All 6 entries tagged Magazines
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March 25, 2008
Lifestyle "Celebrity" and Advertising
Elsewhere in the blog it has been argued that lifestyle magazines are an important part of an overall field of discourses which encourage a culture of consumption. This culture of consumption is based upon an increasing aestheticisation of life and the links to personal identity. People often start to believe that if they buy a product that is linked to a sporting 'personality' for example they can identify and be identified with them.
Celebrity, Branding & Advertising
This kind of pressure can be particularly important working on younger people and what can encourage this is a culture of "celebrity". Celebrity is frequently when a particular individual frequently a sporting 'star' (personality might be too strong a word when including people who can barely string a sentence together). They can aslo be film stars or leading actors in popular TV series. Whilst the reality is that they are no often any more clever (frequently less) they have been proved to be quite good at something. This has then been hyped up by skillful branding agencies , public relations companies and individual agents. Linking rising stars to consumer products is often an expensive form of branding for the product but when the sporting star is at the top of his / her game this link can be beneficial to both.
Arecent survey in schools shows the power these ideas can have on naive younger people. As this BBC story from December 2007 reports arguably the effects are very powerful:
Children see some 10,000 TV adverts a year and recognise 400 brands by age 10, Children's Secretary Ed Balls says.
The numbers of children at school who are strongly influenced by the culture of celebrity is alarming as this BBC report from 14th of March 2008 notes:
Children's educational aspirations risk being damaged by the cult of celebrity, teachers' leaders have warned.
Some 60% of teachers said their pupils most aspired to be David Beckham, in a survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). More than a third said pupils wanted to be famous for the sake of being famous. Some 32% of the 304 teachers quizzed said their pupils modelled themselves on heiress Paris Hilton.
As a spoilt rich kid allowed to what she liked she is cleary a good "role model". Here she is pictured coming out of jail after being incarcerated for ignoring a drink driving ban! (BBC June 2007). Hilton is a case of being famous for wait for it...... being famous. (Duh!!!!)
- Identify in your own lifestyle magazines the advertised products which are part of major brands.
- How many of them are associated with with Celebrities / Stars?
- Which ones?
March 19, 2008
Post removed by administrator upon request.
May 06, 2007
Below I have reprinted a short article from a recent Finnish survey on the International Federation of the Periodical Press which gives a reasonably upbeat future for many magazines arguing that those who use the internet are likely to read magazines and vice versa. The article argues that from the perspective of the advertiser it is worth using both media forms. with further research on this site is is apparent that unsurprisingly there has been great concern amongst magazine publishers about the effects of the internet and the development of associated electronic media. The results from the various surveys are upbeat showing that provided publishers adapt they can exert a valuable influnece on internet development. Whilst these findings are hardly cast iron guarantees of the future they show that in the current period magazine publishing is still alive and kicking.
Finnish Survey: Magazines and internet have natural affinity
Magazines and the internet have a natural affinity which makes them complementary, but their diverse characteristics also mean that they are not alternatives. Consequently it is valuable to use both media for marketing communications. This is the conclusion of a survey in Finland commissioned by the Finnish Periodical Publishers Association.
The Connection 2005 report is based on the Finnish Intermedia Study 2004, conducted by TNS Gallup Oy. It found that people who read magazines are more likely than non-readers to also use the internet. Conversely, internet users are more likely than non-users to read magazines.
This is particularly marked among people who are involved in specialist interests such as cars and hobbies. For example, readers of car magazines are a third more likely to use the internet daily than is the population as a whole. They also tend to spend longer on the internet.
When the study examined motives for using magazines and the internet, the strongest types of motive for both media were to obtain information and to be entertained. Ten motives were listed, and the six most important ones for both media were:
- Information and ideas for hobbies
- To learn new things
- Background information on new things and phenomena
- To spend some time
- To enhance your all-round education
- Ideas for spending free time
When people have a particular interest, it is natural for them to turn to both magazines and the internet for more about that interest. The specialisation of magazines is matched by the specialisation of the internet. In other words, both are excellent for targeting (from an advertiser’s point of view). Moreover both require active input from users – screening what is available, selecting what to pay attention to, and in effect becoming their own editors.
The profile of people who use both the internet and magazines is that they tend to be young, slightly more male than female, educated better than average, and in ‘upper white collar’ occupations or still studying.
TNS Gallup Oy interviewed 1351 Finnish-speaking people aged 12-69 years. A daily diary was used which recorded exposure to 36 media subgroups. The diaries were spread evenly across a four-week period.
Despite this rather upbeat finding present on the webpages was a link to ABC Electronic which has developed a range of services for auditing websites to provide potential advertisers with information. Below an earlier report complied by the Henley Centre argues that magazines by evolving have an important role to play in the age of the internet
FIPP‘s research consultant Guy Consterdine, gives his assessment of the findings
- There is a eightened importance of a medium‘s ability to create involvement and ‘engagement‘ rather than merely attract attention. Gaining attention is no longer enough - and magazines are superb at inducing engagement.
- Consumers are changing too, and keen magazine readers are more aspirational, sociable and interested in using technology than heavy users of other media. Technology and magazines go together as a neat pair
- The new role for magazines is to act as a bridge to interactivity.
- This must be closely linked-in to magazines‘ long-established roles, which The Henley Centre classifies into two categories:
- Accessing personal networks of trust, and providing a source of guidance and status.
- Their analysis focused particularly on core magazine readers - enthusiasts who can‘t resist buying magazines. It was felt this vanguard group would best show the future opportunities and trends for the industry
- People are now more ambitious about what they can discover for themselves. If they want to know something, they expect to be able to find it out, and more or less instantly. They feel more in control of information than previously. It‘s less of a mass-media world than it was, and more of a personalised-media world. This means more involvement and engagement
- The internet user is even more in control of the medium than the magazine or newspaper reader. Whereas the reader can only react to what is printed in the publication, the internet surfer can choose any topic at all and will expect to find something on it
- The internet is such a wide open, bottomless, uncharted and invisible world that the editing function which magazines can provide - reviewing a topic and suggesting avenues for further exploration - is a very valuable one. Magazines‘ own websites can be a useful part of such referrals, but in most cases they won‘t be the main online sources
- Core magazine readers are techno-savvy (see table). For example, they are more than twice as likely as the population as a whole to have their own website homepage. And they are twice as likely to take part in online discussion/chat groups
- People need trusted influences to guide them through the mass of information. Magazines‘ traditional position as trusted sources is invaluable here. Magazines are companions which are consumed in ‘me‘ time, making a private personal experience
- They pass on recommendations of things to do or buy, including websites and other sources to look at. Their suggestions can have the power of word-of-mouth recommendations
- The Henley Centre reported that this rubs off onto the advertising. Endorsements by trusted magazines can help create trust in a brand. Advertisers benefit from magazines‘ environment of word-of-mouth referrals.
