MEDIA: TV listings are widening in appeal - The television listings market is currently in a boom period, but dedicated magazines are diversifying their content to ensure their future prosperity

Editing a TV listings magazine is a curious business at the moment.

Editing a TV listings magazine is a curious business at the

moment.



Despite the wealth of alternative sources for listings information from

Emap’s new entertainment magazine Heat through to Sunday supplements and

even Teletext, the latest round of ABCs showed the TV listings sector

increasing circulation by eight per cent year-on-year.



Not content with holding its own in this intensely competitive market,

Radio Times has hired LDA Communications to boost its profile as it

undergoes a substantial relaunch.



The relaunch looks set to increase the features content of the magazine

and offer new sections to its upmarket 40-plus readership in a bid to

fend off further competition. It is a move which the magazine’s

advertising agency customers welcome.



’I think the BBC is a canny publisher and I can’t see it wasting its

money,’ said Mark Savage, senior media manager at Motive, Bartle Bogle

Hegarty’s media arm. ’It has successfully fended off the weekend

newspapers, as I can’t see those TV sections really changing or

improving any further.



Radio Times has an attractive, upmarket audience, so I’m sure the money

will stay with it.’



Alongside Radio Times, the paid-for element of the market has been

performing pretty well. What’s On TV leads IPC’s stable of three

listings mags, with a 3.6 per cent increase year-on-year. As for the

others, TV Times slipped back by barely 1.2 per cent, and TV and

Satellite Week grew slightly, with a 0.3 per cent increase.



These titles seem strangely immune to the challenge from free subscriber

magazines like Cable Guide and Sky Digital which operate, in effect,

like controlled circulation titles.



Indeed, nearly five million people still go out every week and pay cash

for TV listings titles, prompting Bauer, which publishes 726,000-selling

TV Quick, to launch a further title, TV Choice, into this increasingly

crowded market.



So confident has this buoyancy made IPC’s listings division, IPC tx,

that the publisher is now looking at developing electronic formats for

television listings before the end of the year.



However, Motive’s Savage is less optimistic about the long-term chances

of the sector. ’There’s a new generation coming up in their twenties and

thirties who don’t seem to have the TV listings habit,’ he says. ’I

don’t buy one, and I can’t see myself starting to buy one as I get

older. That’s why I think the Radio Times is right to broaden out its

content - to keep its readers loyal and to attract new readers.’



HEAT



Circulation: 65,522



Reach: average reader 26, urban, 50:50 male:female split



Frequency: weekly



Editor: Mark Frith



’We set out to be different from other listings magazines. People don’t

just want TV listings - they get that from Hello! or from the weekend TV

supplements in the newspapers. That’s why it’s what’s around the

listings that counts. We wanted to make sure listings were an important

part of Heat, but not the first and foremost part.



’We’re a weekly entertainment magazine for entertainment fanatics, so we

cover film, albums, events, everything. This means we give as much space

to gossip about what’s on TV and interviews with film stars as we will

to a forthcoming series. For instance, we’ve just picked up an Emap

award for our coverage of Oscars night, for which the staff worked

around the clock to get the magazine out with all the stuff we could

get. Our competitors are less likely to try that sort of thing.



’Our readers are mainly 23- to 29-year-olds who go out a lot but can’t

make their decision about whether to go out if they don’t know what’s on

the telly. When Friday night TV is really good on Channel 4, for

instance, they may stay in Fridays and go out on the other six days. Or

set their videos. And there’s other differences between us and a pure TV

listings title. The Radio Times is a BBC journal, so they’ll put an ITV

star on the cover maybe once a year.



’At Emap Metro, we know our readers and we’re independent of any

broadcaster, so we’ll have maybe a slight bias to Channel 4 and BBC2.

Those channels have the shows that our readers tend to watch. Our last

Channel 4 cover, for instance, was Denise van Outen launching her new

Friday night show.



She’s an ideal cover for the Heat reader. Again, I’m not sure which TV

magazines would put her on the cover. Having said that, we’re

reverential about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and we have the freedom

to put anyone we want on the cover.’



RADIO TIMES



Circulation: 1,390,481



Reach: 52:48 male:female split, 71% ABC1



Frequency: weekly



Editor: Sue Robinson



’These have been difficult times for all listings magazines. The

competition has increased, so it’s impossible to rest on your laurels.

We’re really pleased we’ve held our own and we’ve done so by burying the

old patrician idea of the Radio Times.



’We did a Star Wars cover in April, for instance, where we offered

readers four different covers with four different characters. That’s

something we plan to do again. The way Radio Times has survived against

all the odds is by understanding what our reader is about. At the heart

of the magazine’s readership, we have infoholics - people who just want

to know more and more about their broadcast viewing.



’We’ve redesigned the magazine to deal with this, using two strands.



There’s what we call ’navigation’ - making the listings clearer to

understand and use - and then there’s ’guidance’ - our recommendations.

People can choose from so many channels now that they really need

someone to tell them what’s on that they’re actually going to like.



’To survive in an age when people can get all their listings for free if

they want, we have to make sure they trust us to steer them through the

wealth of viewing that’s out there. We know our readers. They’re very

upmarket and they like us to weed out the rubbish for them. We’re

broadening the magazine in some ways, but not in others. For instance,

we’ve introduced a weekly Web Watch page, and we also recommend a

variety of chat rooms, but we’ll never try to be a general magazine. The

Radio Times is about quality and that’s how we’ll survive.



’The reason we appointed LDA is that we want to make sure people are

aware of how the magazine has changed. There’s still a lot of people who

see us as the old-style Radio Times. We want to promote the events we’re

involved in, like the Bafta Awards and the Edinburgh Television

Festival.’



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