ABCs: Women's interest

If recent ABCs have been about monthly declines, this period offered some relief for the bruised and battered luxury titles.

Cosmopolitan had a circulation figure of 450,952, up 1.9 per cent. Marie Claire, which redesigned this time last year, was at 332,705, up 0.5 per cent. Considering that the latter was down almost 10 per cent year on year in the last ABC figures, this stabilisation must offer some comfort.

There were also impressive climbs for Natmags’ She, up 15.8 per cent, IPC’s Essentials, up 34.9 per cent and Hachette’s Psychologies, up 25 per cent. The latter, derided by many at its inception, is now looking like a canny investment by Hachette. Psychologies stands out as the women’s monthly for women who don’t buy women’s monthlies.

The headline declines are in titles largely ignored by their publishers. Emap admits that NW hasn’t been marketed at all, which may account for it losing almost half its circulation over the year. There’s also a rethink from Natmags, which is relaunching Company in the autumn, after circulation dropped by 3.8 per cent year on year.

Where the weekly market continues to have an affect is on monthlies it has robbed of their unique selling points. InStyle is down a further 9.3 per cent year on year and has to be the one title in danger of being killed off by Grazia’s similar but weekly diet of fashion and celebrity.

Condé Nast MD Nicholas Coleridge admits that Glamour’s steep fall by 7.1 per cent is most likely the result of readers’ being enticed by Look. He thinks that quality will out once IPC’s marketing campaign runs its course. Will it prove as faddish as other parts of the weekly market or have genuine staying power?

IPC spent £18m in marketing to launch Look, which went some way to justifying the spend with a debut ABC well above expectation.

At its launch in January this year IPC hoped to clinch around 250,000, but Look has had a circulation of 318,907.

The strategy of taking the best bits of Emap innovation – basically Grazia plus Heat and tapping into the dispensable nature of Primark fashion – is working, for now at least. It will take heart from Grazia’s continued growth too, up 25.6 per cent year on year.

No major rival to Grazia has surfaced in two years, in part an acknowledgement that the numbers just aren’t big enough to justify a copycat. So it retains its point of difference and circulation keep going up.

That kind of splendid isolation might be harder for Look to retain as a more mass-market title already competing squarely with Heat for readers into fashion and the famous. Will another publisher enter the fray, tempted by those 300,000+ figures?

This is what’s happening in the celebrity titles. The sector has entered what they’d happily term ‘a downfall spiral!’were it Jade Goody and not themselves they were analysing.

Both Heat and Closer took more than three per cent hits year on year but still sell in excess of 550,000 copies a week each. The publishers blame a lacklustre Big Brother and the practice of ‘saming’– the rash of copycats that emerged in the wake of Heat.

Similarly, a case of too many titles is creating strife in the real-life sector. The newer entrants are slogging it out, with heavy price discounting rife.

More than a quarter of single-copy sales of News International’s Love it! were at a lesser rate than its 65p full price. There was a similar pattern for IPC’s Pick me Up, with 59,107 out of 447,100 average net circulation discounted, and Natmags’ Real People, where a third of all copies sold at less than the 65p cover price.

The men’s weekly market is looking increasingly faddish, the women’s less so. But this is turning the market into something of a bunfight as it becomes flooded.

Can the market sustain this so titles in the long run?

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