The Henley Centre concluded that magazines have a head start in responding to the rapidly evolving post-mass-media world. Provided publishers give readers good reasons to engage with their magazines, and know how to harness that engagement, the medium has a great long-term future.
Magazine ads spark net searches
According to a study by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) and BIGresearch, almost 50 per cent of consumers said they were most motivated to begin an online search after viewing a magazine ad.
47.2% said it was a magazine ad that sparked a search, while 42.8% cited television ads and 42.3% said newspaper ads. Respondents were allowed to select more than one medium.
Shoppers continue to use the web as a resource before determining which items to buy and where. According to the survey, 92.5% of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store.
The study surveyed more than 15,000 consumers
Fipp of course is very concerned about the Weaknesses and opportunities which can either enhance traditional magazine publishing or bring about its demise. Below is an example of a recent online survey requesting members to report on the success and development of their online presences in relation to their standard magazines:
Be part of FIPP's magazine website survey
Do you publish a successful consumer magazine website? Is the website attacting new audience or advertisers, making you money, building a community, developing your brands, creating successful online products – or proving successful in any other vital respect?
If so, tell us as part of FIPPs ‘Routes To Success For Consumer Magazine Websites’ survey. FIPP is updating the series, previoulsy published in 2003 and 2005. The objective is to examine good practice online among successful websites operated by consumer magazine publishers around the world, and to study trends.
The websites we are looking to include are those which the publisher considers to be successful. Success can be defined in whatever terms the publisher chooses to define it.If you feel that you have such a website, we would be most grateful if you would participate in the survey by spending a few minutes completing our online questionnaire HERE.
Fipp is developing a lot of careful research into magazine markets and their relationship to the growing intermedia world. Below extracts of the FIPP annual research forum held in Amsterdam in February 2007 highlights these issues:
Emap the UKs second largest magazine publisher came out with the following report in
Magazine researchers are responding to the increasingly complex media world by creating new studies of how people are using media today, and by demonstrating the continuing value of magazine advertising – included in a mix with the web and television.
Forty-five research professionals from magazine publishing companies in 14 countries gathered for two days to discuss ongoing research studies and issues. Five of the major issues discussed were:
- The increase in a media mix – especially among young people
- The need for more studies of how marketing campaigns benefit from using magazines in combination with the internet (and other media)
- The arrival of multimedia mega-databases for planning marketing campaigns across many platforms, including digital media
- Using the internet as a data collection method and showing how magazines and websites can complement each other in offering improved functionality to consumers
- New methods for tracking how readers' eye movements reveal how they consume magazine ads
October of 2006:
Time spent reading magazines and newspapers has remained stable over the past two years despite the growing use of the Internet, concludes a recent European survey from Jupiter Research.
Based on interviews with 5,000 people in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, the report finds the average European in these countries spends three hours a week reading magazines and newspapers, the same as two years ago.
This is despite time spent online doubling from two hours to an average four hours per week.
Broadband makes a huge difference to internet activity, with those who have it spending seven hours a week online, compared with two hours by those with dial-up internet access.
European web usage remains much lower than in the USA, with Americans spending 14 hours online, the same amount of time as watching TV.
Jupiter research director Mark Mulligan believes, reassuringly, that there are more market opportunities for ‘old media’ companies than ever, but says that the successful organisations will be the ones who can offer rich media content such as video and podcasts as well as more traditional content.
Multi-platform media brands work harder than single-platform media: Emap's 'Engagement Squared' study
Media brands which extend onto several platforms – such as magazines, online, mobiles, radio and so on – work even harder for the advertiser than brands which are only on one platform.
Emap Advertising conducted a study in the UK called Engagement Squared. It was based on interviewing over 3,000 consumers about their multi-platform media consumption and their response to advertising campaigns. This was supplemented by parallel qualitative research.
Consumers who use a media brand on more than one platform spend more time with that brand, and have a deeper connection with it, than consumers who only experience the brand on a single platform. For example Kerrang, which began life as a magazine only, now spans many platforms. Among Kerrang users who only use one platform (e.g. read only the magazine) 52% agreed it is a ‘cool’ brand, whereas 72% of those who interact with Kerrang on more than one platform agreed it was ‘cool’.
Similarly among FHM consumers, 66% of those who only read the magazine thought it was ‘funny’, compared with 74% of those who read the magazine and visit the website. 76% of magazine-only readers thought the brand is ‘sexy’, compared with 87% of those using both magazine and website.
Advertising and Magazines
Advertising and Circulation
As has been noted elsewhere one of the main sources of income for a magazine is through its advertising. Advertisers will pay advertising rates based upon the size and nature of the readership and sales of a magazine. Most magazines belong to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) system of assessing the circulation of magazines. The ABC are an independent not-for profit organisation for the publishing industry. The BBC who are now a big producer of magazines produced this press report in August 2004 reviewing how well their magazines were doing set against the rest on figures provided by the ABC.
ABC explanation of their funding:
The whole concept and structure of ABC is based upon objectivity and integrity. As a tripartite association, ABC is funded by dues and service fees paid by the three groups it serves: advertisers, advertising agencies, and publishers.
As you would expect from a publicly accountable body information about the BBC magazines is easy to research. Below is a clear statement of how the BBC magazine arm is placed in the organisation as a whole. The extract also emphasises that the magazines are totally ring-fenced from the licence fee. This means they must survive on thier own merits as fully commercial publications. Naturally they have the advantage of a global brand but also play a role in extending that brand thus making an ovrall contribution to the licence payers as a whole.
BBC Magazines is a division of BBC Worldwide Ltd, the commercial consumer arm of the BBC. It is the UK's third largest consumer magazines publisher, with a portfolio of over 35 regular titles for adults, teenagers and children, and also owns Origin Publishing, which publishes a further range of contract titles and specialist consumer magazines.BBC Worldwide does not use licence fee income for its activities and re-invests in public service programming. In 2003/2004 BBC Worldwide returned £141 million to the BBC.
