People power drives real-life market

Consumer thirst for real-life stories is being met by an ever-expanding range of titles. Hannah Marriott looks at what these magazines offer their readers and how PROs can pitch article ideas more effectively

A new wave of 'real-life' magazines, whose pages are packed with tales of ordinary people's triumphs and traumas, are enjoying enormous reach. Last year IPC Media's Pick Me Up bounded into the women's magazine market, posting an initial ABC figure of over half a million  sales. This year, NatMags has entered the fray with Real People and less than a month later News International has joined the burgeoning market with love it!.

The new launch distinguishes itself from the rest by being released on a Tuesday, traditionally the day that celebrity magazines are published, rather than Thursday, when the other real-life magazines come out. And with its glossier front cover, it sits more comfortably beside magazines such as Heat and Closer.

As well as the usual product placements in fashion, travel and practical magazines, real-life titles provide more unusual angles for coverage. For Weight Watchers PR manager Lynsey Sizer they are vital: 'Members' success stories are our bread and butter, so we talk to real-life mags up to ten times a day.'

But PROs must be smart in their approach, advises Sizer: 'They're looking for something extra, not just a story of someone losing weight – but that they lost weight and found love, or got married, or did something for charity they never thought they could.' And for stories of transformation – plastic surgery, for example – before-and-after photos are a must.

Getting the balance right
However, there is a tricky balance between ensuring both the journalist's interests and the case study's needs are addressed. For the real-life magazine, the person behind the tale, their feelings, their transformation, is always the focus of the piece, and some PROs  – particularly from charities – have complained that their message or campaign becomes diluted.

So before pitching in, it is important to consider a study's relevance to the title involved. Childline media officer Adrian Brown often pitches stories into real-life titles but says many of his case studies are anonymous, and so less attractive. Newspapers or monthly magazines are better targets for these.

Whatever the subject, it is important to establish ground rules. Most magazines will read the story back to the subject ('We have a moral obligation to ensure it's accurate,' says Pick Me Up editor June Smith-Sheppard), but Suzi Darfa, senior media relations officer at deaf charity RNID warns: 'Journalists and PROs must be clear about the angle of the story, so everyone is happy with its direction.'

Love it!
Editor Karen Pasquali-Jones
Launch issue print run 1.3 million (target circulation 400,000)
Contact 020 7198 3030 / editor@loveitmagazine.co.uk

How is love it! distinctive from other real-life weeklies?
We report things in a different way – using reportage, for example. We have more men and sex, with Cilla Black as an agony aunt, and
also plastic surgery tales. While there is grit and gore, our message is that you can transform your life – you can solve your problems.

We work two weeks ahead, so we can be topical.

Do you have fashion pages?
Yes. It's affordable fashion – anywhere from Monsoon to New Look. We also have recipes, competitions and regular travel features, as well as special pages covering different things each week – such as hairstyles or accessories.

How do you find case studies?
Sometimes PROs come to us, or we visit the websites of associations for certain things we want to cover and ask them to source
someone for us. We also use stories from PROs for plastic surgery
articles.

How should PROs contact you?
Emails or phone calls are best – we'll let you know pretty quickly if we're interested. Thursday, Friday or Monday are the best days to call.

Real People
Editor Vicky Mayer
Launch issue print run more than one million (target circulation 350,000)
Contact 020 7339 4666

Who is Real People for?
Our audience is very broad – from 18 to 80 years old, which means we can judge stories on their merit rather than on the person telling them. There is a family element – we might tell stories from a grandmother's or son's point of view.

What's inside?
The magazine begins with five stories, about 1,000 words each. We have lots of practicals – fashion, home, cookery, beauty – and four pages of health. There are plenty of competitions and puzzles.

What do you look for in fashion?
Value – our fashion must work hard, although the budget revolution on the high street and in supermarkets means the clothes are good.
Do you work with PROs on case studies?

Often – if there's a national week for a certain disorder, for example, lots of charities will get in touch with case studies. We need
magazine exclusives.

When should PROs get in touch?
By email (features@realpeoplemag.co.uk), and Monday and
Tuesday are best. There are different editors for each page. We work six to eight weeks ahead on practicals and two weeks ahead
on features.

Pick Me Up
Editor June Smith-Sheppard
Circulation 503,950
Contact 020 7261 5588

How does Pick Me Up stand out?
We don't feature peripheral items such as fashion, cookery or homes, and we don't have a regular travel page – we only have travel articles when there's good reason for them. We focus on real life and puzzles.

What opportunities are there for product placement?
We might mention new products in our health page, as part of a larger article about a certain condition. We also have a page of free or money-off coupons for services, products or events.

How about case studies?
We work with charities, and sometimes with TV programmes, using people from documentaries whose stories would interest our readers. Sometimes timings can be problematic as we work six to eight weeks ahead, so PROs' ideas should reach us eight to ten weeks ahead. And we want exclusivity – a story could have appeared in a local newspaper, or even a national, but not another magazine. And we don't use celebrities.

How do you prefer to be contacted?
Phone calls are best. Emails should go to the relevant person for each page – names are in the magazine – the features editor and
commissioning editor are good points of contact for case studies.

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