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Face to face with… DC Thomson

We chat to head of children’s publishing Maria Welch about a successful 2016.

Firstly, tell me about DC Thomson magazines?

DC Thomson magazines division is made up of adult and children’s magazines. Our kids’ portfolio is a potent mix of our own IP and licensed titles covering the primary boys’, girls’ and preschool market. We’re probably best known as the publishers of The Beano, but our diverse portfolio of kids’ titles covers best selling licensed titles such as such as the Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine and WWE Kids to our more recent launches, Thunderbirds, Danger Mouse, Twirlywoos and Noddy.

We’re passionate about publishing and give our licensed titles the same care and attention we give to our own IP titles Shout, Animals and You and 110% Gaming. DC Thomson Publishing is both a licensor and a licensee so we have a 360 view of what it takes to be successful. However, at our core we are story-tellers always striving to fuel imaginations and inspire creativity.

How is the market performing for licensed children’s magazines?

The market is buoyant, driven by new launches but with new magazines constantly entering the market, the kids’ sector is subject to ‘churn’ in that magazines often enter and leave the market at some speed. So it is competitive and it is challenging but it’s also exciting and full of opportunities.

What do you look for in a licence?

Magazines are viewed by parents as an acceptable treat and in this digital age, often time away from screens. Obviously we look for licenses that our readers will want to engage with but parental approval is also important – with mum as the gatekeeper to purchase. So we look for a brand that we can add value to by building a narrative and offering an extension to the brand experience.

How is DC Thomson performing?

Very well, thanks! Our portfolio continues to perform and this year alone we’ve already launched three new licensed titles Twirlywoos, Noddy and Danger Mouse, which has only added to our appetite to acquire and launch more licensed titles.

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What are you particularly proud of?

Publishing magazines that help kids’ improve their reading skills by being a conduit to literacy. We don’t just stay in the office, we like to go out and meet our readers and through these meetings we realised that there were lots of kids who wanted to engage with magazines but found their lack of reading skills a barrier to fully enjoying the experience.

Working with Dame Jacqueline Wilson we decided to make the Official Jacqueline Wilson magazine the UK’s only dyslexia friendly kids’ magazine. We changed the entire magazine, using a type face called ‘dyslexie’ specifically designed for kids who have difficulty reading, concentrating on contrast, spacing but also the weight of the individual characters. The results have been amazing – and the feedback from kids and their grateful parents makes me very proud.

What trends are you observing at the moment?

At retail, in-store theatre is prominent at the moment often with cross-category promotion and we’re working with our fellow licensees to capitalise on this. In licensing it’s a very interesting time especially with regard to how kids’ are consuming content – lots of opportunities but also some shifting sands that everyone has to be aware of. In terms of consumer behaviour, ‘experiential’ is a trend we’ve seen for a while but it is still continuing. So the perception of an exciting event or an experience is often a driver to purchase.

How are you responding?

We’re finding out what our readers want – and giving it to them. It’s genius, really!

What is your prediction for the future?

That magazines will remain relatively easy to launch but difficult to maintain – so fluidity and flexibility will be key. Never underestimate the attachment that parents and children alike have for the tactile experience of reading a magazine. There is nothing quite like it.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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