Special Report TV Listings

Magazines in their own rightLong used as a reference tool to guide viewers through the multichannel maze of tv land, television listing guides are now becoming magazines in their own right.'Television magazines are constantly evolving and changing,' says Judy Master, STARweek...

Magazines in their own right

Long used as a reference tool to guide viewers through the multichannel maze of tv land, television listing guides are now becoming magazines in their own right.

‘Television magazines are constantly evolving and changing,’ says Judy Master, STARweek Magazine sales manager at The Toronto Star.

‘Many have evolved into something that’s more like a People magazine for television,’ Master says.

‘A light tv viewer is just as likely to be a reader as a heavy one, and that explains a lot about how the magazines are utilized,’ she says.

‘It’s an entertainment magazine and a lifestyle magazine that gives you all kinds of information in addition to the television listings.’

In living rooms across the nation, from Tofino, b.c. to St. John’s, and everywhere in between, folks are engaging in a family-style tug-of-war over what is quickly becoming one of the most popular of all household reading materials.

Catch up on gossip

Some are reading to catch up on the latest Hollywood gossip. Others are checking out the upcoming week in sports or articles about their favorite baseball, basketball and hockey heros.

And many are looking to columns for reviews of recent video releases, to get tips from celebrity cooks, or while away the hours with the crossword puzzle.

‘It’s all part of building reader loyalty,’ says Southam Group TV times Manager Phil Panneton. ‘To do that, you’ve got to offer them a lot more than just the listings.’

A beefed-up menu of television-related stories and columns has meant that readers are looking at their guides more frequently and spending more time reading them, according to many research statistics.

Frequency is a big issue for many advertisers, says TV Guide’s advertising sales director, Fred Sanders.

Effective medium

Sanders says because readers pick up their guides between 12 and 15 times a week, they are an effective medium for getting advertisers’ messages across to consumers.

The hearth and home has become the department store of the ’90s. Burrowed into their cozy dwellings, armchair shoppers are scanning tv magazines for deals.

They are looking for the best buys on everything from vcr rentals to vacuum cleaners, sofas and draperies, fitness clubs, beauty and health items, life insurance and European holidays.

While the Canadian magazine industry has become increasingly verticalized with highly specialized publications continuing to find their way onto the magazine racks, tv listing books maintain their general appeal.

And experts say that may help to explain why the magazines attract such a broad range of advertisers.

‘It’s a unique vehicle because it unifies a highly fragmented television viewing audience,’ says Mark Rousseau, advertising manager, development and services at The Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper in Montreal.

Everybody looks at it

‘Anybody and everybody who watches television looks at it,’ Rousseau says.

Not only does it bring together those who are heavy viewers of shows such as Roseanne and Married…With Children with those who prefer documentaries and newsmagazine programming, it is being consulted by the entire family, adds Lucie Pinsonneault, director of advertising sales at Montreal French-language daily Le Devoir.

‘You’re likely to have three or four readers within the family who are also in very different age groups,’ Pinsonneault says.

‘That’s the primary reason why you see so many different types of advertisers,’ she says. ‘They are trying to reach women, men and their children. And in the case of teenagers, it makes a lot of sense because you can’t normally reach [them] with magazines.’

However, not all tv listings books’ readers are the same.

Because most of the guides are delivered in newspapers – with the exception of Telemedia’s TV Guide and its French-language counterpart, TV Hebdo – the demographic profiles of the tv book readers are as diverse as their respective newspapers.

Recent statistics from NADbank, an annual study of Canadian daily newspaper readership commissioned by the Newspaper Marketing Bureau, which also measures readership of newspaper and non-newspaper tv guides, show readers of The Globe and Mail’s Broadcast Week are more upscale than The Toronto Sun’s TV Magazine.

And STARweek straddles a much wider demographic, as do the TV times books, which are distributed through 18 Southam newspapers and through four independents.

Differences in readership naturally means the various publications attract different advertisers, says Michele Erskine, research manager with Toronto-based Media Buying Services.


At Broadcast Week, advertisers which target a highly educated and affluent audience tend to get results, says the book’s advertising sales manager, Marie Hasnain.

