Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Woman's Own

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Woman's Own

Article excerpt

Lasagne recipes and real-life stories are no longer enough in today's celebrity-obsessed women's weekly market. Claire Murphy asks whether the title can reverse its sales slump.

Your mum probably read Woman's Own in the late-70s and early-80s, when it was a coffee-table staple alongside the Radio Times and a slice of Battenberg cake. But back then, newsagents' shelves were not groaning under the weight of dozens of women's titles, and it was still acceptable to have an unknown face on the cover.

Woman's Own was launched in 1932, complete with a covermount of three skeins of wool. It was the third women's weekly to hit the market following the launch of Woman's Weekly in 1926.

Women's periodicals came into their own during the Second World War, when they offered women advice and inspiration to help them manage the family home with little food or money. This role was maintained in the post-war years, as women looked to magazines for help negotiating their swiftly changing roles.

By the late-90s, the women's weekly magazine market had changed dramatically, and the old favourites were being left behind. The introduction of Spanish gossip title Hello! into the British market, swiftly followed by its arch-rival OK!, brought a whole new dimension to the sector - celebrity. Once other publishers latched onto the trend and flooded the shelves with covers featuring the latest soap star, Woman's Own began to suffer. Circulation, which stood at 808,311 in 1996, has dropped 43% over the past eight years, and 14% in the past two.

With women's magazines increasingly focusing on celebrity, sex and shopping, Woman's Own now looks dated and quaint for most people under 50. So is there any hope, or is it simply a mature brand on its way out? What should owner IPC do with the title? We asked Sally O'Sullivan, former editor of She and Good Housekeeping and now editorial director of publisher Highbury House, and Catherine Schrier, media group manager at PHD, who spent four years booking ads in women's magazines for Unilever Bestfoods.


There may still be people who make a cup of Horlicks, put on their carpet slippers and settle down in front of the fire to read a magazine, but they're a dying breed. This is the problem facing Woman's Own.

It seems that Woman's Own has decided to ignore the success of the celebrity titles and stick to its core values. This is fine, as long as those values are constantly reassessed in line with modern living. Any magazine that stands still is dead in today's market. …

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