Circulation management is extremly important to the life and success of a magazine. Any serious decline in a magazine's circulation will lead to a decline in advertising revenue. This combination can quickly lead to a spiral of decline. Magazines managers will have a range of marketing tools at thier disposal to try and turnaround any flagging figures but firstly they need to know what their problems are and how they have arisen. If there is a general downturn in magazine circulation as a whole because of national economic decline for example then a magazine can benchmark its expectations against the competition in a falling market. There are several comapnies in existence which provide specialist services to magazines such as Mediatel and the Circulation Management Magazine.
Mediatel Reports on ABC circulation figures
Mediatel is a company which does number crunching for advertisers and media production companies. As soon as the raw data on circulation is released from ABC the infromation is produced for subscribers. This information is particualrly important for media buyers who are the people who reserve space for advertisements in magazines. If you go to the Mediatel figures on Men's Lifestyle magazines for example you will see that there has been a huge drop in circulation from 2005 - 2006 for the magazine 'Loaded' of nearly 25%. It is these figures rather than the direct content which concerns advertisers and which will dictate how much they are prepared to pay for advertising space. This graph giving the February sales figures is revealing of a downward trend in this market place.
Circulation Management Magazine
Although aimed at the American market-place this magazine was investigating an important conundrum which has emerged in the magazine market place which applies equally to the UK industry and also to Europe.
Baird Davis in Circ Levels Remain Precariously High in Second Half 2006
Monday, April 30, 2007 poses a fundamental issue:
In this article we’ll address the conundrum of how consumer magazine publishers are sustaining lofty circ levels in the face of stiff Internet competition and an apparent decline in magazine readership. We’ll explore the market trends that influence publisher’s high circ level behavior and conclude by taking an in-depth look at the mysterious alternative circulation sources (described in paragraph 6 of ABC Publisher’s Statements) that publishers are deploying to help sustain elevated circ levels. (My emphasis).
Circulators have been exceedingly creative in adjusting to an ever more advertising-centric environment, one resistant to lowering circ levels.
In the article Davis explores the methods which are used to verify circulation figures. Obviously this is an important issue which is fundamental for those buying advertising space to be certain of. With more and more advertising being attracted to the internet it appears as though anomolies are beginning to creep into the system.
As one enthusiastic blogger John Fine has noted in his US based blog posting "Circulation Bummer's List":
Magazines sell ads based on rate base. Rate base is circulation you guarantee to advertisers. If you miss rate base, your advertisers sort of have carte blanche to make your life miserable--demand cash or free ads; hammer you for future discounts because your circ is weak, etc.
How Far is a Magazinejust a Vehicle for Advertising?
Now we have established the importance of circulation to magazines it seems clear that advertisers have a powerful relationship to magazines it is clear that there is a direct relationship between advertising and profits however it is important to distinguish between different types of magazine before one jumps to an overhasty conclusion that all magazines are just there to provide adverts to willing consumer victims.
One useful way of beginning to assess a magazine is to analyse its target market. It seems clear that generically GQ is a men's lifestyle magazine which seems to be targeted at a more aspirant type of man in terms of thier clothing and how they spend their leasure time. The fact that its circulation is little over 120,000 out of a population of over 60 million tells us it is only reaching a very narrow target audience. Advertisers obviously pay attention to this.
GQ a Lifestyle Magazine Case Study
In GQ there is a noticeable lack of car adverts aimed at 'boy-racers' for example which one might have expected. In fact there are very few car adverts at all although there is a regular motoring column. Car advertising buyers clearly recognise that this isn't a sensible place to sell their products and concentrate on Car magazines or magazines in more upmarket newspares which clearly reach the advertisers target audience. Having analysed GQ advertising for the run up to two Xmases in a row it can quickly be seen that they run a special watches section which attracts watchmaking advertisers. Many of these watches advertised are several thousand pounds such as Breitlings and unlikely to be in the financial reach of most of the readership. As the adverts are the same as ones which appear in magazines such as the Financial Times monthly 'How to Spend It' colour supplement there is a clear discrepancy. The reality is that buying space in the Financial Times will be very expensive whilst in GQ it will be realtively cheap. for these advertisers it allows fantasies about high status items such as Swiss watches to enter into the lives of aspirants.
A useful exercise is to count up the pages devoted to advertising in GQ. We quickly find that in a typical issue over 50% of the magazine is made up of direct advertising. This is before we get to such things as advertorials in which the magazine has made a special deal with say a clothes company like Diesel to run an advertising shoot which will only be featured in GQ. This is mutually beneficial to both companies and reinforces the notion that some magazines seem to be clearly constructed as a vehicle for adverts. when one adds into the equation the fact that many pages are little more than a set of images of consumer items set out as a sort of 'swatch' we rapidly reach the conclusion that this 'lifestyle magazine at least is merely a vehicle for advertising. This is quickly confirmed when flicking though what passes for editorial content. Almost all the GQs I looked at with my students were often well over 70% advertising. Conceived of as a sort of catalogue is money on the cover price well spent? The ABC 2004 Sectors breakdown of magazine sales placed the Men's lifestyle sales sector at 5:
- Top 30 dominated by Women’s magazines - 10 different sectors
- Women’s interests rank 1, 2, 4 and 9 in top 10
- TV listings still high – ranking 3
- Men’s magazines rank at 5
Classical Music Magazines
Let us take a radically different marketplace such as the world of classical music. It is noticeable that the Mediatel page analysing music magazines includes no classical, jazz, folk or World music magazines at all. This tells us that they are trying to attract advertisers making products and services such as concerts for a youth market. This market is perceived as having high disposable income and willing to spend it easily without much concern for 'value for money'. These are magazines which can be analysed separately. The ABC 2004 figures for the sector "Music Rock" showed this was the 14th best selling sector.
The classical music market is rather different. The consumers are more likely to be middle-class and are likely to have a very discerning core of people who are able to play instruments themselves and will have familiarity with the what is usually called the classical canon, in other words those pieces of music generslly deemed to be the most important ones historically.
