Magazine Review

By The Drum, Administrator

June 10, 2002 | 8 min read

One would expect an article written by the magazine publishers trade association, the Periodical Publishers Association, to sell the effectiveness of magazine advertising compared to other media. This would be easy to do given the wealth of research that has been carried out on this subject. Numerous studies have shown that readers enjoy a particularly close relationship with magazines, that time spent reading magazines is on the up and that advertising in magazines works well because it allows for the targeting of very specific groups. Coupled with this is the fact that consumer magazines increased their share of advertising against an overall decrease in ad spend in the twelve months to September 2001.

But from a purely practical point of view, who doesn’t buy magazines? Everybody I know does, and usually more than one. And they spend quality time reading them too. Women might sit down with a cup of tea when there are no distractions around; men can often be seen carrying a magazine into the toilet only to emerge half an hour later with a contented smile on their face (not that sort of magazine!). And you don’t read a magazine whilst doing the ironing or nip out to make a cup of tea during the ads.

All in all the argument for advertising in magazines is sound. The longevity of magazines is also something that should be taken into account. At lunch the other day with Mark Gorman, Chairman of the Scottish IPA, he revealed that he kept all his past copies of Q Magazine “box-filed in date order from issue no. 34 – 198”.

You can’t put too high a price on that sort of loyalty and stay in power. Pass-on readership is also an element that should be taken into account with many magazines shared between friends and eventually passed to the doctors or dentists’ waiting rooms rather than being put in the bin.

The latest research to support this was launched at the PPA annual conference, Magazines 2002, at the beginning of May. The Absorbing Media study was commissioned by PPA to look at consumers' involvement with various media. Its aim was to learn more about media usage attitudes and to determine what effect the rise of the internet is having on magazines. The study had a number of encouraging findings for magazines, not least with regards to advertising.

Advertising in magazines was viewed more positively than any other medium, according to the study. Magazines were also seen to contain more relevant information tailored to the reader than any other medium. 35 per cent believed that magazines were usually tailored to their needs, significantly more than second placed newspapers with 21 per cent.

Commercial radio fared the worst in this category with only seven per cent of respondents believing it to be tailored to their needs. Similarly, 45 per cent of respondents believed that magazines contain information that they are most interested in, with commercial radio only managing eight per cent. The effectiveness of television as an advertising medium is dependent on viewers actually watching the ads. Under a third of TV viewers were found to watch ads 'nearly all' or 'a lot of' the time while two thirds fast-forwarded through ads on recorded programmese.

A clear distinction appeared between attitudes to advertising in print media and commercial television, with over half of respondents often finding TV ads annoying, while approximately 10 per cent of respondents felt the same of print advertising. Twenty three per cent claimed that they often found advertising on commercial radio annoying, advertising on websites faired similarly with 18 per cent, probably due to frustrations with pop-up ads.

Magazines performed consistently well in the study - coming top in six out of seven of the remaining statements on advertising. To varying degrees commercial radio, websites and newspaper supplements were ranked lowest on these statements. Thirty five per cent claimed that advertising in magazines is helpful as a buying guide with only 14 per cent believing the same of the internet, possibly because the sheer scope of the internet is viewed as being unhelpful. There was a significant gap between views on how trustworthy advertising was in magazines compared to on the internet. 23 per cent - the highest figure for any medium - claimed that they could usually trust and believe advertising in magazines, while only seven per cent - the lowest for any medium - believed the same of ads online.

The report attempted to forecast whether the internet will encroach on the topics where magazines are the preferred source of information by examining the 16-24 year old age group, a group which is young with high website penetration. Encouragingly for magazines the internet does not appear to pose a threat in these areas, in fact magazines performed even more strongly against the internet in this age group than for the overall sample.

Respondents were also asked about which, if any, of four actions - 'picked up ideas', 'followed some advice given', 'tried something for the first time' and 'bought something' - they had taken after exposure to different media. Here magazines and websites both performed very well with 87 and 86 per cent of respondents respectively saying they had taken at least one of the actions after reading a magazine or viewing a website. TV followed closely with 83 per cent, newspapers and newspaper supplements were some way behind with 78 and 75 per cent respectively, while only 58 per cent claimed to have taken at least one of the actions after listening to commercial radio.

Those who had used a website in the last year and read at least one magazine per issue period were asked to compare their usage of the two media over five statements. Reading magazines was found to be more relaxing, more enjoyable and easier than using a website. These findings support previous research, which has indicated that readers enjoy a 'magazine moment' with their favourite titles, something that the internet is unable to replicate.

The study also sheds light on the different attitudes of men and women towards the internet and magazines. Women are significantly more relaxed reading magazines than using websites compared to men. Similarly, women enjoy reading magazines more than using websites compared to men.

The report suggests that rather than posing a threat to magazines, the arrival of the internet has, as yet, only complimented the medium. Examination of the 16-24 year old age group provides further reassurance that magazines and websites will happily co-exist for some time to come.

Phil Cutts, director of marketing at the PPA said “Absorbing Media gives agencies, publishers and clients a better insight into the mind of the consumers and their view of the various media they consume. This study has provided a new element to studies from the past by including how new media has impacted in its own right and how it fits with other media consumption. The research will help agencies justify the spending of advertising money.”

B2B magazines are also an essential medium for business decision-makers, according to another major new study commissioned by PPA and conducted by NFO WorldGroup. The study, called ‘The Essential Medium: decision-makers' usage of B2B magazines shows that B2B publications are used regularly by 87 per cent of business decision-makers.

B2B magazines also dominate, by wide margins, all other media in terms of usefulness. They keep their readers up to date with what is going on in their industry and are seen as a medium that stimulates ideas that readers can apply in their own work, that speaks with authority and independence and whose advertising is useful.

The study reveals that an impressive 73 per cent of more than 500 decision makers find that B2B magazines contain advertising that is useful to their jobs. Respondents' preference for using B2B magazines for advertising is also revealed by the 80 per cent of respondents who found that business magazines were the source normally used when looking for good quality job advertisements.

So what impact does this have, if any, with regard to the Scottish magazine marketplace. Well, if you are looking to specifically target a distinct group you are more than likely to find one from the hundred or so magazines now published in Scotland. Some might find that figure hard to believe, but with a diverse and varied portfolio of titles, the industry is in good shape. From golfers to line dancers, accountants to Gaelic poets there are magazines for every taste.

Getting this message across is a prime objective for the PPA Scottish Council and its new chairman, List publisher, Robin Hodge: “Magazine publishing in Scotland is growing. There are some very good people and some very good titles out there, from business titles to consumer titles and I think that here in Scotland we can do the job as well as anywhere else.”

The stamp of credibility given by PPA membership and the increasing numbers of ABC audited titles proves that Scottish magazines do have worth and should not be ignored.

A full copy of both sets of research can be downloaded, in PDF format, from the PPA website at


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