SPOTLIGHT 

TV magazines

People are watching more telly than ever during lockdown. Alan Geere finds plenty of TV magazines to keep viewers company on the sofa.

By Alan Geere

TV magazines
Photograph: Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash.

Inside Soap

What’s it about: ‘Every story! Every secret! Every week!’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: 6-12 February 2021 issue: 100 pages of 275mm x 205mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. £2.30 cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 70,015. Published weekly by Hearst in London.

Cover: One big coverline plus seven other come-ons all decorated around 15 small headshot pictures and nine names, although no real people were harmed in the making of this cover. Total head count: 24.

Content: Quick contents on page three and ‘Welcome!’ from editor Steven complete with signature and a kiss. Inside Scoop devotes several pages to what’s coming up in each of the soaps and leaves no potential stone unturned. Interviews and ‘Star watch’ add a touch of real people. Just after half-way, it morphs into ‘Inside TV’ with previews and four pages of listings for each day. Finishes up with some soapy puzzles.

Digital: Neat website at insidesoap.co.uk which faithfully reproduces the magazine content. Links to Twitter with 49.4k followers and a creditable 290k likes on Facebook. Sign off at the foot of the web page – ‘Now get outta my pub!’ – raises a smile.

What they say: “The magazine began in 1992 as a monthly, then it went fortnightly in 1996. I took it weekly in 2003, which was a really scary time and luckily it paid off. I think that's it now. I don't see a daily Inside Soap any time soon!” – editor Steven Murphy puts paid to any talk of a daily offering in an interview with corrie.net.

Verdict: A whole magazine devoted to the parallel universe that is the world of TV soap operas might at first have seemed rather a stretch, but this lively, engaging and thoroughly professional publication has shown that anything is possible with the right approach. Interviewing the actors who play the household names is a neat journalistic trick and the open and approachable design brings all the faces from the TV directly to the armchair.

Radio Times

What’s it about: ‘The home of TV, film, on demand and radio’ – descriptor on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: 23-29 January 2021 issue: 156 pages of 300mm x 220mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. £3.50 cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 497,852. Published weekly by Immediate in London.

Cover: A big coverline over full bleed picture of Mesdames Berry and Winkleman. Four other name checks giving a total head count of six.

Content: A simple ‘Contents’ on page three along with a welcome from ‘The Editors’ (yes, two of ’em). Viewpoint is a column by Dr Rangan Chatterjee, just the first of many contributions from media A-listers. An interview with Mrs Berry is conducted by the Today programme’s Martha Kearney and comedian Stuart Maconie tackles a mountain in the Lake District. Other articles penned by Justin Webb, Richard Hammond and Simon Barnes. Films, Streaming and eight pages of TV listings for every day and, not forgetting its Reithian roots from 97 years ago, two pages of radio. A crossword and other puzzles nestling in the classified pages before finishing up with letters.

Digital: A newsy website at radiotimes.com has plenty of original content plus a comprehensive listings guide across all providers. Links to Twitter with 90.2k followers and Facebook with a very healthy 193k likes.

What they say: “I've been appointed Associate Editor of Radio Times. At heart, I'll always be the telly-mad kid from Teesside who looked forward to RT every week, so I'm incredibly proud to have come this far. And I'm still telly-mad of course” – new exec Alison Graham explaining why she has all the right credentials on Twitter.

Verdict: As the big daddy of all TV magazines, which is coming up to its centenary in September 2023, Radio Times is still showing the way both in terms of quality journalism and a wide-ranging listings offer. At five times the cost of its least expensive competitor, it doesn’t come cheap, but the quality of original writing and photography makes it a stand-out product. Lord Reith, who founded The Radio Times when general manager of the BBC, take a bow.

Total TV guide

What’s it about: ‘Britain's fastest growing - and best - multi-channel TV listings magazine’ – Twitter readers find out what’s what.

Vital statistics: 23-29 January 2021 issue: 124 pages of 300mm x 220mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £2 cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 84,030. Published weekly by Bauer in London.

Cover: Big picture of the lead actors behind the coverline ‘Marcella’. Four more people pictures and just one name giving a total head count of eight.

Content: Straightforward guide on page 3 to the goodies inside (films, sport etc) plus an intriguing ‘Ways to read’ promo which ranges from the distinctly low-tech home delivery by your newsagent to a more contemporary iPad download. Generous two-page features on new programmes, a soap preview, films (including streaming services) and a useful sport planner divided by activity. A comprehensive 10 pages of TV listings for every day plus a daily page of radio at the back, prefaced by the wireless write-up. Four pages of puzzles if attention wanders from the screen.

Digital: Promos direct readers to a website shared with TV Choice (see below) although there is no specific Total TV content. A Twitter page has garnered 3,337 followers and although ‘Total tv guide’ is on Facebook, it’s not this Total TV guide.

What they say: “Not bothered about pancakes. Lot of fuss about nothing much” – editor Jon Peake shares his culinary verdict on Twitter (children look away now).

