Specialty mags on the rise

Just as specialty channels are stealing audience share from traditional television networks, so vertical-interest magazines are gaining ground on more general-interest titles, a recent study by PMB Print Measurement Bureau appears to confirm. Steve Ferley, president of the magazine readership research...

Just as specialty channels are stealing audience share from traditional television networks, so vertical-interest magazines are gaining ground on more general-interest

titles, a recent study by PMB Print Measurement Bureau appears to confirm.

Steve Ferley, president of the magazine readership research body, says while PMB 2000 shows a slight rise in overall readership, it has come almost exclusively in the area of specialty titles at the expense of some old stalwarts.

Some of the titles down this year include women’s magazines Canadian Living, Chatelaine, Homemakers and Flare; general interest publications Maclean’s, Reader’s Digest, Time and Toronto Life; and business books Report on Business Magazine, National Post Business (formerly Financial Post Magazine) and Profit. Readership of Canadian Business remained static.

Chris Herlihey, research manager with Toronto-based Initiative Media, says the results of PMB 2000 aren’t that much different from last year’s study.

‘Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing an overall decline in readership, especially on some of the women’s books and business books. There are exceptions, but that’s the general trend.

‘The interesting thing is that there are more vertical books coming into the market and their readership is growing. Canadian Home Workshop, Food & Drink, Canadian House & Home – they’re all up.’

Herlihey attributes the decline in general-interest readership to the fact that consumers are pressed for time and, as with television, are zeroing in on their specific interests.

And while he agrees that many of the big titles are down, he says he’s not so sure the numbers are statistically significant.

He says there are other market factors not necessarily reflected in the PMB study, such as increasing competition from U.S. magazines, as well as the wide range of publications available that PMB doesn’t measure.

‘It appears that overall magazine readership is shrinking, and maybe on a title-by-title basis it is, but the overall readership of magazines may not be,’ says Herlihey.

Greg Ramsay, research director for Toronto Life, says while it’s true readership of his magazine has been on the way down for the past few years, that’s been the case for most of the magazine’s major competitors. When that happens, he says, it doesn’t change the competitive landscape too much.

He points out that during this time, circulation numbers have remained constant, so it’s not clear whether there is a decline in general-interest readership or whether there’s a problem with PMB’s current methodology.

‘I don’t know how much weight anyone is putting on PMB 2000 results right now.

‘Everybody is really looking forward to the switch to ‘recent reading’ [survey methodology] in 2001. We’re all expecting to see higher numbers.’

Canada is the only country still using the ‘through-the-book’ methodology where respondents are shown a skeletonized version of each magazine, asked to flip through it, and then asked whether they have read that particular issue.

Critics of the methodology say the greater the number of publications included, the greater the danger respondents will skip magazines placed before them just to get to the end of the interview.

With recent reading methodology, respondents are simply shown the magazine’s logo and asked whether they’ve read an issue during a certain time period.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group