One thing that you have no doubt noticed if you live in Tokyo is the amount of free magazines available almost everywhere, from convenience stores to train stations, street corners to restaurants. Most likely, the majority of free magazines you receive originate from publishing powerhouse Recruit. Just to name a few, L25, R25, Hot Pepper, Hot Pepper Beauty, eruca, Town Work, Jyutaku Mansions, and so on.
Every Thursday, as a working female, I look forward to picking up a copy of L25 on my way to work. Astoundingly, it seems that almost every other working female feels the same. Passing the magazine stand at Jimbocho station rush-hour, 98% of women walking ahead of me pick up a magazine along the way—sometimes there is even a queue of women scrambling to pick up a copy. If you get there half an hour late, you will most likely be out of luck.
So how are these free magazines so successful? Firstly, they tailor the magazine to fit the needs of the target market. So taking L25 as an example, articles will include informative yet easily comprehensible pieces on, say, how to invest your money for the future yet have enough disposable income to buy that Prada bag. Or they will have funny little stories on amusing real-life incidents while commuting to work on the train. And as most working women commute to work on the train and read the magazine at the same time, the article really speaks to them and fits in perfectly with their lifestyle.
Recruit really know everything about their readers—from where their readers work to what they eat, drink, buy, etc.
So how does L25 make money? Apart from obvious pure advertising (which a lot of other non-Recruit free magazines do but is less popular because they are boringly filled with just pure ads), Recruit also have Kiji-koukoku’s—advertorial articles. The clever way Recruit do this, taking L25 as an example again, is by manipulating or influencing the readers into feeling that “you, yes YOU” really need to buy that washing detergent.
L25 compile reader surveys on a weekly basis and they will relay this in an interesting little article about working women’s lifestyles. Then, the article will lead onto “working women’s favorite household chores” and after that, almost by magic, the survey has somehow revealed that working women’s favorite chores are washing clothes and if you’re busy, then this product will help you with your busy schedule by omitting the need for you to iron your clothes.
Every time, I start reading the article with interest and then, right at the end, discover that it is also an advert. But then again, does this matter? It was a free paper after all….
Recruit are the Dentsu of the magazine world. They just seem to be growing month on month and there seems to be no limit to the amount of magazines they can publish. Will the free magazine market ever become saturated? If it does, it will no doubt be saturated with Recruit magazines, if nothing else.
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