The classical music magazine market is comprised of a growing number of magazines. In the 1980s the only magazine regularly serving this market was Gramophone which was started in the 1920s and was aimed at providing an interface between the growing market of recorded music and potential consumers providing serious reviews and comparisons of recorded music by recognised experts within the specialist fields of the genre. During the 1990s the market started to grow. Interestingly the 1990 Broadcasting Act laid the basis for this expansion. The BBC was forced to become more competitive and enterprising so it established BBC Music Magazine which primarily deals with classical music with a little jazz and world music. The Broadcasting Act also opened the doors to commerce and Classic FM started broadcasting. Aimed at a target audience less familiar with classical music and played less challenging music from the repertoire they too brought out a magazine to complement their broadcasting and to help build thier brand.
BBC Music Magazine
The 2001 sales figures for the magazine showed it to be the World's top selling classical music magazine as it celebrated its 10th anniversary:
BBC Music Magazine is the world's best-selling monthly classical music magazine, with a monthly circulation of 78,707 (ABC: Jan to Dec 2001) and is published by BBC Magazines - a division of BBC Worldwide Ltd, the main commercial arm of the BBC. BBC Worldwide does not use licence fee income for its activities and re-invests in public service programming. In 2001/2002 BBC Worldwide returned £106 million to the BBC.
The sales circulation figures are lower than GQs for example. Looking through the May 2007 edition I found 37.5 pages of direct advertising out of 133 pages including back and front covers. clearly this is a magazine for a specialist interest market which probably remains at a fairly constant level. It is unlikely that this target audience would put up with magazines largely devoid of editorial content comprising mainly of adverts. This compares with the Male lifestyle market which appears to be very volatile.
In the table below you can see the average monthly figures for the music magazine sector as a whole. Of course the actual readership of these magazines is likely to be much wider however it gives an idea of the size of the relative markets as a whole. These figures can be compared with the women' magazines sections with the women's weekly magazines market being huge by comparison.
Music Magazine Market Sales July - Dec 2004
Q – 162,574 – up 0.6%
Uncut – 114,034 – up 2.6%
Mojo – 111,815 – up 7.1%
The Fly – 107,943 – up 1.3%
NME – 70,017 – down 3.5%
Kerrang! – 61,844 – down 10.7%
BBC Music – 56,096 – down 8.1%
Classic FM – 43,077 – up 5.5%
Gramophone – 42,791 – down 4.5%
Classic Rock – 42,030 – up 4.2%
Womens' Magazines Overall
- Top 30 dominated by Women’s magazines - 10 different sectors
- Women’s interests rank 1, 2, 4 and 9 in top 10
Women's monthly magazine Sales July - Dec 2004
Debenham’s Desire – 973,116 – n/a
Glamour – 620,391 – up 6.5%
Cosmopolitan – 478,394 – up 3.9%
Yours – 438,872 – up 8.7%
Good Housekeeping – 435,076 – up 4.7%
Marie Claire – 384,502 – up 6.6%
Woman & Home – 332,646 – up 12.6%
Company – 332.603 – up 0.6%
Candis – 321,050 – up 4.7%
Prima – 317,308 – down 3.9%
New Woman – 280,448 – down 3.5%
More – 274,635 – up 5.8%
Red – 210,027 – up 6.8%
Vogue – 206,834 – up 0.8%
Elle – 202,074 – up 0.4%
Real – 197,031 – down 4.2%
Instyle UK – 191,001 – up 2%
She – 180,160 – down 5.2%
B – 166,145 – up 0.3%
Eve – 160,210 – up 12.5%
Family Circle – 140,305 – down 13.5%
During this period it was the top sector for magazines it was the TOP Sector by circulation
Take A Break – 1,222,774 – down 0.4%
Chat – 636,310 – up 5.2%
Now – 619,186 – up 4.6%
That’s Life – 601,806 – up 0.7%
Heat – 552,215 – down 2.6%
Ok! – 529,492 – down 7.3%
Woman – 527,764 – down 6.7%
Closer – 504,350 – up 31%
Woman’s Own – 449,688 – down 6.1%
Woman’s Weekly – 447,696 – down 1.2%
Bella – 428,028 – down 0.3%
Best – 411,060 – down 2.2%
New! – 396,079 – up 18%
Hello! – 382,391 – up 9.1%
Peoples Friend – 372,743 – down 1%
One can see from these figures that the women's magazine market was very variegated in the last six months of 2004 with a wide range of both monthly and weekly magazines on offer. The target markets for these magazines are fairly specific with age and class being the key factors in deciding the target market. the fact that the women's weekly was the top selling sector may be explained by the fact that women still tend to be more responsible for domestic affairs and shopping. Many of these magazines provide tips and tricks for hosehold and child management and are conveniently and temptingly placed in supermarkets near checkouts.
Reviewing the various sectors it is easy to see that gender plays a huge part in the division of sales. As well as all the magazines specifically targeted at women the separate Health and Beauty section is primarily aimed at women. Magazines like 'Hair' for example have a few pages aimed at men.
Health & Beauty
Boots Health and Beauty – 1,766,893 – down 2%
Healthy – 280,075 – up 31.8%
Slimming World – 261,426 – up 2.8%
Weight Watchers – 243,010 – up 10.1%
Top Sante Healthy & Beauty – 141,191 – up 8.5%
Hair – 131,735 – down 16.4%
Zest – 110,764 – up 5.4%
Toni & Guy Magazine – 90,000 – n/a
Slimming – 64,587 – down 5.3%
Hair Ideas – 53,900 – n/a
The full range of sectors can't be covered here however it should be clear that the magazine sector is primarily driven by advertising. Age, class / status / communities of interest / lifestyle / consumer products magazines (computers / motors) dominate this sector comprise the main range of magazines. Interestingly the figures don't show anything about political or economical magazines sush as the New Statesman or the Economist. The Economist is covered in a separate section about news magazines. As it has a clear global market without different editions this makes it different to many of the other magazinse such as Vogwhich will come out in a wide range of country editions which makes it more difficult to assess the size and influence of the magazines as a whole.
May 05, 2007
Magazine Ownership & Control in the UK
…the determining context for production is always the market. In seeking to maximise this market products must draw on the most widely legitimated core values while rejecting the dissenting voice or incompatible objection to a ruling truth. Golding, P and Murdock, G (1977)
Perhaps more than other social scientists and media critics those following a Marxist methodology have been continuously concerned to highlight the fact that the press and media in general are usually owned by small numbers amongst the rich elites. Naturally these elites argue the Marxists will be encouraging both explicitly and implicity through this ownership, cultural and social practices amongst the general population which serves to distract them from the real issues of power and control which underly any society.
