Celebration, inspiration and motivation are order of the day at Women’s Running, where guilting readers into action is out. Instead, harnessing diversity and inclusion to get every woman to run of her own free will – because she wants to – is very much in.
“It’s about kindness and support, not losing five pounds,” as Editor Esther Newman puts it. “We support all women to run.”
Newman took on her current role in early 2019 having been brought on board temporarily to work on a rebranding, following the title’s acquisition by Bath-based Anthem Publishing from Wild Bunch Media, the previous year.
The title was, she says, “crying out for a redesign”.
And she approached her task with a number of key pillars in mind.
“We needed to increase content diversity. We needed to remove anything to do with weight loss. I wanted to broaden its demographic and increase its readership. I felt it was missing out on the younger, beginner runners’ audience,” she explains.
“Women’s Running felt like it was – it is – an important mouthpiece.”
Along with talking about fitness, her aim was to talk more about women’s health – both mental and physical, along with the positive impact running can have on each.
And it was clear that to do this, the brand needed to more closely address women’s politics – from the inequalities in women’s competitive running to the preoccupation of the bulk of women’s health and fitness titles in achieving the perfect body.
“The change of focus since the rebranding has been to focus on the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle while others focus on the negatives,” Newman continues.
“We are not about the guilt. We don’t ask our audiences to change their bodies or present them with images of models. We promote a healthy attitude to fitness and food and support and encourage our audience to support each other to achieve what they want.”
A pre-Christmas story on having a run and then a mince pie after is a case in point.
“So many magazines out there spout poisonous messages for women,” she presses on, warming to her theme.
“That New-Year-new-you thing, get ‘beach body ready’ and so on – it’s everywhere, trying to persuade women they are somehow not perfect, and they need to change.
“We are about fitness and health without telling women that they look wrong. We may sell a fraction of the magazines the big running and fitness brands sell, but it’s interesting to see that after a little while they have started to follow our lead.
“And I am happy they have.”
Another important part of the repositioning was to be more diverse and inclusive.
“I felt it was fundamentally important for the imagery and content we produce to represent the women we want to encourage to run. Look back at magazines produced over the last ten years and what you see, essentially, is a whitewash,” Newman explains.
“I’ve spoken to so many runners, and when I ask why there are so many more white women running than black women, the answer is black women can’t be what they can’t see.
“Simply by including more imagery of BAME women in the magazine, by seeking out a more interesting variety of interviewees, and using real women on covers not models, we are more representative and so more encouraging of women everywhere.”
The change of focus since the rebranding has been to focus on the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle.
New approach pays off
Over the months following the redesign, and especially during the pandemic over the past twelve months – a year during which the publishing sector was turned upside down and many women started running for the first time (runners invented mindfulness, she points out) – the redesign and repositioning has certainly paid off.
Since the redesign, and despite a subsequent increase in cover price, readership has risen by 59%. Meanwhile, Women’s Running won Magazine of the Year (Lifestyle) at the 2020 ACE Newspaper & Magazine Awards and at the 2020 PPA Independent Publisher Awards, Newman scooped Editor of the Year.
Success, Newman adds, is part down to channel strategy aligned with the brand’s commitment to meeting the needs of all women irrespective of their age or running proficiency.
“We try to balance each issue of the magazine so there’s something for the beginner, the more seasoned and also the experienced runner, which then impacts on the website, and then across all social channels and our podcasts,” she explains.
“It’s all about building a community feel. This means there is a degree of content overlap.
“We reach younger runners on Instagram, for example, and slightly older runners on Facebook. We encourage people on our newsletter list towards the podcasts, and so on. It’s important we make sure we use each to speak to different people in different ways.
“We are lucky to have different channels – we use them to close a circle.”
As important a success factor, however, is the Women’s Running brand’s team which Newman describes as “good people passionate about the subject matter who put their heart and soul into the brand”.
It’s been a grim few months for everyone, of course.
“More people were out running, though no one was running to the supermarket for a leisurely browse of the magazine aisle. But we worked hard to keep our audience informed – including general information about health and immune system strength,” she says.
Which is why, over the next year, Women’s Running will remain committed to doing more of the same.
“Vaccines aside, one of the biggest weapons against the pandemic are fitness and health,” Newman points out.
“We need to work with the industry to encourage more people to move and enjoy that movement because, if they enjoy it, they will encourage others to adopt healthier lifestyles. If the government isn’t going to give people access to the right advice and motivate them to bolster their health, it’s down to us.”
We are about fitness and health without telling women that they look wrong.
You can hear Esther Newman being interviewed by Ciar Byrne on a recent episode of The InPublishing Podcast, which was sponsored by AdvantageCS, a leading global provider of subscription and membership management software.
This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.