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This month Simon Whaley shows us the value of media packs, Ten Top Tips covers reader’s letters, plus there are success stories and ideas to inspire.

Do I Know You?

By Simon Whaley

Flick through the pages of a celebrity magazine and you quickly discover who has a boil on their bum, stretch marks from their latest pregnancy and saggy eyebrows. The over-zealous efforts of paparazzi photographers means that readers know the most intimate details of the latest Z-list celebrity. But, as a writer, do you know as much about your potential readers? Thankfully, there’s no need for you to stalk them like the paparazzi. Instead of being part of the media frenzy, you need to seek out the ‘media pack’.

Magazines exist to sell advertising space. We can learn a lot about the readers from the adverts that appear in our target magazines. Advertisers spend large sums of money and time analysing readerships to ensure the right products and services are advertised to the right people. However, magazines often help out with this process by creating ‘media packs’. These give the advertisers useful information about their readers – they’re designed to attract advertisers to the publication. For writers though, this information can be just as useful as a direct line to the editor!

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be looking at the media pack for The Lady magazine, which you can download from www.lady.co.uk/thelady/mediapack.php

The Wide Angle Picture
The Lady’s media pack begins by setting the scene. It tells advertisers that “its readers have a strong ABC bias and live in wealthy areas throughout the UK.” Straight away, we know that these readers are educated (the ABC classification is a socio-economic classification system used by advertisers and others – for a quick guide, click here and have money at their disposal. So, an article idea of feeding a family of four for under £50 for a week won’t be appropriate, but an article about the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery might. Educated people tend to frequent art galleries and the Tate Modern is in London, which has several affluent areas.

The pack then explains that “the majority of the readership is in the 40+ age group.” It also mentions that the magazine is read by a younger audience, however, from a writer’s point of view your article needs to satisfy as many readers as possible, so that means writing for the majority. Perhaps that idea about exclusive nightclubs in the London suburbs may not be of interest, but a piece on fine dining opportunities in a relaxed environment, may be of more interest to these readers.

Zoom In
Some media packs offer detailed information about readers. I’ve seen some that split the circulation figures across the country, so it’s possible to learn where the majority of readers live. Other magazines will tell you how much money the average reader spends on hobbies or pursuits. This all helps you to build up a better overall picture of the typical reader.

The Lady is famous for its classified adverts for staff and the media pack identifies the type of jobs that are advertised in it, including: matrons, bursars and estate management staff for private schools; nurses, administrators and managers for care homes; au pairs and nannies for private families and security staff or chauffeurs for country estates. This information helps in two ways. It tells you who the minority of the readers are (people looking for nanny or au pair placements, for example), but it also clarifies more information about the majority of the readership. These are people who can afford to employ nannies, chauffeurs and estate managers in the first place!

The Big Reveal!
Every paparazzi photographer is hoping for that one photo that reveals more about the celebrity than the celebrity wanted. If it reveals the right information, many magazines and newspapers will use it on their front page. Some media packs have this killer information too – the editorial calendar. Because the magazine is trying to attract advertisers to buy space in its pages, magazines will often plan 12 months in advance which topics they will cover. This enables them to highlight to advertisers which topics readers will be reading about and when. So, if the magazine was planning to do a health special, it makes sense for companies of health-related products to buy advertising space for that specific issue.

The Lady is one such magazine that does this. The media pack tells us that their issue dated 25th May 2010 will focus on Spa Towns, the 1st June issue will be on South Africa (to link in with the Football World Cup – but it won’t be about the World Cup), whilst the issue dated 12th October will look at Christmas and New Year breaks. From a writer’s perspective, this is all our birthdays rolled into one! If you live in a spa town, perhaps you could write about what makes your spa town different to others. At least you know that the editor will be interested in an article on this topic. Similarly, if you live in South Africa, or have holidayed there, an article focusing on a subject that would interest the readership (perhaps the arts and culture of South Africa), will be more likely to gain the editor’s attention. You still need to angle your idea so that it interests the readership, but at least you know that the subject matter is more likely to interest the editor.

Cutting Room Floor
For every one good picture a paparazzi photographer takes, there will be 50 that don’t make the grade and are cut. Likewise, not everything in the media pack will be of use to you – but then, you’re a writer, not an advertiser, and the pack isn’t aimed at you. However, glancing at the rates the magazine charges advertisers can be a rough indication of how lucrative a published article in the magazine may be. A magazine charging £6,000 for a double page advert will probably pay its writers more than one that charges advertisers £500 for a double page advert.

Out of Shot
Media packs are NOT a short cut to magazine analysis. There’s a lot of information missing here that is important to the writer. For example, media packs won’t tell you:

  • The editor’s name.
  • Which slots in the magazine are open to freelance writers.
  • How many words the articles are.
  • What style the publication uses.
  • Whether they pay for reader’s letters.

You still need to study several issues of a magazine to find this out. But media packs will help you get to know your potential readers that little bit better. And that’s enough to make any writer smile for the photographer!

Finding Media Packs


  • Type the name of the magazine and the phrase ‘media pack’ into an Internet search engine.
  • Visit the publication’s website. (Use a site search facility for ‘media pack’.)
  • Visit a publication’s parent company website.

Example Media Packs
Here are a few to get you started:

Amateur Photographer
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/jan/12/amateur-photographer

Caravan
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/jan/16/caravan

Chat
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/03/chat

Country Life
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/03/country-life Grazia http://www.bauermedia.co.uk/Brands/Grazia1/

Marie Claire
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/03/marie-claire

Motor Boats Monthly
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/03/motor-boats-monthly

My Weekly
http://www.marketing.dcthomson.co.uk/pdf_window.asp?pdf=my_weekly.pdf

People's Friend
http://www.marketing.dcthomson.co.uk/pdf_window.asp?pdf=peoples_friend.pdf

Prediction
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/03/prediction

Spirit & Destiny
http://www.bauer.co.uk/spirit-and-destiny

Take a Break’s Fiction Feast
http://www.bauer.co.uk/fiction-feast

Woman and Home
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/09/woman-home

Woman’s Weekly
http://www.ipcadvertising.com/ipc-brands/2009/feb/09/womans-weekly

Yours
http://www.bauermedia.co.uk/Brands/Yours/

Simon Whaley is a tutor for the Writers Bureau and a full time, freelance writer. His articles have appeared in publications including In Britain, Heritage, Hotel, Holiday Cottages, Country Walking, Country & Border Life, Cumbria, SelfBuild & Design, People’s Friend and many more. He is also the author of nine books. For more information visit his website at www.simonwhaley.co.uk and any writers are encouraged to pick up more writing hints and tips on his blog: http://simonwhaleytutor.blogspot.com