By Katy Sheen

Sub-editor: Claire Cunningham

Magazines are so much more than celebrity style guides and the exploitation of women. Nikki Simpson, Business Manager of the Professional Periodicals Association (PPA) Scotland, began her talk with this crucial point. The magazine industry is diverse and exciting; there’s a publication for every topic imaginable, and magazine publishers are generating revenue in a wider range of ways than ever before.

But magazines can still be tarnished with the size 6-obsessed brush. That’s why the PPA exists: to promote, protect and advance the magazine industry. The magazine industry within the UK is worth £4.1bn, £154m of which is based in Scotland. The 700 magazines based here cover the three main categories of publication: consumer, trade and contract.

Reaching target audiences

In the contract publishing sector, which is better known as content marketing, Nikki highlighted White Light Media, who produce the quirky and beautifully designed Hot Rum Cow. The publication has a dual role as an alcohol enthusiast’s magazine and an advertising tool for White Light Media’s high quality services. Realising that Hot Rum Cow may not appeal to their more ‘serious’ clients, White Light Media recently launched a second magazine called Poppy, which is aimed at marketeers in the financial industry.

Contract vs consumer magazines: advantages+disadvantages

The advantage of working for a contract publishing company is that you can be involved with a number of different projects, across a plethora of subjects. In a consumer magazine, you are likely to be focused on one topic at all times. However, as Nikki pointed out, you don’t necessarily need to be a magazine’s target market in order to work on it. A great example of this is People’s Friend, which has a massive circulation of 230,000 copies a week. DC Thomson, one of the largest publishing companies in the UK, wouldn’t exist without it. The magazine is, almost exclusively, read by women over 60, but you won’t find a team of old age pensioners producing the magazine in DC Thomson’s Dundee office.

Top quality Indies

In contrast to the long-running People’s Friend, Nikki showcased some of the large number of independent magazines that have launched recently in Scotland, the UK and beyond. Many of these magazines feature top quality illustration, photography and design, as well as approaching the concept of a ‘magazine’ in innovative ways, from fold-out to glow-in-the dark pages.

The future is in our hands

Nikki pointed out that this class of Publishing students could soon be adding to this pretty pile of publications – all we need is an idea for something a bit different. There’s no problem with focusing on a very specific topic, as long as you have readers; to paraphrase Nikki, there is a market for niche magazines as long as there is a market within that niche.