MEDIA ROUNDUP: 'Sister' titles age with their readers

In the increasingly competitive women's-publication market, the Seven Sister magazines are staying on top by adapting to their maturing audience.

In the increasingly competitive women's-publication market, the Seven Sister magazines are staying on top by adapting to their maturing audience.

The shuttering of Rosie, formerly McCall's, fueled some speculation last year about whether the rest of the once-dominant Seven Sister women's publications - Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, and Woman's Day - may be losing their luster. But despite a shifting demographic and increased competition from everything from Real Simple to Martha Stewart Living, reports of the legendary magazine genre's demise have been greatly exaggerated. "Consider the sisterhood intact," said Bob Brody, VP with Ogilvy PR's health and medical group. "Some new magazines - notably O, More, and Lifetime - are fueling competition, but good as they are, by no means are the rookies replacing the veterans." Judy Welage, managing supervisor of Fleishman-Hillard's healthcare practice, adds that as strong as many of these new titles have become, they can't match the reach of the traditional sister magazines. "Good Housekeeping is over 4 million, and that's just the circulation," she says. "There is also pass-along readership, so what client would not want to get into that? Once you get a placement in one of them, you have a marketing tool for your sales team." A mature perspective One reason for their continued success is, with the exception of Redbook, the editors of the "sister" publications seem to have made the decision to mature with their baby-boomer demographic. That means they cover celebrities over 40, but also occasionally include articles on how to deal with impending grandmotherhood. "The population is aging, so to a certain extent these magazines now accept that their hard-core audience will average 40 or 45, and probably have teenage children," says Brody. Beyond that, Alissa Blate, EVP and director of consumer marketing for The MWW Group, says these outlets continually take the time to understand their audience's changing needs. "The concerns of women are a lot different than they were 10 years ago, even five years ago." she notes. "It's a lot more healthy lifestyle for active women." "They're doing a lot more than just parenting," adds Sandra Sokoloff, Magnet Communications SVP. "With most women now working, as well as making a home, they look into a lot more issues - like time management. They've skewed their content to reflect a broader spectrum." That change is reflected not only in the content, but also in the layout of these traditional women's outlets. Realizing that their audience is also pressed for time, Welage says, "There are fewer in-depth stories. An outlet like Family Circle has a lot of boxes of information you can pull out and read at a glance. I got a placement in Redbook, which was just a box - "Three steps to streamline your move." And even with their big stories, there's a lot of boxes on the side that can be read quickly." Long strong on tips and news-you-can-use, the remaining Sisters are great for getting new products in front of a key target audience. But while some do straight reviews, PR pros stress it's far better to pitch them on a trend that includes your client than with a single product pitch. Megan Dyer, director of the San Diego office of Allison & Partners, says that last year she had success pitching several of these top traditional women's outlets for a hot-tub client. "We had a series of editor visits that were set up a month ahead and brought in the COO and the owner," she says. "The pitch focused on time spent with your hubby because the target was women as the decision makers." Focus on trends rather than news Dyer says it also helps to ride overall lifestyle trends rather than breaking news. She adds that her pitch coincided with the fact that hot tubs were being featured in several reality shows and was the location of a key scene in the Jack Nicholson film About Schmidt. "All that really spawned a lot of articles about the return of hot tubs," she says. "That helped drive our story." But desk-side briefings aren't possible with these editors, many of whom are inundated with PR pitches. "Relationships always count, but everyone has less time to cultivate a rapport," notes Brody. "Most pitching is done by e-mail, but nothing replaces a phone conversation for moving a pitch ahead." ----- Pitching...'Seven Sister' outlets
  • The Seven Sisters emphasize health-related issues far more than they did 10 or 20 years ago, reflecting not just a slowly aging audience, but the ever-changing concerns of women.
  • These outlets use a lot of freelancers, but it's still far more effective to reach out directly to the editor or staff writer with a pitch that gets condensed into a short blurb
  • These aren't the outlets for youth-oriented products, so make sure your client matches the demographic.

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