Media analysis: Colourful world of the grey press

With the number of active, affluent over-50s rising rapidly, the competition between magazines targeting older people is hotting up. Hannah Marriott looks at the best ways for PROs to engage with the 'grey press'

Whether it is Bruce Willis posing seductively on the cover, a heavy-hitting feature campaigning against discrimination, or advice on finding love on the internet, magazines ­targeting over-50s are not the staid ­publications that some might expect.

Last week, Yorkshire-based mature ­specialist marketing agency Millennium ­acquired two magazines that target the ­­over-50s - Active Life and Quicksilver - previously published by PSP Communications.

The two publications are being merged, with the surviving one, Active Life, being mailed to 130,000 over-50s next month. ­Subscribers will receive at least two final free editions before being asked to pay.

This is Millennium's first foray into ­publishing. MD Martin Smith - marketing ­director at Saga Holidays until 1995 - says:‘The titles did not fit with the rest of the activity of the ­business publishing them. But they fit our ­expertise and clients, who will be able to use the magazine as a test-bed for campaigns and creative ideas.'

An energised readership
Of course, what it means to be over 50 has changed a great deal in the past decade. People remain healthy for longer and ­enjoy an increased disposable income.

According to The Future of Retirement - a 2005 HSBC survey that quizzed 11,453 adults in ten countries - people do not want to slow down as they approach retirement, with 72 per cent of over-55s saying they would prefer to continue working.

What is more, by 2050, one in three people will be over the age of 65. Little wonder that brands are scrambling for market share.

Active Life is just one of many magazines that target over-50s specifically, from women's consumer magazine Yours (with an ABC of 421,438 for the second half of 2005) to the witty The Oldie (an ABC of 25,785), and ­market leader Saga Magazine.

Hill & Knowlton account director Adrian Warr, who promoted the HSBC survey, advises PROs to choose stories with a positive angle when targeting the grey press. ‘They know better than anyone the stereotypes and ­preconceptions about their readership that need to be broken down,' he explains.

And with the rise of the Silver Surfer, all the magazines are to relaunch their websites over the coming months. PR practitioners who can provide additional content or competition prizes are bound to be valued.


Editor Emma Soames
Circulation 550,000
Lead in Three to four months
Frequency Monthly

Saga is a huge commercial operation, so what is the policy on featuring ­other companies' products?
While we wouldn't use adverts or PR-driven stories from direct competitors, such as rival holiday firms, there are a whole host of other products that we can, and do, feature in adverts and editorial.

Where are the opportunities for PROs?
We are always looking for competition prizes and for access to celebrities with a good story. We are also always looking for over-50s who have ­reinv­­ented themselves. There is a lot of book-driven editorial, and although authors featured needn't be over 50, there must be some relevance.

Does Saga cover serious issues as well as the glamorous ones?
We do write about important health topics such as hip replacements, or concerns such as age discrimination, and we are campaigning on the pension crisis, so there is a serious thread.

How should PROs get in touch?
Email assistant editors Edna Tromans for books and celebrities; the [yet-to-be-appointed] features editor for features; and health and money and deputy editor Katy Bravery for anything else.


Editor Helen Hodge
Circulation 100,000-130,000
Lead in Four months
Frequency Bi-monthly

What do you have planned for the magazine's relaunch?
I was the launch editor in 1989, and am anxious to get it back to the right tone.

What is in the first relaunched issue?
Our cover star is Diane Keene from BBC1's Doctors - all cover stars will be relevant, topical, and someone with whom our readers can identify. We focus on health, with an emphasis on self-help and alternative remedies.

What else will feature regularly?
There are ‘how to' sections giving advice on tackling new challenges after retirement, such as learning a foreign language. Each one comes with a case study. We also run a lot of travel and entertainment features, about holidays and events at home or abroad. Other sections cover ­antiques, financial advice, gardening and recipes. Expert contri­butions in health or finance would be ­welcome, as would any competition prizes.

How about fashion?
There isn't any in the first issue, but we will probably introduce it soon, although I would say ‘clothes' rather than ‘fashion', because there will be as many men as women reading - let's not forget those silver foxes!


Managing editor Tony Watts
Circulation 140,000
Lead in Three weeks
Frequency Monthly

How does The Mature Times stand out from other titles targeting over-50s?
The newspaper is distributed free to outlets such as libraries and charity shops, and has a remit to act as a voice for older people, with an emphasis on campaigning.

What topics do you tackle?
Issues such as access to grandchildren or ageism in the workplace. We like to hear from charities or pressure groups trying to make a positive change to the lives of older people.

What else makes it in?
Sections include health and fitness, travel, finance and property and gardening, and there is a lot of humour. We also have a relationships page and are not afraid to talk about sex aids or erectile dysfunction - old people do have sex!

How can PROs increase their chances of getting in?
Having a robust story. If you are promoting a medical supplement, we want helpful medical information, and medical proof to back up claims.

What else is helpful?
We run a lot of competitions and would like to hear more from PROs promoting active holidays - our readers may not be about to climb Everest but they would be interested in walking or painting breaks.

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