All birding magazines are not created equal
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Subscribers to Birder's World magazine may be surprised when the April issue of the magazine arrives. It has a new name: BirdWatching. After more than 24 years in print as Birder's World, it seems a significant change, so I called editor Chuck Hagner.
"We wanted a simple, clear name that communicates the contents of the magazine instantly, a name readers will understand in a second," Hagner said. "BirdWatching welcomes all birdwatchers, from backyard birders to world travelers, from beginners to experts."
There are also editorial changes accompanying the name change that can be seen at www.birdwatchingdaily.com.
The name change is obviously an attempt to broaden the magazine's appeal. The news of this name change got me thinking about the other three popular birding magazines: BirdWatchers Digest (www.birdwatchersdigest.com), BirdWatching, WildBird (www.wildbirdmagazine.com) and Living Bird (www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications). The details that follow come from a review of the most recent issue of each magazine.
WildBird (full size, 50 pages, 31.3 percent advertising) is the entry-level magazine geared primarily to backyard birders. BirdWatcher's Digest (digest size, 130 pages, 25 percent ads) is filled with items for beginning birders, informational columns and travel pieces from around the world. BirdWatching (full size, 68 pages, 31.1 percent ads) is the coffee table magazine, filled with color photos and informative articles. Living Bird (full size, 48 pages, 28.9 percent ads) is a bit more scholarly; it dabbles in natural history, travel, conservation and humor.
Further analysis of the advertising in these magazines helps confirm the target readership.
BirdWatcher's Digest allocates 25 percent (32.5 pages of 130 pages) to advertising in the March/April 2011 issue, although most of that (35.4 percent) is self-promotion for subscriptions and six full pages for the BWD Nature Shop. The other big segment of its advertising is for birding festivals and destinations (29 percent) and birding tours (3.8 percent). Feeders, food, books and electronics accounted for 19 percent of the ads, and optical equipment such as binoculars and cameras came in at 10.8 percent of ad space.
BirdWatching clearly targets the traveling birder with 51.5 percent of its ads promoting birding festivals and destinations, 12 percent birding tours and 14.2 percent featuring optics and photography equipment. Books account for another 11.8 percent of advertising space, and most of that was allocated to two full pages for the new Crossley ID Guide.
WildBird advertisers focus on backyard activities. A third of advertising space features optics and photography, 16 percent books and 12.5 percent feeders and food. Only 18 percent of ad space addressed festivals and destinations (16 percent) and birding tours (2 percent).
Living Bird advertisers favored optics and photography (40 percent), perhaps because editor Tim Gallagher brings his photographer's eye to the pages. Travel is also big in Living Bird; festivals and destinations account for 19.3 percent of the ad pages, and birding tours add another 16.8 percent.
Another important variable when shopping for birding magazines is cost. Annual retail subscription price varies from $19.97 (WildBird, bimonthly) and $19.99 (BirdWatcher's Digest, bimonthly) to $29.95 (BirdWatching, bimonthly) and $40 (Living Bird, quarterly). (Living Bird is included in membership to the Lab of Ornithology and is just one benefit of membership.)
Conspicuously absent from this analysis is Birds & Blooms (www.birdsandblooms.com, $12.98 for 6 issues per year). I did not include it because it covers birds and gardening and has ads for unrelated products such as prescription drugs.
First Published March 27, 2011 12:00 am