There are an estimated 51 million pets in the UK; no wonder there’s a magazine to cater for all interests. Alan Geere heads down to pets corner to see who’s doing what.
Cage & Aviary Birds
What’s it about: ‘The world’s only weekly newspaper dedicated to birdkeeping’ – explainer on Twitter (no pun intended) page.
Vital statistics: May 2, 2018, issue 6006: 28 pages of 290mm x 360mm. Hi-brite newsprint, stitched. ‘Only’ £1.99 cover price. Publisher reports a weekly print of 18,000 copies with “a few hundred” digital subscriptions. Published weekly by Kelsey in Kent.
Cover: Big picture of a parrot, smaller pictures of four more birds, nine coverlines and a picture of woman behind a camera promoting a readers’ gallery called ‘Your hot shots!’.
Content: Straight in to a spread of news with 14 items including an informative ‘What’s On’ and a less revealing ‘Did you know?’ which is details about how to get hold of a copy of the paper. More news, letters and then on to the meat and drink of ‘Birds & birdkeeping’, nine pages of insightful words and pictures, including some not very cute newly-hatched bee-eaters. That readers’ gallery offers £20 for picture of the month, club news has small pictures of mostly men with cups and rosettes all finished off with four pages of classified.
Digital: Have to hunt around in the paper to find a promo to the website, but once there, it’s a full-service proposition with all the favourites from the paper, although the classified section only allows you to place an ad rather than view them. Click through to Facebook with 7,833 likes and nearly 1,100 Twitter followers.
What they say: ‘Good written expression, “nose” for news, quick comprehension, ability to learn a specialised subject fast, organised, focused, time management, professional, enthusiastic, committed, interpersonal skills, team player, customer (= reader)-friendly, idea generation’ – just the 14 ‘Personal Qualities’ needed to be a staff writer on Cage & Aviary Birds. Oh, and a full driving licence too says the job ad.
Verdict: Enthusiasts will not be disappointed with so much packed into the 28 tabloid pages. Clearly has a great rapport with readers and while purists might say it looks a bit ‘busy’, who cares when it delivers so much news, views and information.
What’s it about: ‘UK’s favourite cat magazine for over 37 years’ – tagline under masthead.
Vital statistics: May 2018 issue: 84 pages of 300mm x 230mm. Heavyweight gloss paper, card cover, stitched. £4.99 cover price. Publisher unable to provide circulation figures. Published monthly by Ashdown in Pulborough, West Sussex.
Cover: Bigger than lifesize picture of a not very cute cat (a Lykoi we learn later), six coverlines, a strapline and big golden masthead.
Content: Straight into contents (sorry, ‘the inside track’) on pages 2 and 3 neatly draped around no less than 11 pictures of cats, plus a cartoon and some paw prints. Four pages of ‘Kitten Basics’ is followed by three pages on an endangered leopard, so everyone gets a look in. The A-Z breed guide is a comprehensive read and there are also plenty of well-crafted features by seasoned freelancers.
Digital: Neat website, put together by the publisher’s American parent company, is a vehicle for promoting the magazine content and garnering subscriptions. Just 632 followers on Twitter; not surprising with no activity for nearly three years, but more updating on Facebook yields 3,280 likes.
What they say: ‘The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.’ – error message when clicking through to ‘Cat World Media Pack’ from publisher’s website.
Verdict: Feels very heavy and at 325 grams, is twice the weight of Your Dog (see below) and packs in plenty of readable content. Looks neat and tidy without going overboard and with items like ‘Mews Round’ (for news!), doesn’t take itself over-seriously. Digital is a victory of style over substance but is a good starting point if the US backers decide to go in deeper.
What’s it about: ‘The UK’s best-selling aquatics magazine’ – boast under the masthead.
Vital statistics: May 2018 issue: 116 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Lightweight gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. £4.50 cover price. Publisher’s media pack claims a circulation of 15,529. Published monthly by Bauer in Peterborough.
Cover: One biggish fish (Amiet's Lyretail), plus pictures of two smaller fish, an exotic worm and a pond. Seven coverlines and a big signpost to the website incorporated in the masthead.
Content: Nonsense welcome page – complete with the associate editor’s illegible signature – followed by two well-illustrated contents pages. ‘Inspiration’ lays out goodies to come while ‘news & views’ and ‘gear & reviews’ are just that. Head-to-head ethical debate is an imaginative idea, but it would be even better with expert outsiders rather than staff. ‘Tank community’ is an update on a letters page and the know-how on ponds very knowledgeable even if the difficulty rate for construction was ‘hard’.
Digital: Website opens up to ‘Readers’ Tanks’, a fishy peek behind the curtains, and has plenty of content to keep the audience happy. Also has ‘Fishkeeping Answers’ complete with that ™ trademark sign, which must mean it’s special stuff. Links to Twitter which has been strangely silent since November last year with 4,645 followers and 14,584 likes on Facebook where the posts are more current.
What they say: ‘Pop your thoughts in the comments below. (Sweary ones will be removed)’ – Facebook moderator worries about all those foul-mouthed fishkeepers.
Verdict: Packs a lot in to the generous pagination. Enough meat (or should that be fish?) for the serious enthusiast and brightly designed with some amazing pictures to attract the browsers. It’s not hard to get the feeling that no self-respecting fishkeeper could afford to miss PFK.
