Soutar: weeklies need to raise frequency

Weekly titles should increase their frequency in a bid to innovate in the market, according to the founder of free men’s weekly Shortlist.

Mike Soutar, publisher of Shortlist, said that 80 per cent of copies of all women’s weeklies were bought on the first three days of publication. ‘So why isn’t Heat or Now sold more than once a week?’he asked the audience at a seminar on magazine innovation at the Periodicals Publishers Association annual conference.

Soutar identifed a further four ways that magazines might innovate.

He said that the launch of ultra-local magazine brands could be a way of exploiting the market. ‘Magazine readers respond brilliantly to magazine content that feels local and relevant but is still beautiful and glossy. Imagine Take a Break but highly localised; that could be very powerful.”

He warned against the power of supermarkets to dictate what magazines go on their newsstands and asked publishers to think of new, unestablished routes to market. ‘The supermarket power over range and content is increasing year on year, year in year out. Newspapers and magazines are the last category that can dictate what is paid for them in supermarkets. But how long is that going to last?”

Soutar predicted hybrid or free magazine titles would also emerge, similar in structure to the way that the Manchester Evening News is now part free/part sold.

He also said monthly magazines needed to work out how to fight back against the weeklies.

Soutar said Shortlist had built the UK’s first national network distribution of free magazines across 10 cities since it launched last year. These included Brighton, Liverpool, Newcastle and Aberdeen, which have all been added this year. The title employs 450 distributors each week.

Soutar said the strategy was to get a 50/50 balance between on-the-street distribution and making the magazine available in outlets or through companies varying from Virgin Airlines to the BBC.

Soutar said that Shortlist’s net investment was much lower than a newsstand title such as Grazia, which would ensure its return on investment would be much higher as a result. He predicted that Shortlist would break even by the end of its second year and the magazine would be distributed to more than 500,000 people each week by the end of 2008.

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