This month, Essentials magazine waded into the debate by unveiling a modeland celebrity-free issue in what it claims is a UK media first. It has also announced it will only use 'real' women on future front covers.
The decision was taken, says editor Jules Barton-Breck, because in a recent survey more than 70 per cent of 5,000 readers said they would prefer real women on the cover: 'Our readers love the way the magazine celebrates women like them every month. Essentials aims to show realistic images of women and that means the women featured should look like themselves. It's a brave move but it feels like the right magazine and the right time.'
It is certainly a risky move. Getting the right celebrity or the right model on the front cover is key for many women's magazines.
But as Ruder Finn's director of digital strategies Ged Carroll argues, this is not a new idea. 'It has become a bit of a trend. American Apparel and Uniqlo had staff models and Tokyo Girls Collection has used magazine readers,' he says. Not to mention Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty, launched in 2004.
In practical terms, he believes PROs who target the title will not need to alter their approach hugely. 'Stylists will still be important for the magazine, which is the main focus for fashion PROs,' he says.
But he believes this trend may become more widespread across the marketing industry: 'The most interesting part is the magazine's lower running costs through cheaper content creation. There are no modelling fees to pay. I imagine this trend will seep further into advertising as well.'
Essentials has been steadily improving its circulation figures in the past few years, with the latest ABCs showing a 12.9 per cent rise year on year to 115,432. Aimed at the 35-year-old suburban woman, it is now the fastest-growing women's fashion and lifestyle monthly.
The magazine includes affordable and wearable fashion, step-by-step make-up guides and health and home features. It has a monthly 32-page pull-out section called 'Make It Easy', which offers advice on everything from food recipes to 'the 20 websites you can't live without'.
As Barton-Breck says: 'Enjoying home life, being creative and spending money wisely is where it's at, and these values are at the heart of the magazine and its success.'
Shine Communications' director Richard Brett argues that the key to success is to make ideas practical, accessible and affordable: 'The magazine competes with other more lifestyle-focused titles such as Prima, but it is less escapist and more focused on helping readers to be knowledgeable consumers.'
Circulation: 115,432 (ABCs, January-June 2010)
Deadlines: Two to three months in advance
Publisher: IPC Media
Contact: 0203 148 5000
General: email@example.com, 020 3148 7211
Fashion: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 3148 7227
Beauty: email@example.com, 020 3148 7224
Features: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 3148 7223
A MINUTE WITH ... Jules Barton-Breck, editor, Essentials
How will you find your cover stars in the future?
Women can enter via facebook.com/essentialsmagazine or at email@example.com. They need to tell us about themselves and their life in 150 words and enclose two colour photographs. If PROs have access to case histories who fit the bill, then I would ask them to either apply as above, or contact Lucie Tobin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How should PROs get in touch?
By email. We have a cast list in the magazine every month with relevant contacts. For marketing opportunities (competitions, offers, sampling) contact our marketing manager Katherine Smith.
Any pet hates about PROs?
Those who don't know the brand. PROs not giving an immediate response to requests for information or pictures - we've got deadlines. Inappropriate content that has nothing do with the Essentials brand and just clogs up my inbox.
How do you present your content online?
Our main activity online is via Twitter and Facebook where we engage our fans and followers with daily tips and fun discussions.
What are your deadlines?
We discuss content in issues about two to three months in advance.