Editing a TV listings magazine is a curious business at the
Despite the wealth of alternative sources for listings information from
Emap’s new entertainment magazine Heat through to Sunday supplements and
even Teletext, the latest round of ABCs showed the TV listings sector
increasing circulation by eight per cent year-on-year.
Not content with holding its own in this intensely competitive market,
Radio Times has hired LDA Communications to boost its profile as it
undergoes a substantial relaunch.
The relaunch looks set to increase the features content of the magazine
and offer new sections to its upmarket 40-plus readership in a bid to
fend off further competition. It is a move which the magazine’s
advertising agency customers welcome.
’I think the BBC is a canny publisher and I can’t see it wasting its
money,’ said Mark Savage, senior media manager at Motive, Bartle Bogle
Hegarty’s media arm. ’It has successfully fended off the weekend
newspapers, as I can’t see those TV sections really changing or
improving any further.
Radio Times has an attractive, upmarket audience, so I’m sure the money
will stay with it.’
Alongside Radio Times, the paid-for element of the market has been
performing pretty well. What’s On TV leads IPC’s stable of three
listings mags, with a 3.6 per cent increase year-on-year. As for the
others, TV Times slipped back by barely 1.2 per cent, and TV and
Satellite Week grew slightly, with a 0.3 per cent increase.
These titles seem strangely immune to the challenge from free subscriber
magazines like Cable Guide and Sky Digital which operate, in effect,
like controlled circulation titles.
Indeed, nearly five million people still go out every week and pay cash
for TV listings titles, prompting Bauer, which publishes 726,000-selling
TV Quick, to launch a further title, TV Choice, into this increasingly
So confident has this buoyancy made IPC’s listings division, IPC tx,
that the publisher is now looking at developing electronic formats for
television listings before the end of the year.
However, Motive’s Savage is less optimistic about the long-term chances
of the sector. ’There’s a new generation coming up in their twenties and
thirties who don’t seem to have the TV listings habit,’ he says. ’I
don’t buy one, and I can’t see myself starting to buy one as I get
older. That’s why I think the Radio Times is right to broaden out its
content - to keep its readers loyal and to attract new readers.’
Reach: average reader 26, urban, 50:50 male:female split
Editor: Mark Frith
’We set out to be different from other listings magazines. People don’t
just want TV listings - they get that from Hello! or from the weekend TV
supplements in the newspapers. That’s why it’s what’s around the
listings that counts. We wanted to make sure listings were an important
part of Heat, but not the first and foremost part.
’We’re a weekly entertainment magazine for entertainment fanatics, so we
cover film, albums, events, everything. This means we give as much space
to gossip about what’s on TV and interviews with film stars as we will
to a forthcoming series. For instance, we’ve just picked up an Emap
award for our coverage of Oscars night, for which the staff worked
around the clock to get the magazine out with all the stuff we could
get. Our competitors are less likely to try that sort of thing.
’Our readers are mainly 23- to 29-year-olds who go out a lot but can’t
make their decision about whether to go out if they don’t know what’s on
the telly. When Friday night TV is really good on Channel 4, for
instance, they may stay in Fridays and go out on the other six days. Or
set their videos. And there’s other differences between us and a pure TV
listings title. The Radio Times is a BBC journal, so they’ll put an ITV
star on the cover maybe once a year.
’At Emap Metro, we know our readers and we’re independent of any
broadcaster, so we’ll have maybe a slight bias to Channel 4 and BBC2.
Those channels have the shows that our readers tend to watch. Our last
Channel 4 cover, for instance, was Denise van Outen launching her new
Friday night show.
She’s an ideal cover for the Heat reader. Again, I’m not sure which TV
magazines would put her on the cover. Having said that, we’re
reverential about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and we have the freedom
to put anyone we want on the cover.’
Reach: 52:48 male:female split, 71% ABC1
Editor: Sue Robinson
’These have been difficult times for all listings magazines. The
competition has increased, so it’s impossible to rest on your laurels.
We’re really pleased we’ve held our own and we’ve done so by burying the
old patrician idea of the Radio Times.
’We did a Star Wars cover in April, for instance, where we offered
readers four different covers with four different characters. That’s
something we plan to do again. The way Radio Times has survived against
all the odds is by understanding what our reader is about. At the heart
of the magazine’s readership, we have infoholics - people who just want
to know more and more about their broadcast viewing.
’We’ve redesigned the magazine to deal with this, using two strands.
There’s what we call ’navigation’ - making the listings clearer to
understand and use - and then there’s ’guidance’ - our recommendations.
People can choose from so many channels now that they really need
someone to tell them what’s on that they’re actually going to like.
’To survive in an age when people can get all their listings for free if
they want, we have to make sure they trust us to steer them through the
wealth of viewing that’s out there. We know our readers. They’re very
upmarket and they like us to weed out the rubbish for them. We’re
broadening the magazine in some ways, but not in others. For instance,
we’ve introduced a weekly Web Watch page, and we also recommend a
variety of chat rooms, but we’ll never try to be a general magazine. The
Radio Times is about quality and that’s how we’ll survive.
’The reason we appointed LDA is that we want to make sure people are
aware of how the magazine has changed. There’s still a lot of people who
see us as the old-style Radio Times. We want to promote the events we’re
involved in, like the Bafta Awards and the Edinburgh Television