MEDIA ANALYSIS: Young at heart and full of life

With a new editor and not a blue rinse in sight, Saga is proving to be a hotter magazine than its reputation might suggest. Clare O’Connor reports on a surprising read.

Saga cover
Saga cover

Last week, as Katy Bravery took over the editorship of Saga Magazine, the country's pre-eminent fifties-plus title was all over the media.

The tabloids and broadsheets alike carried news of Saga's survey into the sex lives of its readers, trumpeting findings that the ‘frisky fifties' were more active in the bedroom than their younger counterparts.

Bravery, promoted after long-time editor Emma Soames' promotion earlier this month, agrees that Saga's readership is more vivacious than one might assume. ‘These are baby boomers, lively fifty-somethings,' says Bravery.

‘You can't just have one type of reader, and they are inc­redibly diverse.' The discussions in the forums on Saga Zone, the title's spin-off online social network, reflect this. Current topics inc­lude gay relationships and reiki healing as well as rather more staid conversations about DIY and gardening.

Silver surfers
Now in its 24th year, Saga Magazine has had to modernise, embracing the internet as its readership of ‘silver surfers' moves online in droves. ‘We've not just moved with the times,' says Bravery of Saga's web presence. ‘We've helped define them. Before Saga, these older people were rather dismissed.

Katy BraveryIt seems completely bonkers.' Saga Zone's membership is climbing past 40,000, with users invited to set up their own blogs and interact in a ‘virtual local pub'.

The magazine itself has an established web presence, including features from the print title as well as a dating blog, tips from experts on health and money and biographies of older celebrities such as Keith Richards and Darryl Hannah. PROs that have pitched to Saga are often surprised by the quirkiness of the title.

‘I thought it would be all health remedies for knee problems but it's not like that,' agrees Seventy Seven PR consultant Michelle Saxby. ‘The content is much broader than you might think it would be.

It's aspirational.' Saxby pitched to the title on behalf of client the Ideal Home Show, the interiors and gardening expo celebrating its 100th anniversary at Earl's Court next month. ‘We knew it was good territory for them,' says Saxby. ‘But we were surprised by their reaction to our style guru, the TV presenter Hannah Sandling.

She's a fashion stylist in her twenties, and not the kind of person we would generally pitch at Saga. They loved her - they snapped up her interior design tips. I'd definitely pitch to them again.' Saxby sees Saga's readership of wealthy, independent retired people as the ideal target market for consumer PROs. ‘People at retirement age have all this time to do more interesting things,' she says.

EdenCancan publicist Lorna Hunte agrees, having had first-hand experience of the power of the ‘grey pound'. Her client is Lucinda Ellery, the hair extensions specialist responsible for Peaches Geldof and Cheryl Cole's longer locks.

‘I dealt with the journalist Sally Brampton, who freelances for the magazine, and pitched a feature with case studies on thinning hair problems, which was ideal for the magazine's audience,' says Hunte. The feature generated the largest number of requests produced from one piece of editorial for Lucinda Ellery.

Bravery says she and her team are very happy to liaise with PROs, but only those who have taken the time to und­erstand their readership. ‘It's the same bleat you'll hear from all editors - please read the magazine!' she says. ‘We're not interested in TV stars from the front of Heat.

Think upmarket and highbrow and think at least two months ahead.' Bravery adds that Saga Magazine is currently understaffed, with a full-time editorial team of only 11 at the Folkestone office putting together a magazine of 260 pages for more than two million readers: ‘We're very happy to coexist with PROs but if we don't get back to you please forgive us.'

Healthy attitude
Bravery adds that pitches from health PROs are particularly welcome, with Saga's readership of ageing baby- boomers keen to follow advancements in the medical field. ‘I would love to hear about everything to do with health - bring it on,' she says. ‘But remember we're very serious where "health" meets "medical".

We're not your average women's magazine - we recently ran a feature on a reader's colostomy.' Bravery says the title's dedicated web team of two plans to devote more and more online coverage to health.

As part of the Saga Group, the magazine is unable to run travel editorial because of legal obligations to fellow subsidiary Saga Travel. ‘PROs send in press releases about holidays, but we can't use them,' explains Bravery. ‘We run Saga Travel's ads, but no editorial. We are not a customer magazine but we are their shop window.'

She does, however, want to hear from PROs with case studies of relocations or DIY restoration. ‘We want to run pieces on people who have retired and started a new life. It's Grand Designs meets real life.'

Bravery also hopes fashion PROs will consider Saga as a target title for men's high street brands: ‘Our readership is half women and half men, which is not something you find often. We're a unique little package.'

CONTACTS

Editor
Katy Bravery
01303 771 521
editor@saga.co.uk

Editorial administrator
Maria Abobeleira
01303 771 523
maria.abobeleira@saga.co.uk

Fashion editor
Lesley Ebbetts
020 8995 5586, lebbetts@aol.com

Beauty editor/freelancer
Sally Brampton
020 7328 1120, salb@globalnet.co.uk

Homes and gardens editor
Tiffany Daneff, tiffany@dircon.co.uk

Web editors
Melody Rousseau
01303 771 949
melody.rousseau@saga.co.uk

Andrew Stevens
01303 774 706
andy.stevens@saga.co.uk

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