Solving the women’s magazines problem

It’s hardly rocket science to deduce a significant reason why women’s magazines are obsessed with peddling expensive fashion and beauty products. It is because the Gucci’s of this world keep a magazine afloat by paying for advertising space.

We all know how it works (in fact I have a previous article I wrote on this topic to hand!). There may technically be a Chinese Wall between the commercial and editorial desks in a company, but it’s rather vulnerable to the invading force of money. In return for spending X grand on a page, the occasional mention of a product by the same company in the “Top 10 things to buy” article help keeps business flowing for a publishing company.

Similarly, to attract companies producing cripplingly expensive anti-ageing creams and the like, you need to make sure that the sort of things you write about are suitably complementary. This is how pages dissecting what celebrities wear and look like and how the approved looks can be achieved, spring up.

With this relationship in mind, perhaps magazines can break out of the self-hate inducing theme it’s enforced on its readers for year and try to target advertising from elsewhere.

(I mean, in an ideal world, the Chinese Wall would be goddamn impregnable, but a healthy dose of realism does tend to make grand aspirations a tad more achievable.)

Women have a wide range of interests beyond just fashion and beauty – as fun as those things are. We’d like more than just the token one or two pages with really generic careers advice. Women also like sport – where are the sport pages in women’s magazines that aren’t just ‘5 steps to really tone your abs in time for summer’? Where are the intelligent articles on issues such as politics and the environment? When magazines take into account the full range of interests that women have, it opens up all sorts of advertising ideas.

Big organisations like consultancies and law firms are desperately trying to attract the best female candidates – surely they can be cajoled into buying advert space and/or sponsoring supplements and round tables? The latter two ideas would not only bring in revenue for the magazine but generate intelligent content.

Professional sports pages open up more opportunities to get ad income from sports clubs, sports channels and the big corporates that sponsor sports teams while raising the profile of women’s sports.

Women are breadwinners in the home and high ranking board members of companies too – maybe magazines can target the investment funds and companies trying to sell their shares for advertising. Or even convince them to sponsor events that are themed around the company/investment funds’ interests? For example, how about the magazine hosting a ‘How can we modernise care to suit women’ panel session and drinks sponsored by a fund/company?

Or, given that most people enjoy a spot of culture every now and then/a chance to go drinking somewhere unusial – maybe magazine commercial teams could get big museums and cultural organisations to sponsor events at their venues? This would help raise the profile of what these organisations are trying to achieve/get women with bigger pay packets thinking about donating/show it off as an event space for the event managers in a magazine’s reader profile.

Women’s characters are well rounded, so if we are going to be bombarded with adverts, dear magazines, at least try to have a similarly well rounded range. Otherwise, we may not want to buy your magazine at all.

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