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‘Preschool magazines are still holding their own’

Redan’s Julie Jones and Emily Bell on the appeal of covermounts, the changing publishing landscape and Sooty.

What were your big successes in 2015?

Julie Jones, publishing director, Redan Publishing: Peppa Pig has remained our biggest success in terms of our magazine publishing. Like all true evergreens Peppa continues to stay at the top of her game and I can’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. In terms of new properties, both Paw Patrol and Boj seem to be doing very well according to our reader polls.

We also launched a multi-character title for toddlers in July 2015, First Friends. This beautiful magazine has introduced well-loved literary characters to the magazine category such as The Gruffalo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot, Elmer and Miffy, appealing to the littlest of learners and their parents.

What are your big properties within the preschool space for 2016?

Emily Bell, licensing director, Redan Alchemy: In terms of our licensing division Redan Alchemy, we are looking to expand The Sooty Show’s appeal in the preschool sector. Our new property Alice the Forgetful Elephant is proving extremely popular in our toddler title Fun To Learn First Friends and is hoping to find a home with a book publisher in 2016.

What has been the biggest change in the preschool environment?

Julie: I think the biggest change is the continuing growth in the media channels through which preschoolers are accessing their favourite characters and shows. Much more viewing is done on demand these days rather than having to wait for a scheduled time. A position on a big broadcast channel or with a large book publisher is becoming less important as parents and children are finding more and more content (either free or pay as you go) on the internet.

The phenomenon of surprise eggs on YouTube is a case in point – who would have known that short films showing toy eggs being unwrapped to reveal various toys would prove so entertaining to preschoolers! Thankfully the lure of the covermount gift and youngsters’ love of pens and paper mean that preschool magazines are still holding their own amongst this diverse range of children’s media.

Peppa mag

Just how competitive is the licensed preschool sector at the moment? What is the main challenge for you as a brand owner?

Julie: The licensed preschool sector is hugely competitive at the moment. We live in a child-centric society where parents are prepared to spend more on their children than themselves and there are more and more brands and characters for their children to enjoy. In the preschool magazine publishing sector there are more titles than ever before fighting for limited space, but it is encouraging that young children are still as likely to buy a magazine as they are to buy an app.

Emily: In terms of being property owners, it’s trying to create some space on the shelves for your brand and to ensure that the brand has endurance as children are fickle and quickly move on to the next hot new property.

How is the retail environment for preschool properties currently? Are retailers willing to take a risk on newer brands or is it hard with so many classic brands still performing so well to get a break?

Emily: It’s very hard to get a break with so much competition out there, so you need to be inventive with licensing programmes. Maybe your brand isn’t going to be able to compete when it comes to mainstream play-sets and plush, but perhaps it is perfect for partnerships with entertainment venues and live tours.

Do you think that the consumer is much more savvy now as to what they will buy? What do you think they look for?

Julie: I think they are much more savvy in what they will pay for what they are buying! With discount stores stocking all the top brands, consumers expect to get a lot more for their money these days and that includes bigger covermount gifts with their magazines. With preschool products, consumers are looking for products that keep the child happy but also come with the additional feel good factor of promises to aid development and learning.

First Friends

Is having a link with the parents vital? For example, older brands – such as Teletubbies and The Clangers – might have more resonance because they watched them/played with the toys growing up?

Emily: It’s not vital as properties like Paw Patrol and Boj are showing, but there’s no doubting that it helps. A property like Sooty benefits hugely from the love and affection that it is shown from across the generations. There’s no doubting that if a parent is happy to sit and watch a programme with their children it is more likely to get airtime in the household. Social media campaigns have a lot more traction with parents than children who are too young to have social media accounts, so brands with a retro appeal tend to work better in the increasingly important viral marketing arena.

Do you see any major trends emerging for 2016?

Emily: I think Soo should get her ears pierced and Sooty needs to grow a beard, a big yellow one.

What would you most like to see happen within the licensed preschool market in 2016?

Emily: Sooty and Sweep to guest star in an episode of Peppa Pig.

Julie: With so much content being watched on demand rather than scheduled content, brand owners need to find new and innovative ways of reaching their target market in the first place. I’d like to see more transparency on viewing figures for non-scheduled platforms.

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