Glossies strug­gle to re­tain shine

In re­cent years, Ir­ish women’s mag­a­zines have had to cope with fall­ing cir­cu­la­tion fig­ures while com­pet­ing with so­cial me­dia – can they sur­vive in the dig­i­tal age, asks Amy O’Con­nor

The Irish Times Magazine - - MAGAZINE -

Back in May, Look magazine pub­lished its fi­nal is­sue. The magazine was launched in 2007 and quickly es­tab­lished it­self as one of the UK’s most pop­u­lar glossy ti­tles, shift­ing 300,000 copies per week at its peak. Over the last few years, how­ever, it fell prey to de­clin­ing sales and the de­ci­sion was taken to shut­ter it for good, with pub­lisher Time Inc cit­ing chang­ing reader habits as the chief rea­son for its clo­sure.

Look’s fi­nal is­sue in­cluded an ex­hor­ta­tion to read­ers to save women’s mag­a­zines from ex­tinc­tion. “Ladies, if you have a top read, go out and buy it, oth­er­wise the clo­sure of our beloved brands will con­tinue,” it warned, be­fore im­plor­ing read­ers to buy mag­a­zines such as Grazia, Cos­mopoli­tan, Red, Marie Claire and oth­ers.

It’s no secret that it has been a tu­mul­tuous time for print me­dia, with news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines haem­or­rhag­ing read­ers and strug­gling to keep their place in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal me­dia land­scape. Women’s mag­a­zines in par­tic­u­lar have suf­fered enor­mously, with sev­eral ti­tles forced to ei­ther switch to dig­i­tal or fold al­to­gether.

The likes of Com­pany, Look, and More have all gone out of print in re­cent years while Bri­tish Glam­our has slashed its print of­fer­ing to just two is­sues per year. State­side, mag­a­zines such as Self and Teen Vogue have ended their print edi­tions and be­come ex­clu­sively on­line pub­li­ca­tions.

Last month, Ir­ish magazine U fol­lowed in their foot­steps and an­nounced it was ceas­ing pub­li­ca­tion of its print edi­tion. The monthly glossy had been a fix­ture on Ir­ish magazine shelves for nearly 40 years, but was no longer a “com­mer­cial propo­si­tion”, said pub­lisher Ciaran Casey of Ir­ish Studios. In a sign of the times, the magazine is now fo­cus­ing its ef­forts on be­com­ing a “dig­i­tal- first ti­tle”.

Read­ers and in­dus­try fig­ures alike mourned i ts exit, but ed­i­tor Ais­ling O’Toole says the tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal was in­evitable.

“Of course it was bit­ter­sweet to send the last is­sue to print, but to be hon­est by the time that hap­pened the way we en­gaged with our read­ers had evolved so much it felt like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion,” ex­plains O’Toole.

“On­line has def­i­nitely changed the way mil­len­ni­als con­sume me­dia,” she says. “They’re im­pa­tient and they don’t want to wait four weeks for their next U fix. But what they want to con­sume re­mains the same, as does their loy­alty to brands they know and re­late to.”

In re­cent years, women’s mag­a­zines have not only had to con­tend with dwin­dling cir­cu­la­tion fig­ures and shrink­ing ad rev­enues, but they have also been forced to com­pete with so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal in­flu­encers.

“Women’s mag­a­zines have faced a dras­tic on­slaught of com­pe­ti­tion in re­cent years, par­tic­u­larly through the pop­u­lar­ity of sites like In­sta­gram,” says Brooke Erin Duffy, PhD, au­thor of Re­make, Re­model: Women’s Mag­a­zines in the Dig­i­tal Age. “The sleek images shared on sites like In­sta­gram ri­val the stun­ning pho­tog­ra­phy long associated with women’s glossies. More­over, so- called in­flu­encers are con­sid­ered more ‘ real’ or ‘ re­lat­able’ sources of in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice than tra­di­tional me­dia sources.”

In or­der to stay rel­e­vant, women’s mag­a­zines have had to re­con­fig­ure their iden­ti­ties, she says. No longer is it enough to cre­ate a magazine from scratch once a month, but you now also have to have a ro­bust on­line pres­ence, busy so­cial me­dia chan­nels, ex­clu­sive read­ers’ events, and killer branded con­tent. The days of the hum­ble magazine are be­hind us. It’s all about the cross- plat­form me­dia brand now, dar­ling.

So just how are Ir­ish mag­a­zines far­ing in this new climate? And what can they do to re­main rel­e­vant in an in­dus­try that is con­stantly trans­form­ing?

“The key to sur­vival for women’s mag­a­zines, not just in Ire­land, but glob­ally, is to stay ag­ile, adapt to change and con­sumer de­mands, while also stay­ing true to the brand her­itage and USP,” says Ros­aleen McMeel, ed­i­tor of Im­age.

Over the last year, McMeel says Im­age has in­sti­tuted a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant de­sign changes which have in­cluded in­creas­ing the phys­i­cal size of the magazine and re­mod­elling its lay­out. Like­wise, it has de­vel­oped the branded con­tent side of the busi­ness and reg­u­larly host tick­eted events for read­ers.

“We were once a 2D print prod­uct, but have now cre­ated a com­pletely 3D ex­pe­ri­ence com­mu­ni­cat­ing with our reader,” she ex­plains.

This mul­ti­pronged ap­proach can be seen else­where, too. Stel­lar, for in­stance, has made a con­certed ef­fort to ramp up its on­line pres­ence of l ate and will soon launch a beauty pod­cast called The Glow Up. Ir­ish Tatler has also made the leap to dig­i­tal in an ef­fort to keep up with read­ers all month long.

“We stay rel­e­vant by be­ing where they are: on­line and on so­cial plat­forms, de­liv­er­ing great con­tent in the same voice and with the same au­thor­ity as the magazine,” says Shauna O’Hal­lo­ran, ed­i­tor of Ir­ish Tatler. It’s not about print ver­sus dig­i­tal, but fig­ur­ing out a way for both to co­ex­ist and com­ple­ment each other.

wom‘ e‘ Where n’s mag­a­zines were once jus­ti­fi­ably crit­i­cised for mak­ing read­ers feel bad about them­selves, they are now more con­cerned with things like em­pow­er­ment and in­clu­siv­ity

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