Mark Frith, editor of London listings title Time Out, has warned magazine publishers against slashing cover price and bundling titles together to boost sales, saying it was “creating lots of market confusion”.
The current level of cover price variation and offers to provide two magazines at a reduced price was “bewildering” Frith told a forum ahead of the Independent Publishers Awards on Tuesday.
Frith, a former editor of celebrity weekly Heat and the now defunct teen music magazine Smash Hits, singled-out Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond, suggesting his pricing policy had contributed to greater risk in the weekly magazine market.
“When I worked in the teen market with Smash Hits, they [customers] just chose the one with the best free gift. Now you choose the one with the best price deal.
“It is short-termism [sic]; it holds many risks for people [publishers] and they have to be careful about the game they are getting into.
“Richard Desmond is a good example of this. He priced OK! originally at £3 and he did pretty well, then he started messing around with the product. Made it £3 for two magazines, £2 for one, and it all started to go wrong.”
Frith, who was appointed Time Out editor in July, said the magazine industry had a number of golden rules that needed to be followed to offer consistency to readers.
He said: “There are certain rules you have to have in magazines. You really have to know what which day of the week of day of the month you come out.
“You have to know where you can buy it and guarantee that you can buy it in that place. You also have to know really what the price is.”
Since taking over at Time Out, Frith said he had been focused on “re-engaging Londoners” with the magazine, part of which involved the reintroduction of the Time Out Student Guide.
Time Out had been incubated from the worst effects of the recession on its ad revenue, he added, with the listings magazine also benefiting from a strong year for arts and entertainments in the capital and a greater number of Londoners spending their leisure time, and money, nearer home.