Media Analysis: 'Women of colour' market opens up

There has, until recently, been a dearth of magazines for black and Asian women. But some PR agencies have realised that this is a potentially lucrative market and are getting in there fast. Tom Williams investigates

The launch last month of Aspire, a magazine targeted at professional 'women of colour' could not have come at a more auspicious time for ethnic media. The magazine estimates that in the five years to the last UK census the number of women of colour in the ABC1 professional group has risen by around 66 per cent, while UK imports of magazines targeted at African-Americans - such as Oprah Winfrey's O magazine are stacking up on the shelves of major newsagent chains.

Increasing numbers of affluent black and Asian women are a rich seam for PR companies to tap through the magazines targeted at these communities.

A whole industry has sprung up providing products specific to black women's hair and skin. Those that market to this group say black women spend disproportionately more on beauty products than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, the value of the Asian wedding market is estimated to be £30m. It would seem to be just a question of knowing which publications to target.

Focusing on the mainstream

Prior to Aspire there have been few publications that can claim to target professional women of colour across the board - and few of those that did survived for very long. While the most established publication, Pride, is perhaps the most obvious competitor to Aspire, others like Asiana or Asian Woman have confined themselves to a particular ethnic community.

Part of the reason for the continued splintering of the black and Asian women's magazine market may be that mainstream women's magazines have anticipated the rise in these women's finances and adapted their content accordingly.

But the fact that any publications such as Pride and Aspire exist at all suggests that the market is more complicated and that mainstream women's magazines are failing to appeal to a significant section of the black and Asian market. Both magazines acknowledge their readers' aspirations in a much more explicit way than publications such as Red or Cosmopolitan. And content, while similar, strives for an angle that is directly relevant to their readers.

Women of colour magazines make up a fledgling market, but like their readership are a growing force in consumer publishing that PROs cannot afford to ignore.

ASPIRE

Owner: Aspire Media

Circulation: UK print run of 20,000/Launched 25 March

Celine Loader: Editorial director

Why have you launched a magazine targeted at 'professional women of colour' rather than specifically at Asian or black women?

There has been a great vibe about black people asserting themselves financially, and our research has indicated that some of the existing publications were not of a high enough quality for the high- end brands to be associated with.

What is different about the content of the magazine from other publications?

I doubt that Red, for instance, would take the same interest in child soldiers in Liberia or do their dream wedding feature in quite the same way. A white British couple might look at a Caribbean wedding as a holiday, whereas a Caribbean couple who have extended family in Jamaica would take a different approach.

What special sections does Aspire have?

We usually have two main features: one will be a reportage and the other will deal with women's issues. We also have pieces on high-profile events, fashion, beauty, working life and reviews, as well as an Ask Chef section with a celebrity chef.

How can PROs get involved in the magazine?

We have space for advertorials, as well as regular sections on health, beauty, restaurants, cookery and social life. Also, there are plenty of opportunities for companies launching make-up that is aimed at women of colour.

PRIDE

Owner: Pride Media

Circulation: 41,500 (not ABC audited)

Carl J Cushnie: Publisher

How would you describe Pride's readership?

In the case of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire there are well-defined age groups. But while it is certainly true to say that black people have moved up in financial terms, I don't think you can so narrowly define our readership as simply ABC1.

So how have you tried to position the magazine to appeal to black women?

Beauty products are obviously quite a different issue for black women, while fashion is fairly similar for most women. But features that relate to issues important to black people, such as interracial adoption, are fairly typical, as these things are not covered much in the mainstream press.

How are the PR opportunities in a magazine for black women any different from those to be found in other women's magazines?

Black people are rarely seen as consumers. They are frequently portrayed as cool or trendy, but never thought about as people who might actually buy the stuff you are selling. But when people do look at black people as consumers, they often get a good response.

How would a PRO ensure they got that kind of response from your readers?

There is not that much difference in approach from other women's magazines, but we like to use images of black women. So it certainly helps if you have black people wearing or using your product.

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