‘We find that advertisers who are projecting quality and image do well with us,’ Hasnain says.

‘In the past, we have had some advertisers who have tried to get quick sales with busy ads, and it hasn’t worked because that’s not what the Globe reader is looking for,’ she says.

The Telemedia publications, TV Guide and TV Hebdo, are somewhat of an anomaly.

More advertisers

Not only are they bought separately from the newspaper, they attract more national advertisers than other tv listings publications.

But they all share some common characteristics.

For example, males and females are nearly equally devoted to their tv listings magazines of choice, Erskine says.

And although nearly everyone consults them, the bulk of the magazines’ readers are between the ages of 25-49, and they tend to own their own homes.

As a result, home improvement-type companies are by far the most prolific users of the guides. Nails and screws, pools and patios, plates and porcelain – they are all there.

Steen Christensen, advertising supervisor of TV times at The London Free Press, the daily newspaper in London, Ont., says 71% of its TV times readers own their homes.

Extra cash

And, with 45% of them boasting household incomes of $50,000 and up, they have plenty of extra cash to spend, Christensen says.

‘People who are reading TV times are spending a lot of time in their homes, and it’s likely that they want it to be as comfortable as possible,’ he says.

‘So, they’re obviously going to be prime candidates for receiving and responding to home improvement kinds of advertising messages – be it for furniture, or drapes, the kitchen, or outdoors, for that matter.’

Leisurely mood

Margot Brown, media director at McKim Baker Lovick/BBDO in Vancouver, says because most tv listings books are read on the weekend when they arrive in the Saturday edition of the newspaper, people are in a leisurely mood and are often more prepared to think about things such as home renovations than at other times during the week.

B.B. Bargoon’s is one home decorating company cashing in on the calm and cocooning mind-set of the typical tv listings reader.

Company Marketing Manager Patricia Andrew says the magazine’s seven-day shelf life is one of the most important reasons for choosing the tv listings books as an advertising vehicle.

B.B. Bargoon’s advertises regularly in STARweek, and to a lesser extent in a number of TV times guides, as well as Broadcast Week.

Andrew says the guides can be used to help support a newspaper campaign.

‘We don’t have enough advertising dollars to be able to do our regular newspaper advertising two or three times a week,’ she says.

‘So, this gives us the opportunity to still be out there and create awareness. It’s a nice stop-gap between what the daily newspaper does and what the magazine does.’

And Andrew says because of the smaller size of the books, it is easier to get readers’ attention with a full-page ad.

Hasnain agrees.

She says that not only does the smaller format garner more attention for those companies placing large ads, but she adds the glossy sections of the magazines offer advertisers more possibilities than a newspaper can.

National advertisers are more frequent users of the glossy section of Broadcast Week, which has a circulation of 333,0000, than local retailers.

However, Hasnain says the glossy pages can still be a more cost-effective buy for high-end retailers than regular newspaper placements.

Many advertisers are also targetting specific sections of the tv listings books.

For example, when the T. Eaton Company placed an ad for Clinique skincare products in STARweek, it chose a spot beside ‘Lilana’s Diary,’ a column about daytime soap operas which is heavily read by women, says Colette Berry, Eaton’s media manager.

And when the Algonquin Brewing Company, which has a 52-week buy in STARweek, wanted to reach beer drinkers, it directed its attention to the tv book’s sports pages, says Drew Knox, vice-president of marketing and sales.

Beer drinkers

‘We think that sports fans are likely to be beer drinkers,’ Knox says.

‘So, when we place a large ad in the sports section of the magazine, and we’re the only ones in there, we think it gives us an opportunity to make a good impression,’ he says.

Master says other advertisers have chosen to cozy up beside the crossword puzzle, with the idea that readers are likely to spend more time there than on the average page.

STARweek is one of the biggest players in the tv magazine market, boasting a readership of 1.5 million in Toronto and a little more than two million across Ontario.

Primary choice

Master says research shows that more than 50% of homeowners aged 25-64, with household incomes of more than $50,000, choose STARweek as their primary tv listing magazine.

