Dare, a women’s title daring to be free
British title switches to free circulation, a first
February 1, 2008
But in one important way, Dare is aptly named. It’s going where women’s titles have yet to tread, free circulation. Dare is the nation’s first women’s monthly that carries no cover price.
Actually Dare isn’t entirely new. It was launched 18 months ago for distribution in one of Britain’s largest drug chains, Superdrug, selling for $1.
What’s new is the price, free, announced last week.
“It is uncharted territory,” observes Matthew Simpson, group ad manager at River Publishing, the publishing house that launched Dare as a joint venture with Superdrug, which has 912 stores in Britain.
Well, not entirely.
Actually, Dare is following where many others have gone before, to free circulation. It began in the UK several years ago with free newspapers distributed in the streets and at train stations, then the idea was picked up by magazines targeting men. Two large-scale free weekly men’s titles have been launched in the past 18 months, one a sports weekly and the other a lifestyle magazine.
Still, Dare can claim the title of the first free monthly women’s magazine in Britain, along with being the first magazine tied to a retailer to be distributed free outside the store.
Media buyers have been expecting a women’s magazine to try out the free market in Britain. But at issue is how well a title tied to a retailer will fare.
People are media savvy these days, says Dayna Slate, media manager at Carat in London. She wonders if people will feel like they are being sold to. “It will be interesting to see if it works.”
Dare was originally launched in April 2007 as a 100-page monthly featuring fashion and beauty with a circulation of 271,000.
In taking Dare free, its publishers ramped up distribution to 750,000. It will be handed out in London in tube stations and train stations from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ever four weeks.
The magazine carries brand ads from companies that supply products to Superdrug, as well as price promotion ads and coupons, and in time the publisher hopes to boost the amount of third-party advertising for things like mobile phones, cars and credit cards.
But the main goal of Dare is less about making money from ads and more about increasing foot traffic in Superdrug stores.
“They could have done a massive TV campaign or something, but they feel the magazine being distributed on the street will be a footfall driver,” says River Publishing’s Simpson.
As a marketing device it does have the advantage of allowing tight targeting in specific areas around stores, says Clare Rush, head of print media at mediaedge:CIA. “From a marketing perspective it is quite a cost-effective way to target consumers,” she says.
Also in Dare’s favor, Rush believes that in general the free magazine market is not yet saturated. But like Carat’s Slate, she wonder how consumers will receive the title because of its ties to Superdrug. “It is quite interesting, but at the end of the day it is a marketing device for the store,” she says.
The looming question is whether such a free women’s publication could work in the U.S.
While there are some free magazines in the U.S., they are largely distributed to homes or through fancy hotels or spas.
Martin S. Walker, chairman of Walker Communications, believes that there are a number of criteria that would have to be satisfied in order for a magazine like Dare to succeed in the U.S. market.
First advertisers would want proof of circulation, and better proof than what might be accepted in the UK. They would also expect solid proof of reader engagement.
There would also want to know who was getting the magazine, and those recipients would have to be desirable to advertisers. Says Walker: “If they can get all of that, it might work.”
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