MEDIA ANALYSIS: Changing the face of women's titles

With its focus on the self-analytical, Psychologies ventures into unknown territory for a women's magazine. Clare O'Connor discovers its desire for PROs to offer enlightened ideas, rather than predictable beauty releases.

Psychologies is a women's magazine perfectly suited to the season of new beginnings - its unique editorial flavour focuses on the self-analytical, while managing to stay away from being an overtly 'self-help' title.

The magazine has been a risky project for owner Hachette Filipacchi, steering clear of the twin mainstays of its market - celebrity culture and fashion - altogether. But it is a formula that is proving to be a great success. Circulation rose 25 per cent to 130,101 in the January-June 2007 Audit Bureau of Circulations report, meaning it now sells more than New Woman and Harper's Bazaar.

When Psychologies launched in the UK two-and-a-half years ago, the title had already been on the market in France for 30 years, and had successfully launched in Spain and Italy. For editor Maureen Rice, the first step was to set the right tone by adapting the magazine for the UK market.

Rice describes the original French title as extremely wordy and philosophical. 'We made a lot of changes,' she says. 'British women tend to be very pragmatic. In France, they want think pieces that analyse problems. Here, women want five ways to solve that problem.'

Unique appeal
Rice proudly describes Psychologies as 'the opposite of Heat, not all about glamour or gossip'. The title is billed as 'the first women's magazine that is about what we are really like, not just what we look like'. It does feature celebrities on the cover, but they tend to be cerebral actresses over the age of 35 years old.

Recent examples include multilingual Friends alum Lisa Kudrow, and February's interviewee, actress Laura Linney (pictured). 'Our readers are not into celebrity culture,' says Rice. 'They want to read about someone articulate, with an interesting life.'

Amanda Mills, a consultant at Seventy Seven PR, describes the choice of cover models as indicative of its appeal. 'They are aspirational people you would want to be friends with,' she says. 'Psychologies is intellectual and you feel you are getting something stimulating from it.'

Mills approached the magazine on behalf of client the RSPCA Good Business Awards, which recognises companies that are making efforts to improve animal welfare policies. She worked with the RSPCA on a list of ways to be an 'animal friendly diner'. 'Ultimately I went to them with an idea that fitted,' she says.

'That's why they were receptive. The journalist liked the fact that the idea was targeted.' Mills adds that similar approaches did not work as well with other women's magazines. 'It's never easy pitching to consumer titles, but the same idea was not as successful with other glossies.'

Psychologies is difficult to categorise, as its readers would agree. About 80 per cent of them do not read any other women's monthly magazines regularly. Rice puts its singular appeal partly down to timing. There is indeed a perceived backlash against reality TV stars and throwaway fashion in the upmarket press.

And her readership is certainly upmarket. The average subscriber is in her mid-30s, wealthy and well educated - perhaps, as Rice explains, because 'being able to reflect on your life is quite a privileged position'.

Because Psychologies does not cover fashion, gossip or celebrities, PR specialists can approach its editorial team on behalf of clients that would seem incongruous in other women's titles. IncrediBull Ideas consultant Cecilia Coonan approached the magazine for a feature on what success means to women, securing coverage for her client, BT People & Policy, the telecoms giant's employment and diversity arm.

'One of the top women at BT has a son with cerebral palsy, so for her, success means balancing her home life with her work responsibilities,' says Coonan. 'Psychologies liked the idea. It is more insightful than other magazines, and has tapped into something that women had been crying out for.'

Advice for PROs
Rice warns PR people pitching to Psychologies to think of the magazine's readership before picking up the phone. 'We do get a lot of calls from people who clearly have never read an issue,' she says. 'We get press releases about fashion events, which is incredibly irritating. It gives PR a bad name.

Have respect for the publication.' Rice and her team welcome approaches on health, food, travel and literature. 'We want to hear news about social trends and women's lives. We like to receive surveys, and anything relating to the way we live today,' adds Rice.

While Rice is keen to hear pitches about cerebral ideas, she does feature the occasional beauty product in a small 'Beauty Perspective' section, particularly in summer months. Touch Media account director Suzy Dee Holland secured coverage for home spa brand Pure Fiji.

'I found Psychologies easier to work with than other glossies,' says Holland. 'At a time when all the other glossies seem to be moulding into one, there is nothing quite like it.'

This year, Psychologies will focus on updating its online offering to keep up with its web-savvy readership. The editorial team will be blogging on psychologies.co.uk, and users can submit reviews to the online reading group.

'The zeitgeist is with us,' says Rice of the title's success, both in print and now on the web. 'The timing is right. This is for people who want to read something intelligent, who have had their ups and downs. It is the examined life.'

CONTACTS

- Editor Maureen Rice maureen.rice@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7089
- Editorial assistant Rosie Ifould rosie.ifould@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7082
- Deputy editor Clare Longrigg clare.longrigg@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7000
- Acting features editor - Charlotte Northedge charlotte.northedge@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7090
- Beauty director Hannah Adams hannah.adams@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7098
- Food & drink editor Sarah Maber sarah.maber@hf-uk.com 020 7150 7000.

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