There have been a number of contributions within Marxist thought to developing research and analysis of the mass media of which magazines form a small part. There are many strands of Marxist thought. Amongst those which have contributed to the debate are followers of Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School, Berltolt Brecht. A useful survey of these positions is available at an Aberystwyth University site. Whilst I would wish to add to or amend certain entries such as the one on Adorno it nevertheless provides a useful overview of this area of media theory.
Whilst the section Who Owns What provides an online tool for visitors to monitor ownership, the latter part of the posting doesn't seek to identify the precise units of magazine ownership which are concentrated in the hands of a few companies. This will be dealt with in another posting. Rather, the concern shifts to the synoptic level of whether it matters at all if media companies continue to get larger and to control a larger market share. In doing so it raids some key elements of a debate which took place on the Open Democracy site some time ago but in a week when Reuters appears to be a target for a takeover bid, when Microsft and Yahoo are contemplating closer ties and when Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is bidding for the Dow Jones the arguments are as pertinent now as they ever were.
Who Owns What?
Below I have borrowed the connections available online to an analysis for the International Federation of Journalists on European Media Ownership. If you go down to the table below you will be able to link through to their full table to identify who currently owns what in media terms.
As we have been using 'Loaded' as a case study of Lads' Mags earlier select 'L' and then find 'Loaded'. You will quickly find that it belongs to the comapnay called IPC. Select that and another screen will come up where you will find that IPC is now owned by Time-Warner, one of the giants of the media world and indeed the business world in general. You will be able to find comments by various journalists about the working conditions they have found in the past at the various IPC magazines.
European Media Ownership: Threats on the Landscape
Below is an introduction to a survey of who owns what in Europe by Granville Williams for the European Federation of Journalists This is followed by the interactive table:
This report concludes that there are major threats in Europe's media landscape. Some of the threats identified are political and private threats to public service broadcasting, power over global media in the hands of few, more and more media concentration, the threat to emerging markets in Eastern and Central Europe and regulation getting weaker as media power grows.
How Much does Ownership and Media Concentration Matter?
It's all very having fancy tools to identify ownership patterns but does it really matter and why? There has been a recent important debate on the pages of Open Democracy about how much it matters whether the is a tendency to media concentration. Some people even debate whether there is actually a tendency towards this concentration of ownership at all. Some argue that the market functions as a 'healthy market' and that weaker contenders are driven out as technologies and audiences change in a continually dynamic way.
At the top of the global media system is a tier of fewer than ten transnational giants – AOL Time Warner, Disney, Bertelsmann, Vivendi Universal, Sony, Viacom and News Corporation – that together own all the major film studios and music companies, most of the cable and satellite TV systems and stations, the US television networks, much of global book publishing and much, much, more. By 2001 nearly all of the first tier firms rank among the 300 largest corporations in the world, several among the top 50 or 100. As recently as 20 years ago, one would have been hard-pressed to find a single media company among the 1,000 largest firms in the world.
By comparison McChesney was strongly challenged by Benjamin Compaine:
The notion of the rise of a handful of all-powerful transnational media giants is also vastly overstated. There is only one truly global media enterprise, Australia’s News Corporation. In the past decade Germany’s Bertelsmann has expanded beyond its European base to North America. And that’s it. The substantial global presence of all others is primarily the output of the same Hollywood studios that have distributed their films globally for decades. Nothing new there.
In 1986 there was a list of the fifty largest media companies and there is still a list of the top fifty. And the current fifty account for little more of the total of media pie today than in 1986.
There is a bit of a problem with Compaine's argument because as he admits elsewhere in his article the media market has grown massively. Writing this post a few years later it has grown significantly again as the likes of Google / Youtube, News International / Myspace battle it out on an increasingly global market. This is where he rightly notes new companies can spring out of nowhere. That is one of the dynamics of capitalism but at the same time there is always a tendency for concentration and consolidation as markets mature.
This weeks rumours of a tie up between Microsoft and Yahoo emphasise both tendencies. Microsoft is moving towards being the worlds largest company which is multimedia and the core competition is Google which is also buying up companies to gain market position. as has been pointed out elsewhere in this blog Apple too is positioning itself within the music and video downloading market aiming at the coming digital phone revolution. Apple like Microsoft is building its brand in the consumer media world. But is has no games as yet nor does it have a link with search engines which are now creating more advertising income than many TV stations. Whilst the media forms are highly dynamic the levers of control are shifting into a truly global dimension of an order which dwarfs Hollywood domination of movies. Expect some links between former computer companies and phone companies. The feel at the moment is 'you ain't seen nothing yet'!
Both McChesney and Compaigne make useful points. Hesmondhalgh tries to move the debate to different grounds firstly pointing out that both participants ignored the issue of content and the issues of popular culture. Furthermore he points out they ignored the issue of risk in media production. Not everything succeeds he points out:
A crucial factor, ignored both by the McChesney/Chomsky approach and by Compaine and his fellow market celebrants, is the pervasive risk and uncertainty within the media business. The failure rate in the media industries is considerably higher than in other sectors. Misses enormously outnumber hits. Nearly thirty thousand music albums are released in the US each year, of which fewer than two per cent sell more than fifty thousand copies.
However Hesmonhalgh doesn't take these figures any further. Presumably a considerable number of the albums manage to get their money back which is the first law of capitalism and risk. Others may be speculative or produced by individuals and independents for love rather than money. Large media comapnies manage risk very effectively it is only when the markets are turned upside down through new technologies and different audience behaviour that trouble brews. EMI's current troubles regarding slumping music sales are a prime example within this market. However there is no shortage of people wanting music. The key issue that flows from this is the issue of stardom and celebrity which drives the top end of the so-called 'popular cultural' market. As the very definition of celebrity by extension means lots of people within the specific field who are not celebrities then there must be a large market place which is strongly hierachised into a continuum running from massive success to to abject failure and bankruptcy. Without that how can one be a star?
