MEDIA - FINANCIAL SERVICES: Money sector ready for seasonal rush - Growing interest in personal finance and greater use of the internet mean opportunities for titles within the sector

Autumn is traditionally the season when the financial services companies roll out their new packages in preparation for the following April, when they come into effect.

Autumn is traditionally the season when the financial services companies roll out their new packages in preparation for the following April, when they come into effect.

This year the stakeholder pension is all the rage. This is the revamped pension plan prepared for in last year's Budget. Most of the major players have lined up some sort of stakeholder offer over the summer, when new products are traditionally devised. Now it's time to take them to market, so financial sector PR companies find themselves faced with a bewildering array of opportunities.

There are countless personal finance sections in the daily and weekly newspapers, whether national or local. Most television channels have their own finance programmes, with the satellite news and business services offering more than one each. The web is bursting with sites offering deals and advice. And nestling on the news stands are specialist investment titles such as Moneywise, Investor Week, Personal Finance and What Investment.

For PROs it can be a struggle to persuade a client, whose managing director demands to appear in the Financial Times or on Radio 4 because that's where his peer group is going to see and hear him, that these less sexy outlets have value. But specialist magazines can offer more detailed editorial plus a close relationship with an audience of 100 per cent interested readers.

'We'll have a client calling up because he's generated 150 leads from The Money Programme,' says one PR person. 'We have to explain to them that the 3,000 responses from What Investment are not only greater than his telly work but are also from real investors with real money.'

Nonetheless, Clare Parsons, joint MD of financial services specialist Lansons, believes they have a vital role to play.

'Targeting is key and that's where these magazines can come into their own,' she explains. 'It's a clumsy strategy to lump all of them together, though. Although they might appear to be the same, these magazines couldn't be more different.'

For the magazines' editors, most of whom have been involved in setting up the titles' own web sites, the balancing act between updating the daily sites and providing detailed analysis for their weekly or monthly mainstays is proving very stressful.

Couple that with the explosion in new financial products and companies and you've got an extremely busy editor. So remember to go easy on them this autumn.



MONEYWISE

Martin Pasteiner

Position: Publisher

Frequency: monthly

Circulation: ABC 103,263

Publisher: Reader's Digest

'Moneywise is Britain's best-selling personal finance magazine - more than 40,000 up on our nearest rival. We've got a new editor, David Ellis, joining next month and I hope he's going to help us push the growth of the sector.

'Our job is to cut through the waffle - there's a lot of that about in this industry. Our readers know they've got to take control of their finances but need simple advice. That brings us into conflict with some PROs, who always have an angle. We have a responsibility to call a spade a spade. Most of the time, however, they realise they need a relationship with the best-selling magazine in the market.'



PERSONAL FINANCE

Juliet Oxborrow

Position: Editor

Frequency: monthly

Circulation: circa 40,000

Publisher: Charterhouse Communications

'The market's increasing. There are usually seasonal dips in circulation, but now and the end of the tax year are always busy and we average 40,000 per issue.

'Web sites have helped the market. People look at them for up-to-date information but don't scroll through 4,000 words of analysis. We're certainly contacted a lot by web site PROs looking for coverage. If it's a difficult subject and you only have a thin sheen of knowledge, put me through to the client.

'Having said that, PR people are useful for explaining the value of our magazines to clients and the good ones come up with great ideas.'



WHAT INVESTMENT

Keiron Root

Position: Editor-in-chief

Frequency: monthly

Circulation: circa 40,000

Publisher: City Financial Communications

'This is the first time in my 14 years in the business there's been a shortage of financial hacks. A generation of financial journalists went to join the web sites last year.

'There's a similar thing going on in PR. For the past 14 years, the press has been well served by specialist agencies that know their stuff - but this whole market has exploded. There are lots of companies and the sector's over-supplied. The summer's over, so we've got a new wave of graduates ringing to see if the press release has arrived, which is very irritating.

I'm lucky in that I know most of the senior people, who are senior because they are good.'



INVESTORS WEEKLY

Lawrence Gosling

Position: Editor

Frequency: weekly

Circulation: circa 30,000

Publisher: City Financial Communications

'We launched in February and did well on the back of the stock market surge. In March, the market saw a downturn and our circulation suffered.

We're now doing up to 30,000 a week, although the last couple of weeks have seen it climb now confidence has returned.

'We cover a lot of TMTs - telecoms, media and technology. Our readers are small private investors; we think there are about 500,000 in the country.

They use web sites to price information and us for long-term analysis.

When we launched, we thought we'd find it hard to get attention from the PR industry, but that is not so.'



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