Practical Reptile Keeping
What’s it about: ‘Snakes Lizards Tortoises Amphibians Inverts’ – strapline over the masthead.
Vital statistics: April/May 2018 issue: 68 pages of 300mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £3.80 cover price. Publisher reports a print sale of 8,350 plus 1,923 from digital. Published bi-monthly by Guideline in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire.
Cover: Big side-on mugshot of a green, scaly creature which the coverline tells us is a chameleon. A tortoise, a snake, a stick insect and a lady with a camera make up the images with five more coverlines. Oh, and ‘Free £100 of pets at home vouchers’.
Content: Dreary welcome from the editor and rather spare half-page on contents divided into Spotlight’s two dullest categories – Features and Regulars. Straight into ‘News & Views’ which has items to cover all interests from snakes and spiders to turtles and toads. The cover story is a 12-page romp through the chameleon world and ‘Reptile Focus’ is a full bleed centre spread picture of an Australian snake. Another in-depth (ie long) feature on tree frogs then some puzzles and readers’ pics to finish up.
Digital: The advertised website – www.practicalreptilekeeping.co.uk – doesn’t exist but there are some references to the title on the Guideline corporate site. @PRKMag has found 1,900 fans on Facebook but the same handle on Twitter takes you to a fashion mag that has tweeted just once in five years. The publisher joined Twitter in February last year since when 34 tweets have garnered 46 followers.
What they say: “Are you running a reptile-related event and seeking to raise funds for a club or charity? If so, we can supply a limited number of back issue copies of the magazine at a bargain price for resale” – post on Facebook exploring all avenues to shift those old copies.
Verdict: If it moves, or even if it travels very slowly, it’s likely to be in PRK. Covers a wide range of creatures with care and creativity. Plenty of pictures and help panels help make this a serious magazine for serious enthusiasts.
My VIP (Pets at Home magazine)
What’s it about: ‘The award-winning magazine for you & your very important pets!’ – text on a rosette in the masthead.
Vital statistics: Spring 2018 issue: 84 pages of 260mm x 195mm. Matt paper, card cover, perfect bound. ‘Only £2.50’ or free to VIP members. Combined ABC of 567,385 (Jan-Dec 2017) all from print. Published quarterly for pets supplies retailer Pets at Home by John Brown in London.
Cover: Dominant picture of a smiling ‘fashion guru’ Gok Wan with his scowling bulldog Dolly. Eight other coverlines and a picture of Peter Rabbit all on a very fetching pink background.
Content: The customary needless ‘Hello!’ page is followed by the more useful ‘What’s Inside’ divided into readable chunks like ‘Caring & Giving’, ‘Friendly Expertise’ and ‘Enjoying your time together’. Lots of opportunities to spend money and save money via shopping pages and a good wodge of full-page advertising, some of it with money-off coupons. That cover story is good read spanning OCD, a painful back condition and dogs. Sadly, no byline so no kudos. Useful list of dog-friendly accommodation, a colouring competition and readers’ pet pics.
Digital: No dedicated website but a page on the main Pets at Home site for VIP, which, despite the folio line come-on, is about the loyalty card not the magazine. Similarly, no dedicated magazine social media.
What they say: ‘Want to be a reporter for My Pet Pals? Send us a short report about your pet. It can be funny, factual or completely crazy!’ – Promo in mag. NCTJ diploma holders need not apply…
Verdict: Bright, cheerful and nothing very taxing. The experienced John Brown team have done their usual professional job putting together a quality publication that keeps the sponsors messages out there without it being overbearing. Perfectly pleasant without hitting any heights.
What’s it about: ‘Britain’s best-selling dog magazine’ – tagline next to masthead.
Vital statistics: June 2018 issue: 84 pages of 300mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, stitched. £3.99 cover price. Publisher reports 7,500 newstrade sales, 6,500 subscriptions and 500 digital subscribers adding up to 14,500. Published monthly by Warners in Bourne, Lincolnshire.
Cover: One large picture of a dog, who doesn’t seem to be illustrating any of the four floating coverlines, and four smaller ones attached to specific content. Big masthead and a ‘Win!’ sticker. Five! exclamation marks and a question mark.
Content: Well ordered contents spread with neatly colour coded ‘On the cover’ stories. ‘It’s a Dog’s World’ has plenty of bits and pieces to read then into a neat feature about ‘Bring your dog to work day’ highlighting four people who do just that. Helpful stuff on skin allergies, taking a dog on holiday and getting a puppy, complemented by another very readable piece on rescue dogs. Dog Answers – ‘Is she stressed by our separation?’ – is a must-read and a gallery of readers’ pets ramps up the aahh factor.
Digital: Reminder of the website on the folio line takes readers to a well-ordered site with links to Twitter (44.4k followers) and Facebook with a whopping 278k likes. Social media success a testament to regular posts and keeping on top of what readers are interested in.
What they say: ‘How can I remedy my dog’s constantly full anal glands?’ – getting to the bottom of the problem in Dog Answers health extra.
Verdict: A doggy delight. Covers all the bases from puppies to rescue dogs and has enough practical down-to-earth advice to make the investment – in both the magazine and a pet – worthwhile. Looks good and does what it should – and that’s just the magazine.