MEDIA ANALYSIS: A more intelligent lifestyle choice?

The Economist has joined the stable of upmarket lifestyle titles with a new supplement that promises to deliver on substance. Patrick Dye investigates.

Carr: readers want to be stretched
Carr: readers want to be stretched

Recent press coverage of the hefty bonuses City firms continue to pay their top staff prove that no matter how unstable the financial markets, like the poor, the very rich are always with us.

When they are not making money, this elite are spending it, a fact that publishers aim to exploit with upmarket, lifestyle-oriented titles. Obvious contenders such as Vogue, Esquire and Vanity Fair were joined in the 1990s by The Financial Times’ iconic ‘How to spend it’ supplement.

Now another financial title – The Economist – is joining the party with Intelligent Life, a quarterly title that promises to ‘bring the characteristic wit and irreverence of The Economist to lifestyle journalism’.

Intelligent Life began as an annual supplement published every summer from 2004-06. ‘We decided to take it to the next level and go quarterly bec­ause our readers were saying they wanted a lifestyle magazine with substance,’ says Caroline Breakwell, The Economist’s UK brand marketing and PR manager.

New challenge
The man charged with realising this fresh take on lifestyle journalism is The Economist’s business affairs editor Edward Carr, whose day job involves compiling a significant slice of the weekly title.

Upmarket lifestyle and editorial substance are unusual bedfellows but Carr is certain that there is a gap in the market for a publication that unites the two: ‘Our readers want to treat themselves as a reward for all their hard work, but also to stretch themselves. So we have not only dep­artments on shopping and fashion, but philanthropy, thinking and the environment,’ he says.

Many publishers have chosen to concentrate on the buying power of the well-heeled to win their attention. This is outmoded thinking, suggests Carr: ‘People want their magazines to be more than a catalogue of objects. I believe we are moving from a decade of bling into a decade where it is the story that matters, the significance, what the object stands for emotionally, not the object itself,’ he says.

Rising above simple materialism is something The Economist’s audience is rather good at, says Breakwell: ‘The psychographic profile of our readers shows that they have enquiring minds and want to take things well beyond the status symbol.’ In addition to enquiring minds, they also have money – average annual income of £66,500 – and youth – average age of 36 – on their side. With such a young, affluent audience it is easy to see why the company chose to extend into the lifestyle sector.

In a bid to bring originality to the format, Intelligent Life promises to adopt an original slant on familiar magazine fare. Travel features, for example, will be written by people who live in the destination. Drink and restaurant rev­iews collide in ‘The Wine List Ins­pector’, a regular item dissecting an establishment’s beverage selection, beginning with Gordon Ramsay.

The first issue boasts an exceptionally broad range of contributors encompassing such diverse talents as style director of The Times magazine and a former editor of Red, Tina Gaudouin, and comedian Will Smith, who features in the BBC’s political satire The Thick of It.

The magazine structure is relatively conventional, with a what’s on guide, ‘This Season’, culture and travel sections. However, central to the magazine’s proposition are the copy-heavy features at the heart of it. Reader feedback suggested that they wanted in-d­epth pieces such as The New Yorker serves up, which is what they get: ‘This is a magazine that gives its readers a certain gritty realism, something to get their teeth into. Lifestyle with substance,’ says Carr.

With so much attention being paid to achieving the correct tone in Intelligent Life, it would appear that PROs have little room for manoeuvre when it comes to pitching editorial ideas.

Certainly the prospect of advertorials and competitions making an appearance in the magazine seems a little remote.

An advertorial might jar that delicately achieved editorial tone, and as for competitions: ‘The Economist has always steered away from these bec­ause it has slightly cynical readers who have had it and have seen it all before,’ says Breakwell.

The suggestion that an upmarket lifestyle title presents a challenge comes as no surprise to many PROs: ‘It’s a noisy market and hard to get beyond the “so what” factor from journalists,’ says Dan Batchelor, account director at Limelight PR, who represents members’ club Unlimited International. ‘It takes hours rather than minutes, pitching it just right at just the right time of day.’

The pitching process for lifestyle titles can be made all the more difficult by the vagueness that often surrounds magazines’ definition of a relevant story.

Senior partner at Armadillo Consulting, Janine Wood, represents both B2B clients and upmarket brands such as travel operator Luxury Explorer: ‘I’ve found it easier to put material into prestigious titles such as the Harvard Business Review than lifestyle titles because HBR explains precisely what is required for it to accept a story. With lifestyle magazines it’s hit and miss,’ she says.

Spare cash
Fortunately, Intelligent Life’s well-defined editorial remit should exclude all vagueness. And when an exclusive lifestyle title sees something it likes, the price tag is not a problem. ‘Don’t be afraid to aim high,’ says Michelle Saxby, consultant at Seventy Seven PR. ‘We worked on the launch of E.Funkhouser makeup, which isn’t particularly exp­ensive or aspirational but it was new and cool and picked up by both Wallpaper* and The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine.’

Ultimately, even the journalists breathing the rarefied air of Intelligent Life are looking for next big thing: ‘Pitching a story around what your client’s competitors are doing can sometimes be the best approach. Paint pictures, imply that this is a niche they should be looking at, and the spokesman for this niche is your client,’ says Batchelor.

Contact: Edward Carr
E ewcarr@economist.com
T (switch): 020 7830 7000

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