A sampling of Modern Maturity's recent coverlines reveals that today's 50-plus adults are vastly different from the previous generation.
"The big thing driving the change is the baby boomers," says Publisher Jim Fishman, who has been with the every-other-monthly for five months. "They are living longer, working longer. They are better educated and more affluent, more independent. They don't accept that aging means slowing down."
The evolving editorial of the 20.5 million circulation magazine reflects the notion that the mature market is redefining what it means to be old. And several other publishers and marketers are responding to this powerful force.
"Advertisers' perception [of the 50-plus market] is changing," says Roberta Garfinkle, senior VP-director strategic print services, Universal McCann, New York.
STATE OF MIND
"Magazines on the edit side are helping by portraying [older people] as active, well-dressed and doing fun things. Before, you'd see people on porches, sitting on chairs," she says. "Now you see them on tennis courts. Old has become a state of mind, not an age."
The 50-plus market currently makes up 27% of the total population, according to Age Wave Impact, a market researcher and consultancy. By 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the 50-plus population is expected to swell to 96 million; that translates to 43% of all adults. By 2020, the group will comprise 114.3 million, more than one-third of the U.S.
"If you want to keep your market share, you have to address this market," says Jim Carr, publisher of Mature Outlook, an audited affinity title produced by Meredith Corp. for Sears, Roebuck & Co.
For editors, that has meant talking to their readers in a respectful, upbeat way on a wide variety of interests.
MORE IN TUNE
"We're trying to make the book hipper and more in tune," says Modern Maturity Editor in Chief Hugh Delehanty, who has branded the title with frank topics such as a sex survey and an upcoming examination of death -- "the last taboo," he says.
"We don't want to sugar-coat things." Straight talk, he says, is more befitting a population that grew up with the expression, "Tell it like it is."
Members of AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) receive Modern Maturity as part of their $10 dues to the organization.
The magazine also will begin addressing additional market segments through selective editorial beginning in early 2001.
Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report are also putting out special editions with selective editorial or advertising to reach the 50-plus market (See story below.)
Mature Outlook has been adjusting its editorial, too. The 725,000-circulation title has evolved from a focus on home-based, non-invigorating stories to lifestyle pieces about going back to school and hot-air ballooning. "The goal is to inspire action," says Mr. Carr.
TECH TALK, NOT REFLECTION
In the last few years, two "passive" columns about reminiscences and reflections have been dropped, and replaced with "Tech Talk" and one about volunteerism. The magazine also saw a 20% increase to 396 total ad pages for its fiscal year ending in June, compared with last year.
New Choices: Living Even Better After 50, a 600,000-circulation monthly from Reader's Digest Association, recently lost outdated sections such as "Good Manners."
Flipping through recent and older issues of this senior magazine and others reveals graphic images in advertising and editorial have gone from the passive to active.
"Rocking chairs aren't my speed," reads an Ensure high-protein drink ad that ran in both New Choices and Modern Maturity. The ad pictures a woman and her daughter or granddaughter zipping along on a bicycle built for two.
A Royal Crown Co. Diet Rite Cola ad in Modern Maturity shows a woman in a swimming pool on a mock magazine cover called "Active Life."
"Creative is just beginning to change," says Anita Landis, senior partner for the mature market group at JWT Specialized Communications, Deerfield Beach, Fla. "There are some ads out that are pleasant and not demeaning to someone 45-plus." She cites the pharmaceutical and financial industries as doing the best job of speaking to this market when it comes to creative.
HEALTH AND TRAVEL UP
Publishers agree advertisers are beginning to awaken to the 50-plus market. They even report an uptick in business.
At Mature Outlook, Mr. Carr says health-related advertising is up 44%, travel advertising up 38% and technology-related advertising is up 198% over last year.
"They are starting to get it," says Julie Pinkwater, publisher of More, Meredith's 2-year-old general-interest lifestyle title for women from 40 to 59. In its first year of launch, the 525,000-circulation magazine saw a 233% increase in ad pages, to 413 for 1999.
The every-other-monthly magazine, which has featured actresses Annette Benning, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd and Meryl Streep on its covers, is hoping for more fashion, beauty and technology ads, which often are in youth-oriented magazines, she says. In the March/April issue, More finally snared a fragrance account for Calvin Klein's Eternity.
"Fashion and beauty are hard to crack," says Ms. Garfinkle, "but it's beginning to change."
Dan Hess, CEO of OnlyReal.com, a year-old fashion portal for plus-size women that advertised in More this year, says that 50-plus adults are more computer-savvy than some marketers give them credit. He says he knows this market is Internet-friendly because he received 1,100 responses within six weeks to his dot-com ad that appeared in the May/June issue of More.