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When it Comes to Niche Magazines: “Speaking to the Base” is the Best Solution… A Mr. Magazine™ MagNet Exclusive

April 29, 2014

A Niche of Niches: The Guns/Knives Category. While overall magazine retail sales plummet, this category claims year-over-year sales increases.

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An ongoing series of Mr. Magazine™ exclusive interviews with MagNet’s Luke Magerko.


Luke Magerko was a consistent contributor to my blog in 2013. Luke has partnered with MagNet to provide retail analytics for the publishing industry. Today, we pick up our conversation from two two weeks ago and, going forward, MagNet will provide me with an interview with Luke every other week highlighting retail analytics.

This week, we focus on preventing sales loss by better understanding general consumer shopping habits. Here, we report on the niche category of Guns/Knives for March 2014 and April 2014 issues.

HOW IS THIS CATEGORY PERFORMING COMPARED TO THE INDUSTRY?

While overall magazine retail sales plummet, this category claims year-over-year sales increases. For 12 months ending February 2014 (based on off-sale dates), unit sales increased by two percent and retail dollars increased eight percent.

SEASONAL PERFORMANCE INDEX RESULTS: WHO WON THE MONTH?

Overall, March issues were soft with Combat Handguns performing slightly above average while April issues are stronger with Guns and Ammo estimated to win the month.
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I SEE SOME VERY STRONG AND SOME VERY WEAK ISSUES. THERE SEEMS TO BE MORE VARIETY IN THE PERFORMANCE INDEX FOR THIS CATEGORY.

Correct and this is a larger point: niche titles sustain significant performance index variance because of their audience. Consumers of these products are called “enthusiasts” for a reason: when editors communicate a desired message, these consumers reward the publication with strong sales. When the product misses the mark, consumers reprimand the magazine through reduced sales.

CAN YOU DETERMINE WHAT WORKS ON A NICHE COVER?

Not exactly. MagNet looks at historical sales data and provides an outline of the enthusiast consumer. We also determine if a specific issue followed that outline. The editor and the consumer marketer drive the brand; we provide newsstand results and guidance.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE GUN ENTHUSIASTS’ MAGAZINES?

MagNet analyzed one of the five gun magazines (“Magazine X”) to determine consumer habits. We identified one issue (on sale in May 2013) which significantly underperformed and attempted to identify the cause of the sales decline. MagNet’s looked at different slices of the data and determined why this issue underperformed. To do this, we first analyzed sales for one year’s worth of issues. The results became our baseline and the comparative data for the issue analysis.

DID THE COVER REACH THE INTENDED AUDIENCE?

The cover message (image and/or text) did not reach Magazine X’s core audience. We designed a composite sketch of consumer attributes to shed light on why this issue underperformed.

DATA MINING: SOME OBSERVATIONS

MagNet implemented a sequence of analyses to determine a cause for the weak sales. Let’s look at four analyses of this poor-performing issue:
First, we analyzed issue sales by class of trade (“COT”) and by geographic region. We found that supermarkets, mass merchants and all other classes of trade underperformed equally in every region of the country. CONCLUSION: These two categories were not the cause of sales declines.

We then studied county information. The baseline data identified the rural “D” counties and the exurban “C” counties as traditionally strong. However, these counties underperformed much more than the more urban A and B counties. CONCLUSION: This cover was a significant miss with a large and important part of the audience.

Finally, we used A.C. Nielsen PRIZM clusters to look at the demographic make-up of the stores. A.C. Nielsen provides 66 individual demographic clusters identifying patterns at the most granular level. Here is an example of one cluster:

FAST-TRACK FAMILIES (From A.C. Nielsen)
Upscale Middle Age w/ Kids
With upscale incomes, numerous children, and spacious homes, Fast-Track Families are in their prime acquisition years. These middle-aged parents have the disposable income and educated sensibility to want the best for their children. They buy the latest technology with impunity: new computers, DVD players, home theater systems, and video games. They take advantage of rustic locales by camping, boating, and fishing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claritas_Prizm

Our research indicated the best performing baseline clusters SOLD MORE COPIES of the worst performing issue of the year while poorer performing clusters sold significantly less. CONCLUSION: The most reliable readers of Magazine X appreciated this issue, but all others demographic categories did not. This issue targeted the “niche of niches.”

WHAT IS THE NICHE OF “NICHES?”

In politics, this is “speaking to the base;” providing a campaign that excites the motivated partisans while ignoring the moderate parts of the party. This issue communicated to a narrow audience: those who are at the highest end of the enthusiast category. While those shoppers purchased more copies than before, their increased sale could not make up for losses in the larger core of the readership.

WHAT DO PUBLISHERS DO WITH THIS INFORMATION?

Publishers must determine a magazine’s core audience by analyzing newsstand, consumer marketing, and survey data. Once they define a clear picture of the core reader, then each cover should reflect the needs of that reader.

Rodale epitomizes this philosophy with Men’s Health Magazine. The basic format of a Men’s Health has stayed the same for a generation: red logo, white background, a physically strong model (yes, a shirt was added to the models, but that is a small adjustment) and the word “abs” on the cover.

I do not recommend this strict cover formula for each magazine, but it is a good place to start when deciding how to build an issue. This will not ensure increased sales, but should help mitigate the damage of a poor performing cover.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning

mrmagapril28 Want more news, interviews and views from Mr. Magazine™? Be sure to subscribe to the new Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning newsletter. It is free and it is delivered to your in-box every Monday morning. Click here to subscribe.

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