‘Irish Country Magazine’ finds the market in the gap

The ‘Farmers Journal’ publisher is increasing the frequency of its women’s glossy title

Irish Country Magazine: sales have risen 11 per cent in the past year and are up almost 60 per cent over a two-year period

Irish Country Magazine: sales have risen 11 per cent in the past year and are up almost 60 per cent over a two-year period

 

When Irish Country Magazine cut the cake at its fourth birthday party in Dublin’s Dean Hotel this week, it had more than just age to celebrate.

The women’s magazine title is going so well for its publisher, Irish Farmers Journal owner Agricultural Trust, that it is bumping up its publication frequency from six to 10 issues a year.

“It’s just a matter of keeping at it now, because it is such a baby brand,” says IFJ’s Mairead Lavery, who edits the weekly farming title’s Irish Country Living supplement and was the founding editor of the glossy magazine offshoot.

“When it comes to supermarkets in particular, they want a fast turnaround. They want the slots on their shelves to be generating sales all the time,” she explains. About three-quarters of the magazine’s sales take place in the first two weeks after the issue is printed.

The magazine experimented with a single-month issue in December and it was happy to shift more than 26,000 copies in the shorter sales period.

It plans only two double-month editions this year, January-February and July-August.

Irish Country Magazine began in 2012 as a quarterly title.

Now, according to the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures, it sells an average of 25,295 copies per issue, with about 76 per cent of this actively purchased rather than multiple copy sales.

Rising sales

“Five years ago, when we were planning to launch the magazine, we kind of knew ourselves that our readers wanted more,” says Lavery. She was “browned off” that some titles on the shelves had “nothing but Loose Women or British soap stars in them”, she adds.

“But it’s one thing to find a gap in the market, it’s another to find a market in the gap.”

During the planning phase in 2011, Lavery and Irish Farmers Journal commercial director David Leydon went to Stockholm to visit Swedish group LRF Media, which began as a publisher of farming newspapers, but now has an extensive portfolio of magazine titles. “What we learned from them was not to be scared,” says Lavery. “Though if we knew then what we later discovered we didn’t know about glossy magazines, we might have been a little more cautious.”

The team swiftly learned it needed to outsource photography, particularly for front cover and fashion shoot imagery, if it wanted to compete. “Readers are fussy, and they’re right to be fussy,” she says.

But the big lesson came in its negotiations with distributors.

“We wouldn’t have known the ins and outs of the glossy magazine business when we started out, but we rapidly discovered how critical the space was for retailers. Actually getting through to the stockists was a big issue for us.”

Winning of awards

Jennifer Stevens

Geographically, its popularity is not an exact match with that of the Irish Farmers Journal. The core Irish Country Magazine readers are both women in rural and semi-urban counties “and their daughters living in Dublin”, says Lavery.

The title is aspirational, running the message “inform, inspire, indulge” along its spine: “It’s not country the way ‘country’ is in the UK – it’s not haw-haw, horsey.”