MAGAZINE PAGES KEEP TURNING;HIGH-TECH GOES HIP; MEN'S TITLES ARE HOT

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LONDON-Magazine publishing is gaining a new glossy glow as consumers around the world yearn to learn more about everything from computers to health.

Asian and European readers are flicking through a growing number of computer-related titles to understand how the digital age fits into their lifestyle. Men, especially in the U.K., are devouring general-interest men's magazines, long popular in the U.S. And Eastern European women are just discovering titles dedicated to their needs-and hungering for more.

Europe's recovery from a slump in magazine advertising and rapid growth in the Asian magazine market are helping to boost worldwide ad spending in consumer magazines to an estimated $25 billion in 1995, a 56% increase from the $16 billion recorded in 1986.

"On average, the marketplace [in Europe and Asia] is healthier than it was two years ago. The advertising market has picked up," said Per Mortensen, president of the International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP). "Also, Asia is more buoyant and [publishers there] are becoming more sophisticated in research and how they sell their publications."

One of the hottest publishing areas, computer-related magazines, has taken off in Europe and Asia. Wired magazine hopes to replicate its huge U.S. success internationally, starting with fledgling U.K. and Japanese editions.

The monthly glossy has made the Internet, once the sole domain of computer geeks, hip to high-income young consumers, and is already spawning imitators around the world. After ending in July a joint venture with London's Guardian Media Group to do a U.K. edition, San Francisco-based Wired Ventures has set up a new holding company called Wired Europe, aimed at taking the magazine brand to other countries.

"How we proceed and whether the U.K. edition becomes the European edition are questions we have to grapple with," said Jane Metcalfe, president of Wired Ventures.

David Gordon, former chief executive of The Economist, recently started at Wired as deputy chairman, to give the title the international scope he helped develop for The Economist.

Meanwhile, the priority is to build up Wired UK, selling about 30,000 copies a month. Wired sells 240,000 copies a month in the U.S. Microsoft and Porsche are among the 27 advertisers in the September issue, and Benetton is scheduled to appear in the October issue.

"It is important for us to cultivate local advertising," said Matthew Doull, Wired UK's associate publisher. "We also want pan-European advertising, although there is still some resistance from media buyers and advertisers." Many marketers remain skeptical about the efficiency of conducting ad campaigns on a pan-regional basis; they believe national campaigns, in many cases, are more effective.

Wired started as a bi-monthly in Japan in November 1994. It went monthly in April of this year, and now sells 30,000 copies a month. Wired Ventures licensed the franchise to Dohosha, a local publishing company, because of their knowledge of the local market.

Other publishers have caught the Wired bug.

"The Internet type of titles seem to be growing in the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France," said Mike Robinson, an account director at media buying group Carat International, London. "Publishers in these markets are looking at local versions of Wired."

He cited Wave, published and distributed in Belgium and the Netherlands by Amsterdam-based Riverband, and PC Online, by Vogel Verlag in Germany.

In Spain, Luis Jorge, editor-in-chief of Madrid-based Zeta's Super PC magazine, estimated that there are about 18 recent titles dedicated to the non-professional computer user. Few draw significant advertising. "Most won't last," Mr. Jorge said, because, in his opinion, there may not be enough ad budget around to support them.

In Japan, computer games titles are among the best-sellers, according to ad agency Dentsu, Tokyo.

Another growing trend in Asia is online versions of news magazines, already common in the U.S. Asiaweek went online in August. Asia Inc., which, in February, became the first Asian news magazine to launch a comprehensive service on the Internet, has found it can earn significant revenue from ads. "Initially, we made the move to help promote our print edition," said Mike Thomas, editor of the online service. "But we've come to realize Asia Inc. Online is by itself a viable publication." Advertisers include Federal Express, U.K. airline Virgin Atlantic and hotel chain Le Meridien.

Advertisers also have discovered another major niche in Western Europe-general-interest magazines for men.

Of the eight U.K .titles, the top-seller is Loaded, a raunchy, downscale monthly from IPC Magazines. Launched nearly 18 months ago, circulation is already 127,677, just surpassing GQ's 127,276. It appeals to a younger audience with an average age of 23, compared to GQ's more upscale 20-to-45-year-olds.

In January, Rodale Press launched its hot U.S. title Men's Health in the U.K., aiming at thirtysomething, high-income, career-oriented males interested in sex, relationships and fitness.

Nick Williams, the U.K. publisher, said: "We guaranteed advertisers a circulation of 70,000 by this summer, but we know it is more than 100,000." He is negotiating to launch a local edition of Men's Health in another European market which he declined to name.

The major men's titles are also eyeing other markets, as illustrated by Hearst Corp.'s successful lawsuit against Bombay-based Dalal Street Communications. Hearst claimed Dalal's E-square magazine, aimed at Citibank credit cardholders, sounded and was spelled too much like Hearst's monthly men's title Esquire.

In Eastern and Central Europe, leading European publishers are rushing to fill the gap in the region's underdeveloped market for women's magazines. VNU, the Dutch publishing giant based in Haarlem, is particularly keen on the Czech Republic. In mid-September VNU launches Vy, meaning "You," a Czech women's weekly targeted at 20- to 30-year-olds and Meglepetes, the Czech word for "Surprise," featuring stories, quizzes and puzzles.

VNU is battling phenomenally successful Elle magazine and titles from Germany's Axel Springer, Gruner & Jahr and Bauer Verlag for Czech women readers. Springer's Pani Domu, G&J's Claudi and Bauer's Tina have gone over big in Poland.

Meanwhile, one trend that looked sure-fire hasn't happened after all: German publishers have tried and failed to emulate the huge success of Focus, the news magazine that was an instant hit there with readers and advertisers after its launch by Burda three years ago. Gruner & Jahr closed rival Tango after nine dismal months, and Bauer hasn't brought out ERGO, another rival for Focus, despite announcing plans to launch it almost a year ago.M

Contributing to this story: Dagmar Mussey, Deborah Klosky, Pamposh Dhar, Jack Russell and Mir Maqbool Alam Khan.

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