Boost Your New Title with Competitive Analysis

By Sheiman, Bruce | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, September 1, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Boost Your New Title with Competitive Analysis


Sheiman, Bruce, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


The trick is to define your competitors in terms that best demonstrate the unique promise of your magazine.

If you're planning to launch a new magazine, it's essential that you perform a thorough competitive analysis, an examination of how your would-be competitors run their businesses - their positioning, their strengths and weaknesses, their advertising and circulation, their economics and more.

There are three very important reasons to perform a competitive analysis. First, it is critical to discover whether a competitor is encroaching on your proposed magazine's editorial or market franchise - or, indeed, whether a competitor renders your magazine idea superfluous. Second, competition helps to define a magazine's market position. I've seen business plans stating that the proposed magazine would have no competition. This is naive. Every magazine has competition - and needs competition. Third, competitive magazines give you benchmarks. By studying your competitors, you can learn much about developing your magazine's editorial, circulation and advertising strategies. And you can determine your revenue and profitability prospects.

Define your universe

The first step is to define your universe of competitors. This is tricky. You want to establish a competitive set that demonstrates maximum promise for your magazine. This was done brilliantly by Sports Illustrated in the seventies. Time Inc.'s title positioned itself among other newsweeklies, a category worth hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue, rather than in the sports category - tiny by comparison.

But don't define your magazine's competitive position so broadly that it appears you'll be overwhelmed by competitors. And don't define your title in terms of more than two publishing categories, because doing so will confuse anyone trying to understand it.

Rounding up the data

Once you've appropriately defined your competitive universe, you need to obtain data about your competitors. Here are six steps you must take.

Get back issues. From a single issue you can pinpoint a magazine's most important advertising customers. You can learn about that magazine's staff and organization from its masthead. You can also find a magazine's circulation figures in its statement of ownership - a message that must appear in one issue every year in order to qualify the magazine for second-class postal privileges. In addition, back issues of any magazine will tell you much about its editorial quality, market position, writers and illustrators, and production characteristics.

Get a media kit. If a magazine accepts advertising, it's more than likely that the publisher has created a media kit which, in many cases, is a treasure trove of information. A well-prepared media kit will contain any combination of the following: an issue of the magazine, a list of advertisers a reader profile advertising pricing, and information about other products and activities of the publisher.

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