Hesmondhalgh then moves the debate towards the issue of content:
But the crucial question for democracy is whether the output ultimately serves the interests of the owners and executives of the media companies – and those of their political allies. The answer is only a very qualified ‘yes’. There is sufficient autonomy for media workers to create products which do not always conform to the interests of the owners and executives of their companies. Cultural companies compete to outstrip each other in satisfying – and building – audience desires for the shocking, the profane and the rebellious. This may result in a deeply unserious and often trivial culture. But this is not the same thing as conformism, and serving the interests of big business. Indeed, much contemporary popular culture contains images which are fundamentally hostile to big business. Of course, no coherent programme bit of charity does no harm to the systemof democratic reform is outlined. But it would be absurd to expect such a programmatic politics from everyday media. (My emphasis).
This 'resistant' populism however, merely bears witness to an excellent level of ideological control. Providing business is making money from anti business consumers who have little genuine concerted political coherence then there is no danger, on the contrary it feeds the notion of democracy well. Rcok musicians haven't managed to solve World poverty because of systemic reasons as well as the fact that a bit of charity does no harm to the system. If anything the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is likely to contibute more to the amelioration of poverty in Africa than Bono. One thing is for certain, nobody can genuinely expect Murdoch to have in control of a company in his portfolio a born again socialist who wants to turn back the tide of capitalism. If a resistant journalist on a a single programme says something which disagrees with Murdoch then who actually cares?
Hesmondhalgh is certainly on the ball when he notes that this American debate misses out the importance of the concept and committment to public service broadcasting within Europe particularly noting Compaignes neo-liberal idealism:
His assumption that the market is responsible for any increased diversity is particularly misguided. In fact, the remarkable range of high-quality programming on many European television systems is the result of a commitment to public service broadcasting.
James Curran gets back to the issue of whether media concentration actually matters in relation to the health of democracy concluding that it is especially important on three main grounds with a fourth important comment attached:
...private concentration of symbolic power potentially distorts the democratic process. This point is underlined by the way in which Silvio Berlusconi was catapulted into the premiership of Italy without having any experience of democratic office.
Berlusconi would not be ruling Italy now if he did not dominate a massive media empire that enabled him to manufacture a political party....
The second reason for concern is that the power potentially at the disposal of media moguls tends to be exerted in a one-sided way. Of course, this power is qualified and constrained in many ways – by the power available to consumers and staff, the suppliers of news, regulators, rival producers, the wider cultural patterns of society. But it is simply naïve to imagine that it does not exist.
The third reason for concern is that the concentration of market power can stifle competition. A fundamental reason for the long-standing deficiencies of the British national press, for example, is that it has been controlled so long by an oligopoly. No new independent national newspaper has been launched, and has managed to stay independent, during the last seventy years.
This is giving rise to a one-sided protection of our freedoms: a state of constant alert against the abuse of state power over the media, reflected in the development of numerous safeguards, not matched by an equivalent vigilance and set of safeguards directed against the abuse of shareholder power over the media.
I find Curran's arguments entirely convincing, ownership does matter and therefore it matters that the concept of public service broadcasting is not only kept alive but extended as the BBC has been managing to do for the digital era despite frequent criticisms. Certainly any user of this blog will see how many BBC News items are referred to simply because there is good coverage. For this reason it is right to express concern now about the Broadcasting White paper of 2006 talking about the possibility of subscription services for the BBC is a potential weakening of the system.
This BBC story and interactive response from its audience is related more to TV and Radio nevertheless the general underlying issues of ownership and control of powerful media interests remains central.
Project for Excellence in Journalism: Magazine Ownership This deals primarily with the situation in the USA however the pan naional nature of magazine and cross-media ownership means that there is some relevance to the UK.
The Campaing for Press and Broadcasting Freedom: Response to the 2001 Media Consultation on change of ownership rules
Hesmondhalgh here argues that despite tendencies towards concentrated ownership there is a danger of forgetting that parts of the media face severe market risks and fail. Furthermore he argues that an overconcentration upon ownership fails to account for content and the possibility for media workers to produce content which challemges or subverts the overall intent of the large corporations.
The Magazine Industry
The following posts are written in relation to specific course requirements which examine issues and debates which circulate around the magazine industry. It is important first of all to define ones terms and then it is important to consider a brief history of the development of the magazine as a printed generic form which is different to newspapers, books and journals. This unit is examining the commercial consumer sector of the market however it is important to place this within the context of the overall magazine market therefore we will firstly look at the typology or different types of magazines with different types of market that exist at present.
Introduction to the Typology of Magazines
As a description a magazine developed as a printed publication and then broadcast containing articles, stories, interviews activities by various people. Here we are focusing on the print media however with the growth of the internet most commercial consumer magazines have developed a web presence. This will need to be subjected to separate analysis on a case by case study as it is too early in the development of the web to come to hard and fast conclusions about form or even whether online magazines have the potential to more or less replace print magazines.
The Magazine Mainstream
Generically it is useful to split up the magazine market into three main areas. There are subscription only magazines which can be trade and business magazines which are not sold in the shops or newsagents. These are deservedly parodied on a regular basis in the TV 'quiz programme' "Have I Got News for You". To this type of magazine can be added magazines which are primarily aimed at subscribing members of organisations. For example the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is Britain's largest pressure group with a membership approaching 1 million. They produce a quarterly magazine which is only sent to members. As sometimes whole 'families' are members the print run isn't 1 million but it is significantly more than a monthly 'lifestyle magazine' such as GQ which only has a run of about 125,000. These type of magazines have in the first instance very specialist target markets whilst in the case of voluntary organisations and pressure groups such as the RSPB ideological identiy is the key factor which unites the readership across class, gender, national, ethnic and age distinctions. As such they aim at a universal target market seeking to inform and develop their specific intersts.
The other core sector of magazine production is commercial consumer production in which the primary aim of the magazine is usually to make as much money as possible. Income is gained through a combination of the cover price and advertising with advertising usually bearing the brunt of of the costs of production and contributing to the profitability of the magazine. As avery approximate rule of thumb we can say that the more expensive the magazine the smaller the real audience (those buying the magazine) / target audience and the lower the advertising revenues.
Another type of magazine which clearly falls into the commercial sector but which doesn't have a direct cover price is the newspaper magazine supplement. This trend emerged during the 1960s with the reduction in costs of cloour printing and the development of a larger consumer marketplace. It first occurred in the more upmarket Sunday newspapers such as the Sunday Times and then The Observer. This tendency has grown since then and most weekend newspapers now have some form of colour 'supplement'. while this has increased the cover price the main costs are covered by advertising and they helped increase the circulation and profitability of the newspapers.