According to NADbank statistics, its circulation is growing and it has nearly twice the reach of The Toronto Sun’s TV Magazine readers and five times that of Broadcast Week.

Master says STARweek consumers are loyal readers, evidenced by statistics that show that 75% of readers have read each of the last four issues.

‘The real advantage of STARweek is that no matter what target group an advertiser is trying to reach, our numbers are very strong,’ she says.

‘To be able to reach 50% of a target group in the entire market with one insertion in one magazine – let’s face it – there aren’t too many advertising vehicles that can give you that.’

Variety of approaches

Master says tv magazines can be used in a variety of ways by advertisers.

Beyond the ability to place ads in the glossy section of the magazine or newsprint, as well as beside columns, advertisers can also use stitched-in inserts, or free-standing inserts to deliver their marketing messages.

MeLing Johnston, retail advertising sales manager at The Toronto Sun’s TV Magazine, says that in a multimedia newspaper market, it is difficult to reach an entire market with one publication. She says complementary media buys – buying both TV Magazine and STARweek – can often mean hitting more consumers in one market segment.

Targetted readership

Like the Globe’s tv book, the Sun guide attracts a highly targetted readership. With a circulation upwards of 750,000, it is the second largest player in the Toronto market and it skews a slightly younger audience.

Johnston says direct response companies such as The Franklin Mint and Columbia House are frequent advertisers in the Sun magazine, as well as many home improvement-type companies and advertisers of electronic goods.

Martin Welsh, owner of Kent Leasing in Toronto, which rents appliances including washers and dryers as well as vcrs, says that when he first started advertising in the Sun’s TV Magazine, it was because of the synergy between products like his rental vcrs and tv viewing.

Obviously working

‘Thirteen years later, we’re still there, and we’re advertising different products, too,’ Welsh says. ‘So, it’s obviously working.’

According to Johnston, Sun readers are also heavy tv viewers, with 51% of them watching more than 14 hours of programming every week.

She says because they are spending more time viewing, they are using their guides more frequently and reading them more thoroughly.

However, Panneton does not believe that heavy tv viewers necessarily use their guides more frequently.

Know what’s on

‘I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that anybody who’s watching a lot of television knows exactly what’s on and what channels their shows are on,’ he says.

‘They don’t really need the television listings, although they do read the editorial, very, very heavily.’

Panneton says TV times readers are light tv viewers relative to other listings magazines.

He says they are generally better educated, have a higher disposable income and are more physically and socially active.

That means that they are also more selective in what they watch on tv, and they depend on the guides to plan their viewing.

TV times is distributed in Southam newspapers such as The Gazette, The Vancouver Sun and The Edmonton Journal, as well as independents such as The London Free Press.

Circulation up

It has a national circulation of 2,767,000 – an increase of 7.4% over 1992, according to recent statistics compiled by PMB Print Measurement Bureau, an organization which conducts surveys on the lifestyles and habits of magazine readers.

TV times is also the second-largest magazine in the country, with a 12% share of the total magazine audience, following Reader’s Digest, according to pmb.

Although the ratio of national advertisers to local retailers varies from market to market, about 60% of TV times advertisers are national and 40% local, Panneton says.

And while the Toronto office is responsible for national sales and for all editorial content, individual newspapers generate local advertising sales.

At The Gazette, Rousseau says many advertisers come on board because they want to target anglophones.

‘Look to us’

‘When they’re the only English-language television station in the market, and they want to back up their tv campaign, they look to us,’ he says.

For national advertisers, the reach of the magazine is one of the most important drawing cards, according to Panneton. The magazine is distributed in major markets with the exception of Toronto.

In the past, TV times has tried to entice advertisers with value-added packages.

The magazines have used support teaser campaigns, and they have also worked in conjunction with advertisers to promote forced tuning contests.

(Forced tuning contests are those in which a viewer must watch a program to learn an answer to a contest question.)

Although most tv listings magazines are seeing a rise in circulation, advertising revenues are down, according to many sales managers.

‘It’s been really, really tough,’ Panneton says. ‘A lot of advertisers have been sitting on their hands throughout the recession. But things are already looking up somewhat this fall.’


