Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Time Out

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Time Out

Article excerpt

After a 12% drop in circulation, is the title right to consider free distribution, asks Alex Brownsell.

Londoners are inundated with ways to plan their evenings and weekends Listings abound in freesheets such as Metro, London Lite and thelondonpaper, and are available far and wide across the internet. This begs the question as to why Time Out founder Tony Elliot has only just mooted the idea of offering the magazine's print edition for free.

The title, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last month, is under the cosh, with its competitors' numbers constantly on the rise. ABC figures reveal that weekly sales for the first six months of 2008 were down more than 12% year on year to 76,356, a considerable drop from a weekly sales peak of 92,577 in the second half of 2006.

This slide came despite a major re-launch of Time Out's London edition in January, which placed greater emphasis on food and lifestyle editorial and extended the TV and radio listings. It also added digital content, including podcasts and downloads.

Yet with sales on the decline and advertisers becoming more frugal, the magazine is clearly in need of more than just a facelift. Gaining awareness outside the capital would be a good start, and Time Out's group head of marketing, Catherine Demajo, admits that targeting a wider audience would be in the title's 'best interests'.

Can Time Out save itself by offering its print edition for free? We asked Martin Smith, head of planning at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Sue Unerman, chief strategy officer at MediaCom, for their thoughts on the listings magazine's future.

DIAGNOSIS - Two industry experts on how Time Out can win back the capital

- MARTIN SMITH head of planning, Saatchi & Saatchi

If people aren't reading Time Out, it's because they don't think it's worth reading, not because they don't think it's worth paying for. Removing the cover price won't fix that.

Part of the problem is that the bread and butter of what Time Out offers - listings - can already be found in abundance in free newspapers, flyers, 'what's on' websites and courtesy of your like-minded mates on social networking sites. Creating a listings-based Time Out website won't help this and could further commoditise the brand.

For me, the real problem comes from the fact that people have far less free time than they did when Time Out first launched, and much more to fit into it. So if all Time Out does is remind people of all the fun things they could be doing if only they had the time and weren't too knackered, then it's an unwelcome source of stress and resentment. …

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