Appealing to today's gadget fans

No longer the preserve of technology-obsessed nerds, gadgets have won mass appeal - a phenomenon that is reflected in the magazines that serve the gizmo-buying consumer. Tom Williams explores the territory.

This month's arrival of Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld games console has amassed widespread coverage. Like the iPod before it, the PSP epitomises technology's emergence from the geek ghetto.

The way we think about gadgets has been transformed in the past decade. And so have the publications that cover them.

Future Publishing's T3 is a case in point. Editor James Beechinor-Collins says it has shifted from specialist status to 'men's special interest'.

Its main rival, Stuff, is owned by PRWeek publisher Haymarket and tilts more squarely in tone at the men's lifestyle market. Freestyle Group's six-year-old title Boys Toys is a further nod still to men's magazines.

Meanwhile, the gadget sections of established lads' mags such as GQ and FHM occupy a rather different space. 'The people who buy T3 and Stuff are reading them to find out what particular model they should buy,' explains Firefly account director Nicola Gibb. 'People who flick through the gadget sections of men's lifestyle magazines are casual shoppers.'

Newer, cooler, better
Hill & Knowlton technology MD Mark Jackson points out that getting coverage in gadget titles requires more 'focus on product features' and 'how much newer and better' a product is. For FHM, the PRO should stress 'how cool it is' and 'how it fits into a lifestyle'.

In the case of T3 and Stuff, Gibb says it is crucial to ensure journalists know you are the PRO for a particular company before they come round to review one of its products. And consumer lifestyle magazines tend to be more receptive to marketing approaches such as a burnt-orange-colour digital camera for the summer season sent by Firefly for a client, she says.

Both Gibb and Jackson point to broadcast (such as Five's The Gadget Show) and online (such as iwantoneofthose.com) as increasingly important.

But Jackson warns that gadget buyers are turning more to independent blogs for the real lowdown on the latest gizmos, which tend to be resistant to PR or marketing efforts.

STUFF
Acting editor: Michael Brook Publisher: Haymarket Publishing Circulation: 77,373 (ABC) Frequency: Monthly Contact: 020 8267 5036

Who are your readers?
They are 25 to 40-year-olds, a lot of whom live in double-income households. We cover gadgets that are specialist but we don't go into massive technical detail.

How important are exclusives?
We want exclusives for our Hot Stuff news section but we are not going to put a rubbish product on the front cover just because it's exclusive. Two thirds of the magazine is features and reviews.

What about product reviews?
They tend to be solutions-based. We might, say, look at email on the move and review how mobile phones, Blackberrys and Palm Pilots handle this. Product reviews are not head-to-head.

Any tips for PROs?
Stuff is about nice-looking gadgets brought to the masses. Plus there is always space for quirky items such as unusual forms of transport.

T3
Editor: James Beechinor-Collins Publisher: Future Publishing Circulation: 54,217 (ABC) Frequency: Every four weeks Contact: 020 7317 2600

How has your coverage changed since launching in 1996?
It used to be about new kit coming out of Japan. Technology has now become mainstream with developments such as 3G and DVDs.

Has the rise of gadget sections in lifestyle mags made T3 less relevant?
Would you buy a gadget based on what GQ or FHM says? I might spend £300 on a suit they recommend, but for a DVD player or digital camera, T3 offers the best information - our reviews are rigorous.

What makes a good story?
We report on gadgets before they launch and need to know why a product is good and different.

How can PROs maximise exposure?
An exclusive on a product launch can potentially be expanded from a news story to a feature. And we are open to negotiation for reader offers and competitions.

BOYS TOYS
Editor: Duncan Madden Publisher: Freestyle Group Circulation: 40,000 (unaudited) Frequency: Monthly Contact: 01202 735 090

How is Boys Toys different?
We have a more lifestyle-based approach with holidays, activities and adventures. We also run interview spreads with people such as Rachel Hunter and BMX rider Matt Hoffman. The articles show what you can do and give the name of the company and contact details to do it.

So are you really a men's lifestyle rather than a gadget magazine?
No, we are still gadget-oriented. Our Most Wanted section covers the latest products. The Future Shocks double-page spread will look at two products that are coming to market.

Tell us what you need from PROs
Images are the perennial problem. We can't run a poor-quality picture and there needs to be a glamour element. The iPod wasn't successful because it was new technology but because it looked cool.

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