MEDIA: MORTGAGE MAGAZINES - Mortgage mags vie for house market Mortgage magazines are seeking to grow their audience on the back of changes, such as a price war, within the market, reports Ed Shelton.

Like the magazine market for expectant parents, the mortgage magazine market is assured a regular throughput of readers. As first-time home buyers come onto the market and face a bewildering array of different products, a magazine which compares interest rates and small print clearly has a niche.

Like the magazine market for expectant parents, the mortgage magazine market is assured a regular throughput of readers. As first-time home buyers come onto the market and face a bewildering array of different products, a magazine which compares interest rates and small print clearly has a niche.

But a number of other factors are now driving sales of mortgage magazines.

Homeowners are now realising that it makes sense to change their mortgage every few years. Hence, instead of readers buying one or two months' copies when they buy their home, there is now a great deal more repeat buying as people keep an eye on the market.

Publishers say the market is also being driven by a need for information relating to the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions in the financial industry, uncertainty about the value of endowment mortgages, the suggestion that there may soon be new rules about house purchasing, and most recently the beginnings of a mortgage price war.

Possibly sensing their increasing importance, the two most established magazines in the market - What Mortgage and Your Mortgage - have both appointed new editors, and either recently re-designed (YM) or are about to (WM).

Such is the interest in the sector that these magazines are also fending off competition from Mortgage Magazine, which launched last October, and also increased interest from TV and the personal finance sections of newspapers.

The three magazines in the market currently look remarkably similar.

All have a fact section - a regular step-by-step guide to buying a house - and a features section. The point being that to attract the browsing, potential purchaser, the 'must have' content is pretty clear.

There are subtle differences, however. Your Mortgage is perfect bound and has a slightly more upmarket feel than the other two. What Mortgage might claim a more authoritative feel and features a broader range of mortgages, including those for people with difficulties, such as poor credit ratings. Mortgage Magazine is aimed more at the first time buyer and is trying to win an audience with cover mounts.

The nature of these titles as 'transaction magazines' means that brand loyalty is not much of a factor - any magazine on the shelf stands a reasonable chance of being bought.

The titles do not publish ABCs (they did in the past), so the true sales picture is difficult to assess. Publishers say the main magazines sell 15,000 to 20,000 a month but because sales are largely determined by how many people are looking at purchases in any given month, they are prone to wild fluctuations.



YOUR MORTGAGE

Name: Paula John

Position: editor

Publisher: Matching Hat

'People buy the magazine either because they don't know where to begin, or for further advice, and there are some people who buy it solely for the charts at the back.

'Our reader research indicates that people see our magazine as the 'Rolls Royce' of its sector, while What Mortgage is regarded as the 'Lada'.

While it must be said that the content of both is broadly similar, Your Mortgage uses superior quality paper - is more glossy and more likely to sit on peoples' coffee tables for longer. Our readers also tend to be slightly more affluent than What Mortgage's. We do not consider Mortgage Magazine a threat. What Mortgage has been a healthy rival for years and we welcome its presence. But I don't think there's room for yet another mag dedicated to mortgages.

'We redesigned the magazine last year. It has been going for 14 years, so we need to revisit the look regularly to prevent it from becoming dated.

We have also revamped the charts to make them more accessible, and have added a 'flexible buy-to-let' chart as these deals have recently been introduced.

'We think it is important that a totally independent guide to mortgages exists. The mortgage market is fiercely competitive, which is great news for consumers. There are plenty of cheap deals around, but there are more than 4,000 to choose from and many borrowers need a helping hand through the maze.'



WHAT MORTGAGE

Name: Tamsin Hensley

Position: editor

Publisher: Charterhouse Communications

'What Mortgage was established in 1982 and offers information on the latest mortgages in the market and tips on homebuying and homeowning, including how to find a removals service, home security and using a housing association to find a home. We also look at ISA mortgages, flexible mortgages and deals for first-time buyers.

'There are more and more mortgage magazines coming on the market - most recently Mortgage Magazine. With this in mind, the magazine is being redesigned with a fresher more modern up-to-date feel to it. We are also hoping to team up with more lenders to include information booklets, CD-Roms, calendars, key rings, pens and videos as cover mounts.

'Each feature we write offers tips and advice but we also like to have a contemporary feel to each article. One way of doing this is to contact the PR agencies of lenders in the industry - not only the larger lenders but the smaller ones too. We also deal with the PR agencies of the more specialist lenders, such as those which offer mortgages for the self-employed or to borrowers with a poor credit record. These agencies provide us with an overview of the market, general product information and case studies.

'A significant proportion of our readership are first-time buyers, while over a quarter are re-mortgaging.'



MORTGAGE MAGAZINE

Name: Richard Kingsbury

Position: editor

Publisher: MSM International

'The last of the three magazines in the market, we launched last October. We are a company that focuses on financial titles and we saw an opportunity because we thought the market needed a shake-up.

'People always need information about mortgages and in the last few weeks the profile of the mortgage industry has been raised again. You have about 150 lenders, and probably 4,000 different products, which makes it very difficult for people to choose. People had also been scared by endowments, plus there was a lot of discussion about legislation on mortgage advice and a lot of mergers and acquisitions within banks.

'The magazine is split into three sections. There is a data section giving information on the best deals. There is a core section, which gives people step-by-step guides through processes like buying a home. This stays basically the same each month, but we do look at it to keep it fresh.

'At the front we run between seven to nine articles where we can expand on different aspects of home buying. We also do cover mounts every issue - we are the only ones doing that at the moment.

'We are aimed at first-time buyers and people looking to change their mortgage or to move home. Most people buy up to three magazines: they start looking, go and buy a magazine, they buy the next one to see how things have changed and maybe a third if they have not yet bought.'



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