02.06.2020 / Knud Wassermann

Celebrities give magazines their face

Personality magazines are special-interest titles from a wide variety of areas with a celebrity to their name – and that is usually what guarantees success.

What do the TV presenter, entertainer, actress and singer Barbara Schöneberger, the German football star Jérôme Boateng and the famous Austrian TV chef Johann Lafer have in common? They're all ambassadors of a personality magazine. However, they are by no means the only ones to give their names to printed magazines. In mid-October 2015, the magazine Barbara appeared for the first time in Germany with the promise of not being “a normal women's magazine”. After four years, Barbara has more than established itself in the market with an average circulation of over 100,000 copies.

O – The Oprah Magazine: over 2.2 million copies
However, the US-American talk show presenter Oprah Winfrey already implemented this concept 20 years ago together with the Hearst magazine publishing house. It is astonishing that despite the Internet and social media hype, the printed magazine O – The Oprah Magazine is still highly successful and appears monthly with a circulation of over 2.2 million copies. That makes the magazine one of the most successful women's magazines in the US, which is today, of course, present with its content on all channels.

And also the TV doctor Dr. Oz, who earned his spurs in the Oprah Winfrey Show, has meanwhile got his own TV show and of course his own magazine. The Hearst publishing house thus continued its success story.

With eight newcomers, 2019 was the year with the highest rate of arrivals in the history of personality magazines in the German market. Now more than 20 magazines are available at magazine kiosks in Germany. Although personality magazines will almost certainly not win a Pulitzer Prize, their distribution as a printed magazine gives them a certain value. Content relevant for the readership, an appealing design and a good portion of haptics is the recipe for success. Stephan Scherzer, Managing Director of the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ), has the following comment on the trend in personality magazines: “It's a great idea to combine a strong brand with a strong personality and then build a community. That's contemporary publishing.”

Bringing your own products and services to the people
The various celebrities stand for authenticity and credibility in certain areas, such as the German fashion designer and television presenter Guido Maria Kretschmer for the title "GUIDO", which will be launched at the end of 2018 with a print run of 250,000 copies, according to Gruner + Jahr. Julia Jäkel, Publishing Director at Gruner + Jahr, explains the trend toward personality magazines as follows: “People model themselves on other people, in the digital world all the more so. And, on the other hand, there is a desire or a search for substantial content.” 

Another reason why personality magazines are currently so popular is that the respective celebrity usually has a positive impact on the branding. The content of these magazines is structured accordingly. Football stars, TV presenters, fashion designers, chefs, coaches and social media influencers not only contribute to the magazine in terms of content, but also use the magazines in a targeted manner to publicly promote their own products, services or any other brand with which they are associated. Although, this is not compatible with the German press code, it doesn't seem to bother anyone – especially not the readers – except critical journalists. 

For Influencers, print is a touchpoint 
What influencers do online, i.e. recommendation marketing, is now also taking place in magazines. The clear labeling of advertorials in this environment is no longer an issue because it's clear to everyone how and what is happening here. For Influencers, print is another touchpoint to increase their reach and promote their various activities. A new experience for Influencers is that the followers in this case make a significant contribution to revenues by paying for content.

The Funke media group also entered this segment in 2019 with its "I am" title. Laura Malina Seiler is an editor-at-large who is not assigned to one department. As a coach in the area of personality development, a best-selling author and host of a podcast with millions of subscribers, the 33-year-old entrepreneur is one of the most successful representatives of the mindfulness movement in Germany. The magazine was launched with a print run of 100,000 copies at a price of 10 euros. It is published four times a year and was a success even before the official sales launch. The publishing house was delighted to record more than 10,000 subscriptions and individual issue pre-orders. 

The number of titles is constantly increasing
Whether influencer or personality magazines, Stephan Scherzer of VDZ assumes that such magazine concepts will continue to expand. Above all, however, he sees good future prospects for print products for top target groups – i.e. special interest magazines. There seems to be no shortage of new ideas here, as the figures from the German magazine market show. 

The number of titles has grown steadily in recent years, and, in 2018, stood at 1,625. In 2001, it was only 1,178. That's why printed magazines, if they capture the spirit of the times, still have a chance to hold their own in the market – personality magazines are a good example of this.

Knud Wassermann
Editor-in-Chief of "Graphische Revue"