While revenues are down at TV times, as elsewhere, the recession is the primary reason circulation has increased.

Panneton says the tough economic climate has forced many people to cancel their paid subscriptions and look for free reading material.

In this case, he says it has been TV Guide which has suffered the brunt of the recessionary blow.

However, Sanders says that although circulation has decreased, TV Guide is holding its position relative to other magazines.

‘We sell 850,000 English copies across the country every week,’ he says. ‘And our research shows 85% of all purchasers have a free listing guide in the house. We’ve got to be doing something right.’

More women

The magazine tends to attract more women and younger married couples than its newspaper counterparts, according to Sanders, who says that 66% of all TV Guide purchases are made by women in grocery stores.

Both Telemedia publications have the fattest editorial lineup among tv magazines, with a whopping 40 pages of stories and columns wrapped around its listings.

However, TV Hebdo’s editorial is markedly different, according to Michel Brunette, director of advertising sales.

Brunette says because Quebec has its own star system, and it is a much smaller community, stories are focussed on Quebecois soaps, actors, singers and filmmakers.

Unlike other tv magazines, TV Guide and TV Hebdo compete with magazines such as Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Coup de pouce, L’actualite and Reader’s Digest for national advertisers.


Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Kraft General Foods, General Mills and Ford provide the bulk of TV Guide’s advertising revenues.

However both magazines attract many direct response marketers, who are selling plates, coins and dolls, including The Bradford Exchange and The Hamilton Collection.

Research indicates TV Guide readers are much more predisposed to ordering direct mail merchandise and to using coupons, Sanders says.

That is one reason a co-op envelope was introduced by the magazine this past year. Because of the success of the first envelope, a second one will be distributed through the magazine this fall, he says.

The co-op envelope is being sold to national advertisers, and it carries coupons, gift ideas, samples, product information sheets and household hints.

The benefit to advertisers is that the envelope will give them another chance to reach the magazine’s subscriber list.


Sanders says it is also being offered as a bonus to magazine readers.

Brunette says TV Hebdo is offering advertisers point-of-purchase positioning. Racks in drugstores and supermarkets are set up with slots for advertisers’ messages beside the magazine.

‘It works very effectively because there’s a direct relationship between the campaign going in TV Hebdo and the point-of-purchase material for that same product,’ he says.

Sanders says all of this means that advertisers will continue to flock to tv magazines in the future.

Hasnain agrees.

She says one of the biggest growth areas in advertising is likely to be in fashion and beauty items.

More packaged goods

Panneton says he expects to see more packaged goods advertisers in the not too distant future.

Master says direct response advertisers – anyone looking for coupon feedback such as Columbia House and World Vision – will also be investing more advertising dollars in tv magazines down the road.

She says advertisers will continue to look for creative ways to use the magazines – with better targetting within the guides and with more use of stitched-in and blown-in inserts.

But it is difficult to imagine what tv listings guides will look like in a 500-channel universe.


How will the books be able to document the numbers of programs on tv, let alone provide intelligent commentary about them for their readers? Are readers going to need a crane just to get them into their living rooms?

For his part, Sanders says the need for a tv guide will be even greater as the number of channels continues to expand.

Although he is reluctant to comment on his company’s plans for the future, he says TV Guide could well become the first interactive electronic tv guide, given its positioning as an industry leader.

‘We’ll be there’

‘Whatever may be new in tv listings, we’ll be there,’ Sanders says. ‘But, I don’t think we are anywhere near [the time when] we won’t use a hard product like a TV Guide – not for a long time.’

He says for now, consumers can expect tv magazine publishers will continue to invest in research to find out what readers want, with stories and columns that reflect tv programming trends.

The books have changed dramatically in the 33 years since the first one found its way into the Canadian market.

Panneton says they will continue to evolve with more reviews of first-run movies, books, recordings, and theatre as well as tv.

‘On our wish list for our publication – we’d like to see more of an entertainment magazine than just one for television,’ he says.

‘That will attract a broad range of advertisers. We think magazines that become too vertical will be falling by the wayside.’