Media Analysis: Home magazines prove lucrative

Interior design titles are more than merely 'bricks and mortar' magazines, often taking a broader lifestyle angle. With the Ideal Home Show under way, Sarah Robertson examines the market's myriad publications.

While the Daily Mail Ideal Home Show takes to the stage for three weeks this month, specialised interior design magazines follow the market's trends all year round.

These increasingly specialised magazines cater for all niches, from the affluent thirtysomething trendy urban dweller to the inhabitants of country mansions. So whether you are looking to sell-in antiques or Ikea products, ample opportunities nestle in the pages of the 22 home decor titles.

Ideal Home (which is published by IPC and bears no relation to the Ideal Home Show), tops the circulation table by some considerable way and is geared for the mass market, whereas more iconic titles such as Wallpaper* target young urban professionals.

Differences and similarities

But despite these publications - which also include Period Living and Elle Decoration - being tweaked to their specific audiences, they all chase the same story, says Camron PR managing director Judy Dobias.

'Every magazine wants the house story. They want to be the first to show the best interiors and will fly anywhere in the world to get them because of the increasing competition. When a designer buys a new property, it can get you three to four dedicated pages. House stories fuel circulation and the profile of the magazine.'

Interior design magazines also want to profile designers; Jasper Conran's buyer, Polly Dickens, for example, has been profiled by five magazines.

Each title follows the seasons, with most currently focusing on summer trends (it should be noted that many magazines have a three-month lead time). Publications with a more general appeal feature plenty of annual press shows by companies in the interior design sector, and welcome products being sent to their journalists.

Living Etc editor Suzanne Imre says: 'We couldn't do our jobs if it wasn't for good PROs.'

Jane Reed, managing director of homewear specialist PR agency Grylls and Reed, points out that green products are a good way to get coverage: 'Environmentally friendly products are increasingly popular.' Conde Nast's House & Garden, for instance, offers a regular news section on environmentally friendly products.

Urban readers tend to want to know how to save space, so compact furniture is well received, says Reed: 'People living in smaller homes want compact bathroom suites and dual-purpose furniture such as sofa beds and footstools that double up as chests.'

Positioning clients as experts is an effective way of maximising coverage in the interior design market, says Ketchum director Richard Brett, who manages Dulux, Wedgwood and Whirlpool: 'We promote Dulux creative directors as experts. Living Etc will work with celebrities whose interiors we have helped create. Most of all, these magazines are big on pictures, so great photography is crucial.'

More than bricks and mortar

Some titles also play a campaigning role. Country Living offers opportunities for charity, regional and government PROs, says editor Suzy Smith.

'Foot-and-mouth prompted us to start our regular enterprising women piece,' she says. 'The crisis fostered a mood of diversification as women started thinking about other ways to earn money.'

House Beautiful also lends itself to issues other than bricks and mortar, covering topics such as the legal conflicts that can happen when gypsies move into communities, says editor Kerryn Harper: 'We are more than just a decorating bible, we cover current affairs.'

Smith says the titles are not damaged when the housing market is sluggish. They adjust their content accordingly depending on whether people are buying new homes or refurbishing their existing ones. Recently, the biggest risers include BBC Good Homes, which saw a 22 per cent circulation boost between 2003 and 2004, while House Beautiful rose 18 per cent.

Coverage in these magazines lifts sales instantly, says Halpern PR MD Jenny Halpern: 'Coverage drives people into the shops - it is phenomenal.'

TOP TEN HOME MAGAZINES BY CIRCULATION

- Ideal Home (IPC), 260,439. Sixty-four per cent of readers are ABC1 and 47 per cent of its audience are aged 18 to 44.

- House Beautiful (NMC), 215,360. For single home owners, core family homes, young couples making an investment in decorations, and empty nesters - older couples whose children have left.

- Country Living (NMC), 185,136. Monthly campaign title, championing rural businesses, sustainable development, rural issues and country fairs.

- Homes & Gardens (IPC), 149,683. Monthly targeted at 35 to 55-year-old ABC1s.

- House & Garden (Conde Nast), 144,547. Aspirational title aimed at designers.

- BBC Good Homes (BBC), 129,778. Core readers are 30 to 50-year-old women who have busy lifestyles and like modern, affordable homes.

- Your Home (Essential Publishing), 127,065. For young families on a budget, or first-time buyers.

- BBC Homes & Antiques (BBC), 120,141. Concerned with country homes and interiors and antiques. Core readers are 40 to 65-year-old women 'leading active lives, who are cultured and well rounded'.

- Ideal Home Complete Guide to Christmas (IPC), 118,986.

- 25 Beautiful Homes (IPC), 112,364.

Monthly, centres around 25 houses.

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