Media Analysis: Slimming titles battle for readers

As the weather hots up, so does the public's desire to shed extra pounds in preparation for that beach holiday. Sarah Robertson asks how PROs can target the top slimming titles during their peak period of circulation.

Since slimming magazines claimed a foothold in the publishing world 20 years ago, the sector has exploded and titles boast a relatively large circulation. A successful story pitch to one of these titles guarantees reaching a large readership. For example, while WeightWatchers' circulation is around 220,000, publisher Castlebar Publishing estimates its readership is five times that size.

A lucrative market

The nation's obsession with getting thinner is here to stay, and with obesity levels as high as ever, the slimming market appears more lucrative than ever before. When Rosemary Conley launched Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness in 1996, circulation from January to June peaked at 221,000 but, like all the slimming publications, has since fallen to 111,608 for July to December 2003. Likewise, Slimming - currently on the hunt for a new editor - kicked off in 1997 with a circulation of 121,000 but pulled in 68,196 over 2003.

Conley explains the trend affecting all the sector titles: 'All printed media is battling hard for readers. The slimming market has expanded hugely in recent years and the same customer base is now shared across more titles. Added to this is the impact of the internet.'

However, titles such as Slimming put the circulation lapse down to letting the glossies and women's weeklies jump ahead of them on the subject, as well as the increasing number of diet-related programmes on TV. As a result, a number of titles, including Slimming and WeightWatchers, have relaunched in the last two years and say their moves have pushed up circulation.

WeightWatchers magazine which relaunched in 2002 - winning the PPA independent publishing award for the best relaunch that year - claims to have seen a ten per cent increase in year-on-year circulation since.

PROs say they target slimming titles like any other consumer magazine.

Boots press officer Fiona Lakin says: 'If we are launching a product or service, we would target the titles through shows, press releases or one-to-one. If appropriate, we would send out products with releases - the same way as any consumer press.'


Publisher: Castlebar Publishing

Circulation: 220,669, Jan-Dec 2003

Publisher: Mary Placzek

How does WeightWatchers differ from other slimming magazines?

It is a lifestyle magazine. While food is key, it also features health and beauty, because the first thing people do when they lose weight is change their dress and lifestyle as they take more interest in their well-being.

What do PROs do wrong when they try to sell in a story?

Weight Watchers benefits from its global brand, but that means we get inundated by PROs. One of the main areas where PROs fall down is by contacting us with ideas or products that are irrelevant, or with claims not backed up with research.

What is the best way for PROs to get in touch?

Email, or informationsent in by post. Press launches are also a favourite with the team.

How essential is it for PROs to know the editorial team?

While it is useful to have relationships with the editorial team, it is not essential for a PRO to successfully pitch a story.


Publisher: Quorn House Publishing

Circulation: 111,608, July-Dec 2003

Editor-in-chief: Rosemary Conley

How much scope is there for PROs to influence content?

If a PRO comes up with an idea that is relevant, we could come up with a feature based on the idea. However, the magazine is produced mainly using our own ideas.

How are you different from other slimming magazines?

We are different in that everything we print is 100 per cent based on fact and scientific evidence.

What do you want from PROs?

What we need is accurate, factual information. We need good communication and an efficient service. We like to build a personal relationship with an individual. If you have a regular person to speak to, you can work well together and build respect, and you know you are not going to waste each other's time. Press releases are fine providing they're short and they have some news content. We don't want something that takes ages to read, or takes a lot of effort on our part.


Publisher: Emap Esprit

Circulation: 68,196, Jan-Dec 2003

Publisher: Dani Zur

What is the best way for PROs to target Slimming?

Strong research to back up your products and diet ideas is key. Information sent to us must explain why a product is right for our readers and have a news angle. New diets are reviewed by an in-house panel of specialists so good background research could make or break a pitch.

Where do PROs fail in their media relations?

PROs often don't know the magazine well enough when they try to sell in a story. They need to know our philosophy and our readers.

How much room is there for PROs to influence content?

A press release might influence a feature idea, particularly if it has strong research behind it. Some of the best press releases find their way onto our news pages.

How is Slimming different from other magazines?

We are the top title which is not affiliated with a diet club and can, therefore, offer independent advice.

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