields.

I visit book stores once a week to find magazines that cater to my interests. My favorite publications are P.C. World, Byte, Shutterbug, Photo Life, Runner’s World, Ultra High Fidelity, Audio Ideas Guide, The Perfect Vision and Canadian Moneysaver.

These specialist journals are found in book stores, such as Lichtman’s News and Books, which have a multitude of magazine racks.

The employees of this store are incredibly patient, allowing me to peruse their periodicals until my legs ache, my hands tremble, and my vision begins to dim.

Of course, this process is hastened by the absence of seating and the constant jostling of my fellow browsers.

Perhaps the fact that I am a regular customer who spends about $60 per month at their store grants me freedom from baleful glares and snide remarks.

Several years ago, I was a timid sort of person who dared not scan more than a couple of periodicals before selecting one to buy; indeed, I often limited my browsing to reading the headlines on the covers of magazines.

Today, I am the bane of every store owner who tries to make a living selling journals.

I read as much as possible for free and I only buy publications that contain articles with sufficiently complex concepts as to require careful study to fully comprehend.

Such difficult reading is best done at home with the aid of a pot of coffee, a comfortable chair and the total absence of distractions.

This ruthless selection process has enabled me to keep the cost of my reading matter constant over the last 10 years, even though the number of magazines I examine has increased.

Having gone to such great lengths to decide which publications are worth owning, is it any wonder that I refuse to lend them to my friends and associates?

My collection would end up looking like those shop-worn, dog-eared, germ-infested specimens that I left behind at the book store.

I look at magazines from the first to the last page, scanning articles and advertising for interesting information. I examine pictures and bold type to decide if the fine print merits my attention.

I like advertising that describes ‘top-of-the-line, no-compromise’ products that define the state of the art; in other words, products that cannot be improved due to the limits of modern technology.

I want advertisements to give comprehensive technical specifications of these products so that I can compare them to their competitor’s versions.

At this point in my life, I believe that advertising does little more than pique my interest in products that I am considering buying.

I trust the advice, based on real life experience with consumer products, of magazine writers, more than the glib promises of advertising copy.

My job gives me access to many publications that I would not normally dwell on. The night crew spends four hours per week on meal breaks, which take place near magazine racks adjacent to the cash registers.

The journals our store sells are intended for female shoppers and the selection includes Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan.

When I browse through these periodicals, I must admit that I do little more than admire the photographs of beautiful female models. Sometimes I am a very shallow person.

Leon Stark, 32, works the night shift at a Toronto supermarket. He lives in nearby Mississauga, Ont.

Demographic description Ñ Male, living in Toronto, high school education, age 25-34

57% Have 2+ credit cards.

7% Drink 10+ ounces of liquor in an average week.

44% Have taken steps to reduce cholesterol.

10% Have European vehicle in household.

81% Use banks for regular banking.

81% Eat at take-out restaurants.

92% Eat at fast food restaurants.

7% Are active in civic/social issues.

22% Attend horse-racing.

15% Attend wrestling.

15% Have written to public official in past five years.

20% Attend music concerts – jazz.

13% Participate in sailing/windsurfing.

Gianna Wichelow

`Addict’ averages 10 magazine purchases per month

I am probably a magazine addict.

There are months when I manage to restrict myself to buying four or five. Other months I can buy as many as 14 or 15.

The price is usually of little consequence to me. I do not browse at magazine shelves in stores; I just pick them up and buy them, as I feel guilty standing around and flipping. I do not have subscriptions.

The magazines that interest me most are: fashion, decorating and entertainment.

What generally grabs my eye is a beautiful cover that I would like to emulate in some way (an interior design shot, or a model whose make-up I think I could copy); or a must-read headline (something that relates to a situation of mine or seems perfectly suited to my self-improvement.)

What makes me actually buy the magazine is the possibility of self-improvement, as they seem to offer such appealing quick-fixes.

This has backfired in one instance. I will never buy Cosmopolitan again as it seems to delight in changing its mind about everything from month to month (‘The New Make-up’ – every month? – ‘Why you should be married and have a lover on the side’ or, ‘Why you should be monogamous’or, ‘Why you shouldn’t be married’).

Cruel trick

It is a cruel psychological trick. The reader never feels quite good enough, and has to keep buying the magazine to keep up with the agenda of self-improvement.

The magazines I buy on a regular basis are: Mirabella, Glamour, World of Interiors and Home and Garden.

As I love going to the movies, I generally pick up a couple of entertainment magazines: People, Us and Premiere. I have a great curiosity about pop culture.

Stiff inserts

When I first sit down with the magazine, I tear out all the stiff inserts that get in the way of a smooth flip-through. I throw them away wit