Illiteracy: Threat to European Magazines?

By Hendrikse, Dick | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, September 1986 | Go to article overview

Illiteracy: Threat to European Magazines?


Hendrikse, Dick, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


At first glance, the magazine scene in Europe seems to be bubbling over with activity. New launches take place almost every month all over Western Europe. And although it is too early to evaluate their success, that these magazines are being launched at all certainly proves that publishers have the feeling the recession is over. It also indicates that they believe there is a future for the printed word--notwithstanding the rapidly increasing entertainment pollution marked by more and more TV channels in almost all European countries.

But the excitement that the launching of new magazines can arouse in our industry does not disperse the shadow hovering over two areas--women's weeklies and male-oriented weekly general interest magazines--that are crucial for the continuity of magazine publishing in some of Europe's most important markets.

In the United Kingdom everybody--and I mean literally everybody concerned with magazine publishing--is worried about the constant decline in circulation of the big service-oriented women's weeklies. Most severely hit is London's IPC and their four W-titles (Woman, woman's Own, Woman's Realm and Woman's Weekly). IPC announces new measures almost every three months--from replacing editors to hybrid printing to glossy covers. And nothing seems to help.

Hoping not to follow suit

Long before the slowdown of the women's weeklies started, another species had faded away in the same country: the male-oriented general interest weekly magazine. And in at least two European countries, publishers of this type of magazine might well be in fear that their magazines will follow the British example and end up in the hasbeens' hall of fame.

I am talking about the Netherlands (with the weeklies Panorama and Nieuwe Revue) and Germany, with such legendary names as Stern, Bunte, Quick and Neue Revue. In both countries, most of the title (Neue Revue being the only exception) have shown, over a period of years, the same negative circulation development as do the women's weeklies in Britain today. Everybody concerned with the future of our industry hopes that the publishers and editors will find the right formula to halt this decline.

In both countries, one sees publishers trying the same solutions as were tried in Britain: new editors, more value for money--and every often a discussion of the question, Is the male reader still our main target audience? After all, newsstand sales are shifting more and more to supermarkets--and the prime buyer there is female.

The Scandinavian publishers of more or less identical "family weeklies" took this lesson to heart some years ago and stopped the decline of their male-oriented weeklies by skillfully transforming them into women's weeklies that are still called "family weeklies."

But in Holland and Germany, the advertiser is definitely looking for a male audience in the "familieweekbladen" (as they are called in Dutch) and the German "Illustrierten." Although the Scandinavians have performed brilliantly by transforming their weeklies and thus restoring the once impressive circulations, this seems no solution for the Dutch and German books.

But as I said before, until now, nothing has seemed to help. One of the main reasons could, in my opinion, be found in an evolution that could easily be described as a revolution--a revolution, however, that has been dangerously neglected by the publishers of both britain's women's weeklies and the above mentioned continental general interest weeklies. Let me begin to explain with a quote from the new editor of McCall's, Ms. A. Elizabeth Sloan.

She said, "The revamp [of McCall's] will bring briefer articles, more elements per page, a busier cover and a redesign to a contemporary newsy format. …

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