The 'Alternative' Magazine Market
There are occasional exceptions to the typology above in terms of magazine production. Occasionally enthusiasts may come together to produce a magazine which comes from their specific interests and isn't really about making money as they can only exist through the labour power of enthusiastic supporters and volunteers. Examples of this type of magazine would be the Fanzines of the early punk-rock period and also the football fanzines which sprang up in the same period of the late 1970s early 1980s. As such both were mainly expressions of a vibrant emergent youth culture. These magazines rarely lasted for more than a few issues, and frequently the most dynamic people behind them went on to be successful journalists and critics within the mainstream media organisations. The classic example of the latter are Tony Parsons and Julie Birchill who also produced a book on Punk versus Rock called Boy Looked at Johnny . The late 1970s through to the mid 1980s had a younger culture of people into thier mid thirties who politically and culturally were generally anti-establishment, often anti-capitalist but espoused a politics of identity rather than class. this lead to the growth of a range of magazines in the margins some of which made it into the mainstream if only for a short time. Here a marker of making it into the mainstream can be seen as managing to be nationally distributed through newsagents such as W. H. Smiths. Magazines such as the weekly Gay Times based upon sexuality but in most otherways was establishment in terms of its attitudes to commerce and politics was the most successful of these. Spare Rib initially a broadbased feminist magazine managed to make it into W. H. Smiths but the increasing facionalism within the editorial board meant that they lost much of their readership and audience and the magazine disappeared. It was a magazine which had an uneasy relationship with its advertisers as on the whole it was against what it saw as patriarchal businesses and really wanted adverts from women only organisations. This tended to make even more dependent than usual upon its readership.
There were also other more class based socialist and radical magazines which emerged at this time such as New Socialist, New Times and The Leveller. These never made it into the mainstream and being dependent more upon readership than advertising for their income stream also disappeared as debts mounted.
Commercial Consumer Magazines
For the purposes of discussing issues and debates the focus of these postings is upon the straight commercial sector of the magazine market which is:
- Dependent upon creating developing and maintaining specific target markets
- Relies primarily upon over the counter sales and advertising for its main income streams
As with any area of media production we can look at the organisations and ownership of the media and we can look at their target market and audiences, the kind of content that is used to win develop and maintain audiences and the underlying idological stances which inevitably accompany content of any kind whether it is acknowledged in a clear fashion as is usual with political magazines such as The Specagstator (Concervative) or the New Statesman (Labour) or whther there are deeper idological forces at play within consumption such as the growth of the 'Lad's Mag' which many would argue are a result of a reaction to a crisis of masculinity brought about by the progress made by feminism from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s in terms of women's rights and equality at work and in terms of a legal system better equipped to defend women against sexual harrassment.
The Lad's Mags Gender Construction and Media Issues
Below a discussion of a hot debate stimulated by the Ofsted report which saw Lads' Mags as serving a useful social function. In the Box below you can see how Sky News chose to report it.
'Lads mags' are a valuable source of information for teenage boys learningabout sex, according to the education watchdog.
A study from Ofsted claimed that teenagers were turning to weekly publications such as Zoo and Nuts to learn about the facts of life to fill the void left by parents, who are often failing to give sufficient support.
There is a current hot debate circulating around the issue of lads mags relating to whether they cover sex and relationships in a serious way at a suitable level for their target audiences. Interestingly the governmental educational inspection body in the UK Ofsted has recently endosed the 'Lads' Mags' as being a useful media vehicle for enabling teenage males to deepen and broaden their undestunding in the realm of sex education. Many professionals within the educational and health professions were of course horrified by the naivety displayed in this endorsement. Social Psychologist and lecturer in research methodologies Dr. Petra Boynton has been keen to highlight the issues in her blog. I have extracted the reactions of two of the unsurprisingly macho reactions of the editors of two of these magazines that Dr. Boynton has followed extracted from Press Gazette:
Loaded magazine’s editor Martin Daubney was quoted as saying “It’s not our job to educate people on the perils of sexually transmitted diseases, the perils of young pregnancies or the perils of Aids. That’s the job of government or parents or health authorities. Men’s mags have never set out and said ‘you must wear a condom, and don’t forget about Aids’. Men’s magazines if anything are the opposite of that — we’re the good time. If you mention to people about gonorrhoea and syphilis it ruins the fun. It’s lights on at the end of the party.”
Also within the feature Derek Harbinson editor of Maxim stated “We have to get things through as entertainment — you can’t sit and lecture people. There’s nothing very sexy about a feature about chlamydia — that’s not our job as an entertainment magazine. Our job is to give people social ammunition to go out and live better lives.”
Doubtless the born again 'postmodernist' strand of media lecturer committed to defending rampant populism at all costs would argue that this is of course postmodern irony. This leaves us as critics with a range of ways of reading the comments by Loaded and Maxim editors. Are the comments:
- By male morons for male morons
- By smartasses for male morons (in order to keep up the chosen image for thier target audience)
- By smartasses for smartasses who are well versed in the tenets of postmodern irony and can defend their enjoyment of the statement s by quoting a wide range of postmodern thinkers who espouse the position that society is 'post-idological'.
Answers on a poscard to Ofsted please :-)
Petra Boynton then continues by analysing the situation. from the media organisations perspective she places her finger firmly on a core question which I have emphasied below. Do the advertisers care whether the magazines want to be associated with endorsing unsafe sex?
As well as their job being about entertainment it’s also about making money. I don’t know whether advertisers would want to be associated with a magazine that’s endorsing unsafe sex for young men. Moreover, print media is in trouble and these magazines are fighting to stay afloat. The whole time they show contempt for their readers and an old school view of sex coverage the whole time their readers will go elsewhere for the information they need.
My answer to Petra Boynton's question is that it is unlikely that the advertisers are in the slightest bit intersted in the content provided it doesnt threaten the financial security of their client's sales. They would argue that as advertisers it is not their job to control the content of a magazine. Provided there is an audience prepared to read whatever drivel is in the magazine and who may be persuaded that buying a particular brand of aftershave, deoderant, etc. is going to give them a better opportunity to have sex the magazine will be prepared to advertise. Magazine sales and readership are the issues. What would be rather more of a concern for the advertisers is a range of popular articles by social psychologist about the fact that aftershaves boy-racer cars etc REDUCE their chances of getting female attention. No advertiser is going to like their products being trashed in the magazine they are effectively subsidising!