Verdict: Weighing in at 124 pages, this is a significant player in this crowded ‘me-too’ market. Does well to find energetic ways of displaying the previews and excels with the extensive listings (PBS America, anyone?) which also have a star rating for films although one star (poor) for The Blue Lagoon was surely a mistake. Brooke Shields’s finest work!

TV Choice

What’s it about: ‘The UK's best-selling magazine and home to the TV Choice Awards’ – explainer on Twitter.

Vital statistics: 6-12 February 2021 issue: 84 pages of 280mm x 210mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, stitched. 69p cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 1,041,826. Published weekly by Bauer in London.

Cover: Biggish picture of Shona and David who are ‘Out on the Street!’. Four smaller coverlines with illustrations giving a total head count of 15, made up of 11 faces and four names.

Content: Lively welcome page with website and social media links. Mainly half-page quick reads on upcoming shows. Some innovative features like ‘US drama finder’ and space for ‘Your notes’ as well as film choice and sport choice. Eight pages of listings for each day

Digital: A slimmed-down web presence at tvchoicemagazine.co.uk with details on how to buy the magazine, competition answers and how to be on some of the TV shows. Just 9.4k Facebook likes but 135.7k followers on Twitter despite a thin posting record. Only eight tweets delivered in the month of January 2021, and half of them were re-tweets.

What they say: “The TV Choice reader is 45-64 and loyal to the magazine, picking it up weekly as a force of habit and trust for the brand. Watching TV is their favourite pastime, as within their social life it is a preferred topic of conversation” – media pack reveals the racy social whirl of the TV Choice reader.

Verdict: Not for nothing is this the UK’s only magazine selling more than one million copies. The stories, the pictures, the listings are all on the money. And that money is just 69p, or about the price of a quarter of a cup of coffee when they were last on general sale. No real enthusiasm for digital, but all those readers queuing up at the newsagents can’t be wrong.

TV & Satellite Week

What’s it about: ‘Britain's best digital TV listings guide – by telly freaks for telly freaks’ – freaking out on Facebook.

Vital statistics: 6-12 February 2021 issue: 108 pages of 300mm x 220mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £2.75 cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 77,601. Published weekly by Future in London.

Cover: Big picture of Tom Hanks saddling up for his first Western on Netflix complete with coverline name-check. Five other cross-refs of various shapes and sizes containing nine more pictures (including a dragon) giving a total head count of 11.

Content: Pages 2 and 3 given over to a ‘Hot list’ spread of the week’s best shows and a simple contents panel. Well-illustrated features on upcoming shows with a generous offering of non-mainstream channels on satellite and subscription services. ‘Your watchlist’ targets streaming viewing, sections on documentaries, films and sport before nine pages of listings for each day – ‘more channels than any other TV mag!’ they boast on the cover.

Digital: Social media followers are directed to a website - whatsontv.co.uk – shared with What’s on TV (see below). Dedicated pages on Twitter with 11.2k followers and 6,800 Facebook likes.

What they say: “Devised the ITV game show Sounds Like Music that ran for 46 shows” – managing director Colin Tough (and brother of Krankie Ian Tough) reveals his multi-media credentials on LinkedIn.

Verdict: Takes its remit seriously with plenty to keep both the ‘TV’ and the ‘Satellite’ aficionados happy. The feature previews are well put-together and innovative such as the engaging Q&A with Piers Morgan in advance of his new ‘Life Stories’ series. Difficult to quantify the appointment-to-view audience in these strangest of times but the commitment to ‘streaming viewing’ can only be something that will expand as viewing habits modify. Glossy, yet affordable, and a welcome contribution to this crowded sector.

What’s on TV

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What’s it about: ‘Exclusive news, star interviews, photos and videos from the best of British TV!’ – Twitter promo.

Vital statistics: 23-29 January 2021 issue: 100 pages of 280mm x 205mm. Gloss paper, self cover, stitched. 75p cover price. Combined ABC (Jul-Dec 2020) of 690,617. Published weekly by Future in London.

Cover: Big coverline over a portrait of two soap stars. Three more pictures of couples with enticing headlines and one solo pic making a head count of 13 from nine pictures and four names (none real people). In a raid on the punctuation library, there are five! exclamation marks.

Content: Simple ‘Page finder’ and ‘Hot TV’ on page three before eight pages of ‘TV week’ previews. The sections come thick and fast: On Demand, Soapweek and its opposite hand Real Life TV, Filmweek and Football diary before the listings, running to eight pages for every day. Crossword, letters and horoscope at the back.

Digital: Newsy website at www.whatsontv.co.uk has plenty of original content, plus an interactive TV guide and links to Twitter with 149k followers and 21k likes on Facebook. Also, an enterprising competitions section with proper prizes to be won – who doesn’t need £3,000 worth of paint?

What they say: “35p. Live very cheap chat. Girls 4 fun. Relax on the phone. Totally amazing” – classified ad nestling between walk-in baths, stairlifts and wigs proving there may still be life in those readers.

Verdict: A wonderful fireside companion to our new favourite lockdown friend – the telly. Just enough enticing background and behind the scenes information to still make the programmes worth watching. Website a cut above expectations and at 75p, affordable enough to tuck inside your daily paper.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.