In the crowded and competitive real-life market, Real People magazine, the subject of a recent BBC documentary, sits near the bottom of the pile in terms of circulation figures.
To put that into context, the magazine sells 216,000 copies a week, with market leader Take A Break shifting about 900,000 copies a week.
Real People's readership is unashamedly mass-market, making it manna from heaven for PROs promoting mass-market goods and services.
'Many glossy magazines have to be very careful things don't appear too PR-ed, or readers will switch off,' says Real People editor Samm Taylor. 'But in the real-life market readers love brands. As long as there is a story, the readers won't care if it's plugging Walkers Crisps.'
Katie Eborall, account manager at Hatch PR, confirms this, reporting that she recently secured branded coverage for a client in Real People through pitching a case study. However, she warns: 'There was a lot of clarifying of details, so it is best to have all the facts to hand before you pitch.'
Rich Leigh, account manager at 10Yetis, backs this up: 'Most real-life magazines are very specific about what they want.
'If you pitch to them, the first thing they will ask for is a case study.'
Some of the stories that appear in Real People seem utterly unbelievable. For this reason Taylor says the magazine is scrupulous about fact-checking: 'Believability is an important word for us. We check every detail to the last degree, much more than any other type of magazine or newspaper.'
The average Real People reader is female, in her twenties and has young children.
However, Taylor says the magazine, like others in the real-life sector, is read by many age groups: 'There is a big "swapsies" system going on with real-life magazines. The mum will buy Chat and Take A Break, and the daughter will buy Pick Me Up and Real People. Then they will swap them around.'
As well as real-life stories, the magazine has a lively competitions and puzzles section, which can be a tasty target for PR professionals.
Puzzles are drawn up in-house. 'If somebody is offering a holiday in the Caribbean, we can make the whole puzzle themed around the Caribbean,' says Taylor.
She adds the magazine is also open to collaborations with brands, citing a recent team-up with Procter & Gamble that encouraged readers to confess their own 'dirty secrets'.
'It worked for us. It's a collaboration with a brand, but it gives the readers fun stories, which is what they want,' says Taylor.
Circulation: 216,038 (July-December 2009; source: ABC)
In 2009 the magazine won the PPA Marketing Awards Collaboration of the Year prize for its collaboration with Procter & Gamble
A MINUTE WITH ... SAMM TAYLOR, EDITOR, REAL PEOPLE MAGAZINE
- To what do you attribute the popularity of real-life stories?
Real-life is accessible. Celebrities are aspirational, but there are a lot of people out there who are quite happy with their own lives. They do not want to be Cheryl Cole, but they still have the urge to share stories, experiences and opinions. For them, real-life is their outlet. People also read real-life to make them feel better about their own lives - they may be having a miserable time, but here is this person who has been through it all - and come out the other end.
- Describe the recent BBC documentary about Real People magazine, 'Secrets for Sale'.
It was by chance initially - the BBC was talking to a sister magazine and then asked about real life. The BBC was here for ten to 12 weeks, going out with reporters and filming. The final programme, over which we had no editorial control, attracted 2.5 million viewers, which for that slot was a strong performance. This was a rare opportunity for us to use prime-time TV to be able to challenge a few of the stereotypes about real life. It was risky, but I had every faith in my team.
- How do you keep Real People different from your rivals in the real-life market?
We use real people on the cover instead of models.