As you can see we have rapidly opened up two cans of worms regarding media issues and debates;
- The underlying ideology of media content
- The issue of where power and control of magazines actually lies.
As a social psychologist with an interst in the underlying human issues Petra Boynton sensibly continues her argument in relatin to the issue of the underlying content. In her next paragraph she tackles head on the underlying issue of the idological construction of masculinity which is the common discourse within the genre of Lads' Mags:
These editors just don’t get sex. They think to make it interesting it all has to be about performance, products and risk. Rather than it being about finding out what you like, learning what a partner likes and enjoying a sexual experience together – with the option to ask for help when things don’t work out.
What makes this issue especially intersting is the role of part of what the philosopher of ideology louis Althusser described as the Ideologicsal State Apparatus (ISA). Althusser here was describing the role of state institutions such as the educational ones in transmitting a specific ideology. As is described in the quotation below Ofsted was misguidedly underpinning the anti-feminist ideology of the 'Lads' Mags'. Of course part of being 'Laddish' is a pretended rejection of authority which might undermine their swaggering. Here Dr. Boynton is arguably a little naive when it comes to analysing ideological positions. Had the editors NOT vehemently denied the rational approach espoused by her then the ideological rationale of 'Laddishness' itself set up against a feminist reasoning as a deliberate restatement of a lost form masculinity then the audience would have rapidly melted away. What 'true lad' wants to have their masculinity authenticated by Ofsted for heaven's sake :-).
Ofsted started this by stuffing up a report and naively believing because men’s magazines happened to exist they were a source of information for lads. We all knew that was a load of nonsense but I don’t think any of us expected that it would be lad’s mags themselves who came out and admitted what we knew – that Ofsted were wrong – and that men’s magazines take pride in not giving good sex information to young men.
How do audiences read texts? How can we tell?
This leaves us with the tricky question of what the readership of these magazines actually does believe. The now commonly accepted view amongst media analysts who deal with the reception side of media (how audiences read media products) is that those who constitute any given audience are far more diverse in their life experience social, cultural and educational background than can be expected from the direct content. This means that inevitably the contents and overall stance of a magazine is negotiated by individuals in the audience. Some readers will understand the 'Loaded' position as a bit of laddish bravado. It would be seen as 'girlie' to deal with things such as sexually transmitted diseases but in reality they would have picked up the information elsewhere. Isn't sex education after all part of the school curriculum? This is important because it relieves the magazines of social responsibility which is offloaded onto the state. This of course leaves us with the reader who is especially moronic, who has wagged all the sex education lessons and neither knows nor cares about sexually transmitted disease.
Here we can pause to remind ourselves that underlying the concept of transmitted communications there are:
- Preferred readings (there could be levels of complexity here): In the case of Loaded young men are looking for 'fun' and on the surface espousing forms of naughtiness in carefully adjusted ways of behaving a little bit socially irresponsibly
- Negotiated readings: This is where the target audience will read a media text from thier own life positioning and have a more complex understanding of the surface preferred reading of the text
- Resistant reading: Here Petra Boynton is resisting the preferred reading and wanting a more socially responsible magazine in an overt way which is more closely modelled on the construction of women's magazines. she is resisting the construction of masculinity as socially irresponsible and self-obssessed which is the dominant discourse of 'Lads' Mags'
- Aberrant Readings: This is the sort of male reader of these magazines who is so stupid that he doesn't recognise the whole stance of 'Laddishness' as being a bit 'tongue in cheek' ans becomes constructed as a serious machismo likely to genuinely transgress in life by spreading around sexual transmitted disease, being abusive to women, getting into fights.
In the first instance the attitude of the 'Loaded' editor could be seen as not actually being genuinely socially transgressive in the sense he is not really encouraging his readership to have unprotected sex. Presumably he is intelligent enough to recognise that it would be a social disaster if alll his readership got aids. If he didn't have that level of intelligence then the magazine would be unlikely to survive or he would be sacked. True transgression of social mores it can be argued is therefore something else. These magazines unpleasant and stupid as they seem to most people with a modicum of social responsibility are in reality are tools doing nothing to threaten the stability of the social system whatsoever. So says our classic postmodernist media analyst at least.
This kind of attitude denies the workings of ideology - in this case with regsrd to gender relations - it even denies the construction of the concept of a dominant discourse through which the social, economic, political, cultural and bodily gains of feminism are gradually recuperated by men. It is exactly when people don't recognise the existance of ideology that ideology is at it strongest. Arguably it is within 'Lad's Mags' that the narcissism and corresponding weakening of social responsibility in terms of personal behaviour which can be strongly linked to the growth of the mass consumption and 'lifestyle' are represented in their most acute form within the 'Laddish' culture. As argued below the Ofsted report which briefly mentions their role is sadly uninformed about the social realities.
The Ofsted Report and inaccurate assessment of Men's Mags
As a councillor and psychologist Petra Boynton correctly raises a number of pertinent issues regarding these magazines with a a persuasive analysis of how these male discourses go well beyond the 'it's just a joke' kind of position which feminists have had to deal with since the 1960s and show how pressure form men on women can be demeaning and positively harmful whilst at the same time reconstructing women as merely objects of men's pleasure:
What is worrying about the Ofsted report is the assumption that because lad’s magazines exist they automatically offer an opportunity for advice giving to young men. Evidence and experience of sex educators working in the media suggests this is completely untrue. Having lads magazines available has done little to increase young men’s knowledge of sexual health issues – but has led to an increase in incorrect sex information being given – in particular encouraging sexually coercive behaviour. Although Ofsted praised problem pages, where they exist in lad’s magazines they’re not written by qualified staff and often give young men inaccurate messages about sex.
To summarise the above we can see through the brief case study of 'Lads' Mags' that we quickly get into areas of the issues and debates which the unit is examining. Ownership / Advertising /Content / Audience are the key areas around which the debates emerge. At the wider level of society the ownership it will be argued reflects the power and wealth relations within the wider society and the content is geared to not challenging the mores of our current societal modes of living. This raises the question of whther the currently unfashionable ideology critique of the magazine industry as a whole needs to be resurrected in the light of a general refusal of the industry which is narrowly controlled to take on board the serious issues facing the World today.