Magazines and the virtuous circle of value

  • Media
  • November 19, 2012
  • Katrina Horton
Magazines and the virtuous circle of value

There is little value in reminding you that magazines are well targeted and engaging. We recently conducted a survey of agency people and when asked to describe magazines, 78 percent and 71 percent of you respectively chose those definitions. So we’re virtually all in agreement there. But there is value in talking about why magazines are well targeted, and how readers are engaged. Then, arguably most importantly, how this relates to their experience with advertising and the resulting benefit to advertisers.

Consumers choose the magazines they read in the same way they choose their friends. They look for a high level of connection through shared experience, interests and aspirations. The magazines they read are described as ‘my magazine’, so the relationship is deeply emotional and, therefore, personal.

This is well summarised by The Reader’s Perspective (National Magazine Company):

  1. The reader has his/her perception of what type of person he/she wants to be
  2. When a magazine closely chimes with self image, there is a high level of identification with the chosen magazine. There is a feeling of ownership, an informed friend.
  3. There grows a sense that “my magazine helps me to become the person I want to be”. Magazines are therefore aspirational, enabling.
  4. The reader feels “I therefore have a powerful trusting relationship with my magazine”.

The close personal connection translates to the way readers consume magazine content. FIPP Proof of Performance (July 2012) describes the readership experience as creating a “private bubble”, protecting the reader from distraction.

“It was generally an intensely personal moment. The reader was utterly absorbed in the magazine. Demands on one’s time could be forgotten for a moment… The magazine would always be there when they had a moment, to talk to them for as long as they could spare… The satisfaction obtained was analogous to eating a favourite food.”

As a result, time is put aside to read magazines. In the last Nielsen CMI release*, average time spent reading a single issue was 42.1 minutes, increasing to 71.2 minutes for primary readers. Counter to perception, magazine readership is an activeexperience as the act of reading requires full attention, so we are focused, meaning media multi-tasking is limited. A third (33 percent) of the population do nothing else when reading a magazine*.

The act of magazine reading is not an isolated incident. Magazines are picked up by readers on multiple occasions. In New Zealand, the average issue pick up is 3.4 times*. Unlike broadcast media, consumers are free to dwell on features of interest for as long or as many times as desired. Pages can be cut out and kept, or as content migrates onto digital platforms, book marked and reshared with friends via social media.

The logical conclusion is that the flood of positive emotional connection and engagement should flow on to advertisers. Unsurprisingly, there are numerous studies that demonstrate that high interaction in magazines results in enhanced communication of advertising messages and resulting action. There is a famous study conducted by Starcom in the US where consumers were asked to tear out ten pages from their favourite magazines, which represented the essence of the magazine and three of the ten pages were advertisements.

The relationship between magazines, readers and advertisers is unique. As titles are chosen by readers to match their own personalities and interests, so, more often than not, advertisers choose to be there as the title reflects either the product or the brand attributes. Ads are therefore well targeted and well received by consumers. This is strongly evidenced in MPA Australia’s Media Matchmaker study. Advertising is seen as appealing and attractive (58 percent), useful (50 percent) and relevant (44 percent), which means ad avoidance is minimal, with only 19 percent saying they avoid ads, compared to 67 percent on television.

For the average ad, 90 percent or more readers are exposed to it, as their eyes are physically open in front of the page#.

Ultimately, it’s the resulting action arising from magazine readership that is most compelling. In New Zealand:

  • 76 percent of readers will talk to someone about something they’ve read in a magazine
  • 60 percent will visit a website to find out more
  • 55 percent will actually buy something they’ve seen

The role magazines play in nudging people along the path to purchase is important. This is a virtuous circle: consumers make a highly personal decision with the magazines they choose, which forms a trust-based relationship. This trust flows through to advertisers, who generally reflect the same aspirations and attributes as both magazine and reader. The resulting triumvirate creates a drive to find out more about a product, share with friends and ultimately drive to purchase.

Which is very valuable indeed.

  • Katrina Horton is commercial director of the Magazine Publishers Association.

* Nielsen Consumer and Media Insights (Q4 2011-Q3 2012)

# FIPP Proof of Performance, 2011

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