Times Media Group’s misogynistic* attitude to business glossies


Sunday evening. I’m sitting happily with a cup of tea and two glossy magazines. But these aren’t my usual mags. These are free glossies distributed with two newspapers we subscribe to: Wanted (published monthly by Business Day, distributed free to subscribers) and Business Class (distributed free with the Sunday Times once a month).

Wanted: a snapshot

  • Twitter bio: “Covering all things cool, covetable and cultural. Available with Business Day on the first Friday of each month.” [I think the account is dormant. The last tweet was on 3 April. Their tumblr site has also not been updated since April.]
  • Their Facebook site, which is the only current social media site I could find: Wanted “is Business Day’s award-winning lifestyle and culture magazine”. It won “the Advantage ADmag Gold Award for ‘Best Magazine Supplement’ for a fourth year running”. [I think this refers to the 2010 and earlier awards. Why mention such old accolades? ]
  • The editor, Alex Parker, is male; the publisher is Times Media’s Jocelyne Bayer.

Business Class: a snapshot

Twitter bio: “Business Class is a monthly leisure magazine delivered to selected subscribers of the Sunday Times.” [The last time this account tweeted was on 7 February.]

  • The Google description under www.timeslive.co.za/businessclass/ tells us “Business Class is about success and the good life: we’ll bring you the ideas, the people, the style and fashion, the gleaming new cars and the latest technology…”
  • The magazine is described on its masthead as a “monthly lifestyle magazine aimed at achievers with an interest in business, style and the good life.”
  • Once again, the editor, Charles Boffard, is a he, while the publisher, Susan Russell, is a she. On LinkedIn she is listed as the General Manager: Marketing at Sunday Times. [Other online sources have her employed in that capacity at Times Media.]

Let’s go a bit deeper

On the strength of their own marketing material, both magazines aspire to the wealthy leisure market. While Wanted describes itself in fairly gender-neutral terms, Business Class’s descriptions reveal a bit more of a leaning to the masculine side.

Wanted

With the exception of a few cultural features that could appeal to either sex, the magazine’s main features and adverts are aimed solely at men – or women who like to dress and impress their men: the power-dressing Italian who shares his fashion tips; the man behind the race to shatter the land-speed record; a fashion shoot with only men’s clothes (although I’ve never seen any actual men who wear those type of clothes); two features on ridiculously powerful or expensive cars.

Less than a third of one of the 48 pages is dedicated to women – a tiny article on MAC’s makeup range packaged in rainbow colours. Even the “in search of the perfect cocktail” column, which could appeal equally to women readers, mentions the fact that the “barman” is “not only beautiful but an effervescent personality that keeps her clients transfixed”. In two instances where there are women posing with men, their clothes are listed too. But vast majority of features and adverts are about cars, speed and successful men.

Before you jump down my throat, I know that some women are interested in some of those things. But I challenge anyone to page through that magazine and conclude that its target audience is women, even to some small degree.

Business Class

This magazine is even more clearly targeted at businessmen rather than businesswomen. But I almost forgive them because they are more direct about it. Their feature on watches, for example, makes no bones about its target: “Worn for day or night, they mark the owner as a connoisseur, a man of taste”. (Their top priced watch, a Patek Phillipe, cost USD 740 000. Seriously? There are people who walk around with R8 million on their arms? But I digress…) They too have features on cars and technology, along with a page on winter grooming for male skin. For those men who want to know what women want, they feature a man whom “women – a lot of women – want”. [Ian Somerhalder – who knew?]

So while Wanted claims to cover “all things cool, covetable and cultural” and Business Class is “aimed at achievers with an interest in business, style and the good life”, the truth is that the former does not cover all things, only male things, and the latter is great as long as you’re a male achiever.

Do women not read business titles?

So do women not read Business Day or Sunday Times Business? There are certainly respected women journalists who write for these publications. Why do these newspapers steadfastly cling to the outdated notion that only men read business news and only men are interested in high-end luxury goods and services? Is it true? Or, dare I say, good for business?

Times Media Group owns a stable of media businesses that includes both Business Day and the Sunday Times. There are eight directors of TMG, one of whom is a woman, but she is non-executive.

Their B-BBEE certificate lists their ‘Black Female Ownership’ as 10.73%.  (I’ve never figured out how a listed company determines the demographics of its changing body of shareholders, but that’s neither here nor there.) The largest shareholder in TMG is Blackstar, a venture capital firm run by a team of five white men and a woman who is in charge of the (largely clerical) administration and compliance department. The chairman of Blackstar is now the CEO of Times Media Group.

But business decisions should be based not on who the business owners are, but on who they perceive their customers to be. So, who do TMG, and the publishers of these two magazines in paerticular, think their readers (and subscribers) are?

Both newspapers give away their glossy magazines free to subscribers. And I couldn’t find figures detailing who these subscribers are. But I did find these interesting figures:

  1. In 2011, 42.6% of the readers of Business Day were women. (See this demographics document prepared by Business Intelligence.)
  2. The Times Media Adroom webpage lists the readership of the Sunday Times as 44% female. (This doesn’t break it down into sections.)

So, women do read these papers. Does it then make sound business sense to ignore these figures and target the glossy mags at their male readers only?

It appears not. Both papers have lost ground over the past year according to the 1st quarter 2014 ABC figures. Business Day dropped less than 1% but Sunday Times has lost close to 10% of its readers. So even if they are making money off the luxury brand advertising in their glossies, they are losing overall readership, which can’t be good for TMG’s business.

Which is why I find the narrowly targeted content of Wanted and Business Class even more astounding. But, hey, what do I know? I wasn’t even supposed to be reading them.


*I use the word here in its sense of ‘ingrained prejudice against women’, rather than ‘dislike of’ or ‘contempt for’ women. My source is Oxford Dictionaries Online. I certainly do not use it as Collins Dictionary defines it, being ‘hatred of women’.

It appeared first on The Media Online on 19/06/2014